picture of a snails and slugs - common garden pests in a vegetable or ornamental garden

Effective Strategies for Organic Snail and Slug Control

Okay okay! You don't want a long introduction. You want to know the most effective strategies for organic snail and slug control in your garden! With a commitment to organic pest control and a few clever strategies, it's entirely possible to manage these pesky molluscs effectively and sustainably. If you’ve decided the damage they are causing exceeds your action threshold, here's some tips to be used in a escalating order of invasiveness.

Gentle touches are often the most long term because they take the edge off a pest infestation but leave enough in the wild so that natural predators can stick around for the long term. Remember, if you get rid of all your pests, you're affecting the natural world too much - a live and let live ethos is often the right choice.

Monitor for Slugs and Snails

Before diving into control methods, it's vital to understand the extent of your slug and snail problem. Regular monitoring is key:

Set Up Traps 

A simple plank of wood or a slate tile placed in your garden can act as a gathering spot for these slimy pests. Check these traps early in the morning to gauge activity levels and handpick any offenders. Be considerate when relocating these creatures – I don't condone relocating them next door. it's probably not far enough!  Try across the road instead...  


Prop a plank up in garden to find slugs in the morning


Inspect Regularly

 Look under leaves, near soil, and around the base of plants and underneath rocks or slabs that have a good contact with the earth, especially near those that are more susceptible to slug and snail damage like hostas or seedlings.

To be honest I just accept the slugs I have and rely on barriers like emery paper for my protected plants but I do go on a nocturnal walk every evening when I have a lot of young green growth in the nursery - early detection can prevent extensive damage.

Slugs love to eat and live in the crown of hostas

Create Physical Barriers

Slugs and snails detest crossing over anything uncomfortable or sharp. Utilising this aversion, you can create barriers to protect your plants:

Sharp Surfaces

Surround your plants with crushed eggshells, diatomaceous earth, or sharp sand. These create an abrasive barrier that snails and slugs are reluctant to cross. I use sharp sand as a base in my cuttings bed and don’t have slug problems there. Next doors cat is a different matter though…

Copper Tape

Wrapping copper tape around pots or raised beds is reported to deter slugs. The copper reacts with their slime, producing a sensation they avoid. Your results may vary. It’s quite excessive to mine ore, process it into copper and then use it to keep snails away though in my opinion. One to avoid.

Emery Paper

As an innovative solution, I just wrap emery paper around the wooden plant troughs I grow my nursery plants in to protect seedlings and young plants. It provides a rough surface that these molluscs don't want to cross.

Encourage Natural Predators: Building a Balanced Ecosystem

One of the pillars of sustainable gardening is creating a habitat that encourages biodiversity and natural pest control:

Attracting Birds and Toads

Install birdhouses, birdbaths, and toad-friendly shelters. These creatures are natural predators of slugs and snails and can significantly reduce your pest population.


Encourage birds to your garden to predate on slugs and snails


Encouraging Beneficial Insects

Ground beetles and other beneficial insects are voracious predators of slug and snail eggs. Cultivating a garden that attracts these insects can help keep the population in check.

Hedgehogs and Other Wildlife

If you're in an area with hedgehogs, creating a hedgehog-friendly garden can invite these slug-eating mammals to patrol your garden for pests. Try replacing fences with native hedging or create a dead hedge fence from garden waste to allow hedgehog friendly routes and shelter.

Employing Organic Control Methods

When physical barriers and natural predators aren't enough, several organic control methods can be employed:

Beer Traps

Bury a container so that the rim is at ground level and fill it with beer. The yeast attracts slugs and snails, which fall in and drown. While effective, it requires regular maintenance to empty and refill the traps.

Here's another blog post that goes into detail on how to make, use and site slug beer traps.


Make a beer trap to catch molluscs in your garden


Nematode Biological Control

This method involves applying microscopic worms called nematodes that infect and kill slugs. It's a targeted approach that doesn't harm other wildlife or plants.

An in depth look at how to use nematodes to predate on slugs can be found here. A great thing about nematodes is that once the initial slug invasion has been controlled, slugs outside the nematode treated soil avoid the area like the plague!


Diatomaceous Earth

During dry periods, sprinkling diatomaceous earth around plants can deter slugs and snails. The microscopic sharp edges of this natural substance cut through the pests' soft bodies, leading to dehydration.

Utilising Plants as a Defensive Strategy

In addition to these methods, certain plants can serve as either a deterrent or a sacrificial offering to protect more valuable plants:

Pest Repellent Planting

Some plants, like wormwood and rosemary, are known to repel slugs and snails. Planting these around more vulnerable plants can create a natural protective barrier.

Sacrificial Plants

In some cases, offering up plants that slugs and snails prefer can draw them away from your more valuable crops. Once they congregate on these 'sacrificial' trap plants, they can be more easily collected and removed.

Here is a list of all plants that can be grown to repel pests or attract them away from your other plants,

Grow plants that repel slugs or act as a sacrificial plant

Embracing Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a holistic approach to sustainable gardening that combines physical, biological, and cultural methods to minimise pest damage while promoting environmental health. It involves:

  1. Preventing Pest Problems: Through careful planning and garden hygiene, you can prevent many pest problems before they start. This includes rotating crops, removing debris, and avoiding overwatering.
  2. Setting Thresholds: Determine the level of pest damage you're willing to tolerate. Some damage is inevitable and often superficial, so understanding what's acceptable can prevent unnecessary interventions.
  3. Choosing the Least Disruptive Methods: Always start with the least harmful control methods, reserving more aggressive tactics for when they're truly needed. This ensures that the garden's ecological balance is maintained.

Cultivating a Thriving Garden with Organic Slug and Snail Control

Employing sustainable gardening practices and organic pest control methods requires patience, observation, and a willingness to adapt. By understanding the behaviour of slugs and snails and employing a range of strategies to deter them, you can protect your garden while promoting a healthy, balanced ecosystem. Whether you're handpicking pests under a plank of wood or creating inviting habitats for their natural predators, by not using poisons you are protecting the environment and wildlife. Embrace the principles of IPM, experiment with different pest control methods, and watch as your garden becomes a model of organic pest control and sustainability.

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