Does Your Vermont Yard or Garden Have Slug and Snail Problems?

May 24, 2010

One of the most common problems faced by gardeners in Vermont and other states is slugs and snails.

Even experienced gardeners tear their collective hair out at the destruction these creatures can cause!  We’ve pulled together a few tried and tested tips to help you deal with them.  You may not get rid of them all together, but we think these tips will at least help you keep them under control.

To some degree, whether or not our tips work depends on just how bad the slug and snail problem is where you live.  Here’s a quick list.


Beer traps – yes, we said Beer traps!  They can be very effective at dealing with both slugs and snails, and you can typically buy them at a garden center.

Place the trap, filled with cheap beer, in a hole with the top at soil level.  If you don’t have beer, you can also use out of date fruit juice, or even milk that’s just about to turn.

Another option if you can’t find the traps is to use grapefruit.  After eating half grapefruit, cut a small hole and place the skin upside down on the soil. Slugs love it and will congregate inside.  Each day you can collect them.

Collect all the slugs and snails you can find in the late evening, when they start to become active and drown them in a bucket of heavily salted water. Plain water will not work – they will simply swim to the surface and crawl out! Or, if you know where they hide out, you can gather them up during the day – try looking under logs or bricks, and shrubs, any dark, damp corner.

And what to do with the slugs you’ve collected? If you put live slugs or snails into your compost heap, they will probably stay there, as there is plenty of matter for them to feast on. You can also put the dead ones in there too, those in the beer traps including the beer – but scoop the dead slugs and snails out of the salty water first.

The next option is Barriers:

Barriers will be more effective against snails than slugs, as slugs live in the ground and can avoid the barriers.

On your garden borders, you can use barriers around plants, such as crushed eggshells, grit, bran, or wood-ash or soot. The theory is that slugs and snails are reluctant to cross these materials and will therefore wander off elsewhere to look for their next meal. Make sure you put plenty down without any gaps.

Scatter oat bran around your plants – slugs love it, but if they eat enough, they will actually expand and die.

Petroleum jelly smeared thickly around the rims of pots also has a similar deterrent effect.

You can purchase copper tape with an adhesive backing, which you can stick around the pot sides – this gives the snail a small electric shock as it tries to cross.

Last but not least, we’ll cover Predators:

For a biological control, you can use nematodes – microscopic parasites that kill the slugs above and below ground. Obtained from organic garden suppliers, you simply mix the powder with water and spray on to the soil using a watering can. This can be effective for around six weeks.

If you live in an area that allows it, and if you have the space, adopt some chickens or ducks – they just love eating slugs – and you can have some free eggs into the bargain.

If you would rather that Nature take it’s course, make your garden wildlife friendly, to encourage the natural predators of slugs and snails to come and visit.

Dig a pond to encourage frogs and toads; leave out food for hedgehogs; and put up bird feeders. This will not provide an ‘instant fix’ for the problem, but in the long term will give you a healthier garden with fewer pests.

Here’s to a snail and slug free (or hopefully at least controlled) Vermont yard and garden.

Penny and Julie

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