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Controlling Slugs and Snails

Slug on flower

Slugs and snails are the bane of gardener’s lives; they are persistent and widespread pests that cause havoc in the garden by munching their way through a wide range of your vegetable and ornamental plants throughout the year. They’re not fussy and will eat holes in leaves, stems, flowers, tubers and bulbs, really any soft growth they can make a meal of. However, it’s your precious seedlings and new growth on herbaceous plants in spring that are at most risk.

Slugs remain active throughout the year, unlike snails, which are dormant during autumn and winter. Warmer weather, combined with damp conditions greatly increases their activity. Slugs are most active after dark or in wet weather.

How can you recognise if it is slug or snail damage?

Well, the tell-tale silvery slime trails that lead to and from the crime scene are a definite giveaway as are large, ragged holes in tender leaves and flowers. Also, if your seedlings are there one day and disappear overnight with just a small stem remaining that’s them at work again. Additionally, if you get holes in hostas, lettuce, asparagus or the flowers of spring bulbs again they’ve been at work while your backs turned!

Total eradication is not possible so how do you control them and stop them eating your precious plants?

Non-chemical control

Biological control

Nematodes can be watered into the soil. They have no adverse effect on other types of animals and enter the slugs’ bodies and infect them with bacteria that cause a fatal disease. This is best done while the soil is warm during the spring to early autumn months.

Slug Traps

Traps like the one from Doff are an excellent control but only for those who are not of a queasy disposition! Laced with beer or milk to drown the enemy you will have to empty and dispose of the rather disgusting remains.

Go out with a torch

You could go out in the evening and catch them at work, collect them up and dispose of them but they need to be transported at least 70 feet away to stop them returning, so no throwing into the neighbours’ garden!


Place barriers, such as copper tapes like Doff tape around pots, greenhouse staging or containers to stop them in their tracks. Moisture-absorbent minerals can be placed around plants to create slug barriers. Gel repellents like the one from Doff approved for organic use can also be used to create barriers around plants. 

Chemical control

There are many products on the market like Bayer Garden Slug and Snail Killer but always follow the manufactures instructions and scatter slug pellets thinly around vulnerable plants, such as seedlings, vegetables and young shoots on herbaceous plants. It is important to store pellets safely and scatter them thinly as they can harm other wildlife, pets and young children if eaten in quantity.

If you want a product that is approved for organic use try something like Growing Success Advanced Slug Control pellets that are certified for organic use and contains ferric phosphate to overload the slug's system with iron. The pellets remain effective after exposure to rain, watering and sunlight and crops can be eaten soon after application. 


You will never get rid of these nasty little creatures but you can control their damage with on going action.

Posted by Charlie Groves

Charlie is the manager at Groves Nurseries.  He is the 6th generation of C.W. Groves to run the garden centre. 

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Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer 575g

Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer 575g

Advanced Slug Killer is approved for organic use in the UK by "Organic Farmers and Growers..

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