By early summer, slugs are shredding hostas and tearing up toad lilies. Left alone, slugs and snails will flatten entire fields of corn and soybeans. In the home vegetable garden, lettuce, spinach and cabbage are at risk, too.
Slugs are as gross as they are destructive. Eradication is tough but fortunately organic gardening includes multiple options for natural slug control. Handpicking them is one way. Some others:
- Vinegar spray: Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 solution of white vinegar water. Attack at will, though after 10 p.m. is better hunting. Spray the slugs, not the plants if possible.
- Salt the earth: Dissolve 3 tablespoons Epsom salts in 1 quart boiling water and let cool. Add three more quarts of water. Pour the mixture around slug-prone plants and spray infested plants with it.
- Border patrol: Spread a mulch of ashes, sawdust, or finely crushed eggshells around plants slugs like. They don’t like getting stuff stuck to their slimy bodies. Crushed rock, coffee grounds and diatomaceous earth work, too.
- Beer bait: Pour a bit of beer in shallow dishes like yogurt and dip containers and set in the soil under plants. Change out every few days and after big rains – but be prepared to never want to drink beer again. In the summer heat, the stench is intense.
- Copper crossing: Strips of long, thin flexible copper create a barrier that shocks slugs when they attempt to cross it. Sink the strips (keeping an inch or so above the soil) or wrap the copper tape around containers and raised beds.
Garden Supply Company carries a 13-foot roll of 1 1/4 inch copper tape for $9.95. Copper mesh, even at 5-inches wide, is less expensive but fold it over to catch the smallest slugs. Check retailers that carry supplies for bird and rodent control.
Sluggo brand snail and slug bait is considered safe for organic gardening but some gardeners take issue with the ingredient that makes the iron compound fast acting.
“Slug Bread” is of one of several small books author Ellen Sandbeck has written on organic gardening and non-toxic methods for battling indoor and outdoor pests. Slug Bread, which is really more like slug dough, lures the creatures to their death. The recipe:
- Dissolve one package of baking yeast in 3 ½ cups of warm water.
- Add ¼ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and 4 cups flour.
- Let sit while prepping the traps.
- Cut several quarter-sized holes in empty plastic milk jugs, about halfway up.
- Pour about an inch of the slug dough into each jug and cap.
- Bury in the garden with the holes just above the soil line.
- When sufficiently icky, pour out the disgusting result and add new dough.
Beer can replace slug dough in milk jugs, or even plastic cups. The yeast in beer works much like slug bread, though I like to think using it puts slugs in a better mood as they perish.