Effective DIY Solutions to Deter Garden Slugs

Written by Matthew Emma
Updated: November 2, 2023
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Gardens prove valuable for several reasons. For many, these collections of plant life enable people to grow healthy and nutrient-rich natural products. To others, gardens provide a relaxing hobby helping them escape the stresses of everyday life. Unfortunately, however, gardens also attract unwanted guests. One specific and especially troublesome visitor is the garden slug. Discover the most effective DIY solutions to deter garden slugs.

Picture of a slug in the genus Ambigolimax. Photo taken in Fremont, CA, USA.

The garden slug’s body appears moist and slimy.

©Sanjay Acharya, CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

What Is a Garden Slug?

The garden slug, known scientifically as Arion hortensis, is a type of mollusk similar to a snail. The insect also goes by other names such as the small-striped slug and the black-field slug.

What Do Garden Slugs Look Like?

Insect experts suggest that the garden slug looks like a snail without a shell. Typically, their muscular, legless bodies appear brown or greyish and extend anywhere from a quarter-inch to two inches long.

Additionally, the garden slug’s body appears moist and slimy. The critter’s most unique feature is its head, which contains two thin, pencil-point-like objects called feelers that help it see and smell.

When Are Garden Slugs Most Often Seen?

Garden slugs thrive in damp, dark, and cool soil. Heat and sunlight threaten their well-being. Therefore, the insects will most likely be seen during the evening or on overcast days. Moreover, the garden slug population peaks during the spring and summer months following the birth of their young. However, they often remain active well into the fall.

What do Garden Slugs Eat?

Usually, garden slugs feed on plant life capable of growing in cooler, darker soil not reliant on much sunlight.

The insects favor produce such as:

  • Strawberries
  • Basil
  • Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes

In terms of plants, garden slugs commonly feed on:

  • Dahlia
  • Bellflower
  • Larkspur
  • Plaintain lily
  • Day lily

Sometimes, the garden slug makes its way into tree bark. Citrus trees bearing oranges and lemons often fall prey.

Slug invasion

Slugs can eat plants faster than they can grow.

©Dieter Hawlan/iStock via Getty Images

Signs Suggesting the Presence of Garden Slugs

Since garden slugs and people typically have different working hours, spotting them can prove difficult. Fortunately, however, insect experts caution that red-flag signs like the appearance of holes or gaps in produce or other vegetation mean a problem likely exists and must soon be addressed.

Damage Caused by Garden Slugs

The specific extent of damage caused by garden slugs depends on how much the insects feed on a particular plant or produce product.

Small or moderate garden infestations typically result in minor damage that does not threaten the foliage’s health. However, large slug populations often lead to notable damage capable of killing plants and crippling produce harvests. Such events could cost the farming industry hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Effective DIY Solutions to Deter Garden Slugs

Luckily, certain do-it-yourself methods have proven effective in keeping slug populations in check. Such efforts include:

Installing Barriers

Certain slug barriers might prove beneficial. Copper foil provides an electrical-like shock to slugs and most often works when lined around smaller gardens. Occasionally, diatomaceous earth, which is a fine, coarse, ground-up material scratches and irritates a slug’s body.


Believe it or not, beer often produces positive results. The yeast contained in the popular beverage attracts garden slugs. Therefore, gardeners are encouraged to place a small amount of the malt beverage inside an open dish and leave it in a central location within the foliage.

Practicing Proper Maintenance

Proper maintenance often proves critical. Taking steps like trimming vegetation to allow more sunlight to enter the garden, improving soil drainage, and promoting better air circulation makes the surrounding environment less appealing to slugs.

Allowing Nature to Take its Course

Slugs have certain natural enemies such as toads, turtles, and various snakes. The presence of these predators may reduce a garden’s slug population.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Ja'Crispy

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About the Author

I have been in the writing field for more than 20 years. During my career's first half, I served as print and online journalist for various local publications. Over the latter half, my interests turned to content and freelance writing where I've covered various topics for a wide-ranging client base. Relating to animals, I currently serve as a family assistant for a woman with two aging dogs. Raven and Cruz have intensified my love for dogs, increased my awareness of animal issues, and inspired me to devote more of my time and professional skills to promoting animal causes.

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