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Mountain Gardening: Get Rid of Slugs

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Slugs don’t look like they could threaten your garden, but these slimy creatures can cause a lot of damage. Here’s how to take the “ugh” out of slugs.

Slugs attack a pepper.
This slug hasn’t yet ruined the leaf

By Jodi Torpey

Slugs. Just saying their name gives me the creeps. These slimy creatures may look innocent, but they can cause a lot of damage.

Slugs -- and their equally smarmy friends the snails -- are classified as gastropods. This makes them more like mussels and clams than insects, but they’re pests nonetheless. Slugs usually appear in my garden after prolonged periods of rainy weather. As slugs move through the garden, they leave a trail of shiny (and disgusting) mucus.

Slug damage to a leaf

Sometimes it can be difficult to find slugs because they do their damage overnight and hide out during the daylight hours. You can use a flashlight to go slug hunting at night, or look for slugs along plant stems and under leaves in the early-morning hours. You also can search for their clusters of clear, round eggs by looking under rocks.

Slugs feast on anything from vegetable and flower seedlings to ripe fruit. I’ve even found their telltale chewing damage on ornamental plants. Look for missing leaves or irregularly shaped holes on the edges or in the middle of leaves.

Because slugs thrive in moist conditions, a good preventive method is let the garden soil dry a bit between waterings. Slugs can hide under plant debris and organic mulch, so removing their cover is another way to control them.

Diatomaceous earth products are natural slug defeaters.

Once slugs show their telltale signs, you can employ a number of methods to dispatch them. Here are some simple ways to take the “ugh” out of slugs:

I always prefer to use natural repellents and barriers before resorting to pesticides. The irritants diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, dryer lint and other abrasive substances placed at the base of plants keep slugs away. Refresh materials as needed.

You can concoct slug deterrents with common household products.

Slugs are attracted to sugar water/yeast mixtures, as well as beer. Place a dish filled with any of those liquids and the slugs will come crawling -- and drown. A single serving should last several days.

Do you have a natural way to get rid of pests in your garden? Please add your suggestions here.