6 Ways to Thwart Snails and Slugs

Slugs and snails are a huge problem in many gardens, especially those with tender-leafed plants that have lots of folds or large sheltering leaves low to the ground, such as lettuce, hostas and tender seedlings. Luckily, there are many ways to stop these critters.

1. Ammonia and water. Mix equal parts non-sudsing ammonia and water in a spray bottle. Visit the garden on a rainy morning or cool evening and spray the slugs as they feed. This technique is most effective on baby slugs, which thrive in the crowns of hostas and daylilies. As an added bonus, the ammonia converts to nitrogen and acts as a foliar food for the plants. (Note: Some ferns and seedlings may suffer leaf burn from this spray. Test on a single leaf first.)

2. Vinegar and water. Mix two parts vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture directly on slugs you see or as you find them under boards or in the crevices of rock gardens. Be careful not to let the spray come in contact with plant foliage.

3. Wood ashes. A ring of wood ashes from your fireplace will discourage slugs from climbing up the stems of plants. Sprinkle the ashes in a band a few inches wide, but don’t let them actually touch the stem of the plant. Caution: If your soil is alkaline, as it is in many parts of the West and Southwest, avoid putting ashes on your soil or in your compost heap. They can raise the pH even higher.

4. A window screen. Cut an old window screen into long strips at least 6 inches wide. Sink the strips 3 inches into the soil so that a fence surrounds your most vulnerable plants.

5. Clay pots. Lure slugs away from your plants to where you can find and destroy them. Set out small clay flowerpots turned upside down and propped up on one side with a flat rock. These traps are attractive enough to use in container plantings.

6. Damp cardboard, rolled-up newspaper, grapefruit rinds or damp burlap. Position these materials around your garden to collect slugs. Gather the items each morning and destroy the slugs. Or move the slugs, “hotels” and all, to your compost pile.

Adapted from Yankee Magazine's Panty Hose, Hot Peppers, Tea Bags, and more for the Garden: 1,001 Ingenious Ways to Use Common Household Items to Control Weeds, Beat Pests, Cook Compost, Solve Problems, Make Tricky Jobs Easy, and Save Time (Yankee Books, 2005).


Joerg Boettcher
Joerg Boettcher2 years ago

I too am happy for the not-kill hints, my snaily friends shall have a happy life too, we're neighbors and meet each other mostly enjoying fresh air in garden.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton3 years ago

Thanks for the tips - in the article and in the comments - I'll try the non-kill methods.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

There are plenty of animals that are where they are not supposed to be. The slugs that where supposed to be in Spain now invades Scandinavia and seems to adapt to a harsher climate and also mate with the forest snail. The Chinese mitten crab that takes over the waters in the US and endangers the local fauna. Hogweed that kills everything around them. There are plenty of examples where a strange flora or fauna threatens the local species. Everything that can be done to rid ourselves of these strangers has to be done or we risk losing what we have. And if we can do it in a way that less harmful, so be it.

Bon L.
Bon L6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan6 years ago

Lots of information , thanks.

Nona E.
Nona E6 years ago

Have to remember that slugs are my greatest foe when planting hostas and prepare. For those who don't want to kill but just put in compost pile, what happens to them then? Do they die, or can they just crawl back out and head for hosta heaven?

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Eva R.
Eva R.6 years ago

One thing I would never do ( again): Putting ammonia in the garden...Except when you LOVE cats. They smell it and spray urine over it!

Claudia W.
Claudia W7 years ago

i really respect people who realize that us humans are the problem, not the animals - we are the ones invading their space! so thank you to all of the above members for giving me tips on how to keep the snails off my lettuce etc, will try the flower sprinkling as well as the garlic water - maybe my salad will have a garlic taste, too? hm, new variety, yummy!