Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Natural Slug Remedies

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,, Ugly Slug, Slugs in the Garden

Hello, fellow lovers of all things green. Humid and rainy summers provide a perfect setting for slugs, always a top garden dilemma. Thankfully, there are natural slug remedies, though some may be a tad icky.

A green-leaf hosta with holes from slugs.

Holy Hosta!

“What are the holes all over my hosta?” 

Holy moly, Dave, I’m impressed you’ve kept deer away from your hosta. Hostas are deer candy and slug candy, too.

The slithery suckers often made their way inside, camping on Ellie’s paws. Thankfully, Jolee’s short hair doesn’t offer such an easy ride.

While the name slug sounds nasty, slugs are essential in clearing dead and decaying material and provide food for our friendly toads, garden snakes, birds, box turtles, and foxes. Still, when they cause holy havoc in the garden, I advocate non-toxic ways of good riddance.

Call me squeamish…

You likely know about the dish of beer trick. Leave a bowl of beer, and you’ll have a plethora of drunken suckers come morning. (Sounds like a few lounge lizards I once knew.)

Other slug attractions are planks of old wood between your plants, citrus rinds, and human hair, which they get all gnarled up in. I’m not sure about the strength of your stomach, but waking up to dozens of slimy slugs to toss (toss where?) is nauseating, right up there with slug collecting after dark. I’ll pass. Then there’s the 50/50 white vinegar to water solution sprayed on the overnight guests after they culminate on half a grapefruit. Icky.

Natural Slug Remedies

Call me squeamish, but my preferred remedy is products with iron phosphate, which is deadly for slug digestion and good for your soil. Brand names like Escar-Go and Slug Magic wrap iron in slug-attracting bait. Scatter the pellets around your plants every two weeks, and you’ll have significant results without tossing bodies—much better.

Then there’s sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth (DE), the fossilized remains of microscopic oceanic plants that destroy the waxy exoskeletons of bugs such as ants, termites, bed bugs, and fleas. Yet DE is safe for people and pets, so much so that it is used in grain-based foods to keep bugs from eating them.

DE is “used as a filtration aid, abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, cat litter, a stabilizing component of dynamite, and a thermal insulator,” writes Wikipedia. It also can dehydrate slugs. What a multi-tasker! Right up there with duct tape.

Plants that Deter Slugs

They say planting mint, sage, lavender, hydrangea, creeping thyme, and rosemary helps deter slugs. And would you believe there’s a slug-resistant plant list? Ironically, it mirrors many plants on deer-resistant lists. So, could one say there is a correlation between deer and slugs? You betcha! They both chomp the heck out of our gardens. But a baby slug (and a slug can lay 20 to 100 eggs several times a year) isn’t nearly as cute as a fawn.

a brown box turtle walking in grass

Box Turtle

Why not invite critters who love to feed on slugs? Like box turtles, welcome guests in the garden. They eat berries, moss, fungi, and insects, including slugs, one of their favorites. Toads and frogs are welcome, too, each eating up to 10,000 slugs a season and other pests, including grubs.

To attract welcome guests, provide plenty of leaf litter for moist hiding spots, and a dish of water can do if a pond or bog isn’t nearby. The most critical thing is to avoid synthetic herbicides and insecticides as they are particularly devastated by them. With organic practices, healthy turtles, frogs, and toads will be garden helpers keeping pests under control. We sure could use more happy endings.

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There’s more to this story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

A related story you’ll enjoy: Revisiting Turtle Island


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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