Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Control of slugs and snails in the garden

Slugs and snails are a problem. Where we live on the coast in Asturias, we enjoy an ideal temperate climate that is also just right for the proliferation of slugs and snails. Their favourite habitat is in the crevices of the limestone walls, snuggled into the roots of long meadow grass, hiding in the shelter of leaves on a multitude of favourite plants, clinging precariously to the walls of the house, or just below the surface of exposed soil... In other words, wherever it is warm and damp.

When we were in the UK we successfully used nematodes to reduce the population but where we are now, the amount of land we have and the position we are in makes this method of control too expensive and probably a waste of time.

We have tried various methods of control, some of more use than others and some, more strategic and less haphazard. We only use organic or natural methods in the garden so chemical control is excluded. The methods we have tried include:

Prevention Methods:
Reducing the population of slugs and snails where possible - collection and disposal after rainfall or early evening is a good time to do this;

Increasing natural habitats for frogs, hedgehogs, toads, slow worms, beetles and birds, all natural predators of slugs and/or snails. This has worked to a point and the added bonus of garden visitors is a joy to see;

Organic slug pellets - we have tried these and they work but alas they are not available here in Spain so the small supply we have, is used sparingly. The advantage of these pellets is that there are harmless to animals and birds unlike the ordinary pellets some people use in abundance;

Sowing seeds into pots or half a drain pipe to give young plants a good start - this has helped reduce the number of fatalities early on.

Barrier Methods:
Coffee grinds can help - this is supposed to be toxic to slugs and snails but beware, using coffee grinds extensively can increase soil acidity - it works but needs regular renewal;

Copper rings around the base of new trees and shrubs can help act as a deterrent. When the slug or snail glides over the copper, they apparently get a small electric shock. This method was only successful a couple of times for us in combination with other methods;

Crushed egg shells - egg shells, baked and crushed surrounding the plants can act as an effective barrier - works well but needs renewal;

Ash - wood ash from the fires can also be used as an effective barrier particularly around salad crops - renewal necessary especially after rainfall;

Sheep wool pellets - I brought a couple of tubs of this new product back from the UK and it seems to work very well. A barrier of pellets is put around the base of the plant and then watered - it mats together like felt and eventually breaks down into the soil.  http://www.sluggone.com

There are of course other methods such as beer traps, half a grapefruit skin placed on the soil, grit.....and so on. If you have found any methods that work for you, please get in touch or leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.


  1. Cut comfrey leaves attract slugs, so you can collect them up as they gather to the leaves.Another method we have used to to collect up the slugs into a water bucket, drown them and let the water stand for a few days, then use the water around your most susceptible plants, it worked for us, but stinks. there is also a biodynamic method of charcoaling them then spreading the ash. We have not tried this method. Also leaving some black polythene for them to hide under, gather them up each evening. Good luck.

  2. Have you tried Ferramol? It's available in most Cooperativa shops, as well as online. It's organic and non-toxic to children and pets (http://www.theorganiccentre.ie/node/816), and I have to say it works pretty well, although we go through about two boxes a month, just to keep the snail and slug population somewhat under control (I think each box costs about 8 euros).

    Another good thing about it is that is seems to act as a deterrent, so the snails just stay away from our vegetable plot: at the beginning we found loads of shells, but they seem to have got the idea now, and are leaving our veggies alone.

    On the other hand, caterpillars seem impervious to anything organic :-(

  3. The Centre for Alternative Technology has done extensive research into slug control methods http://www.cat.org.uk/ihateslugs/btshomepage.tmpl Regular hoeing is one of their key methods of natural control. Thankfully the unusually cold winter and very dry spring here has meant a huge reduction in mollusc damage this year.

  4. Thanks for the feedback - certainly a few ideas worth exploring...we will report back!


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