November 13, 2016 11:28 AM   Subscribe

How do I kill slugs?

I would like to get rid of the slugs in my small, organic vegetable garden. I use Sluggo, but I still have slugs around. I have zero ethical qualms about killing slugs, but I cannot bring myself to crush them. I tried drowning a bunch of them in a bucket of water, but they all crawled out. I don't have any neighbors with chickens that I could feed the slugs to. I have never had success with using beer as a bait, and anyway, my question is for what to do with the slugs that I actually find and catch in my garden. By what method can I kill slugs without feeling bad?

(Yes, I recognize this is the most trivial and pathetic askme question I could possibly be asking right now. I am desperate to fill even some small part of my time and brain with something besides the coming apocalypse.)
posted by latkes to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
I mean, I was taught to kill them by pouring salt on them, but I don't think that addresses your ethical qualms.
posted by Night_owl at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2016

Beer is your answer.
posted by mareli at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

Get some chickens of your own? They are fairly entertaining and low-maintenance pets, but they will enthusiastically take your garden down to bare dirt so you'd have to fence either the garden or the chickens (see chicken tractor) if you want both to peacefully co-exist.
posted by Quietgal at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Salt, or copper. Can you fence off the area with copper tape?
posted by kellyblah at 11:42 AM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I wanted to keep feral cats out of my garden, I was putting spent coffee grounds everywhere. I kept finding dead slugs.

Many coffee shops will give you as many spent coffee grounds as you can use. Bring a bucket with your name and phone number if you want a lot.
posted by aniola at 12:05 PM on November 13, 2016

Diatomaceous earth.
posted by vers at 12:08 PM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't have any neighbors with chickens that I could feed the slugs to.

I've read about people hiring out for a herd of goats (or sheep?) to eat overgrowth - could there be chicken-owners in your neighborhood that you don't personally know who would loan out their chickens for a slug-eating day, or be interested in receiving slugs from you to be disposed of in their chickens? Maybe your local farmers' market has someone selling eggs who could advise you? Or a veterinarian's office near you that people with home-chicken-coops go to, where you could ask questions and/or post a flyer?
posted by oh yeah! at 12:40 PM on November 13, 2016

I've used two different methods to control slugs:
1. Make sure there are plenty of sheltered, dry-ish spots for ground beetles to nest in (think: dry-stack walls and the like). These beetles, which trundle around in the top 1-2" of topsoil LOVE slug eggs, and can/will dramatically decrease the population. This takes time (a season, anyway). On that note, do not kill any ground beetles you see as you are weeding/tending the garden.
2. Go out early in the morning (spring is when I did this) to the slugs favorite plants. Take a half-full glass of beer with you and some kind of tweezer-like item (we used toaster tongs). Pick slugs every day for a half-hour for two weeks. Pay particular attention to the teeny-tiny ones - they eat the most (it's how they get so fricking big!). Drop them into the glass of beer - they will drown and cannot crawl out.

Source: Organic gardener in the PNW for over 15 years.

Good luck!
posted by dbmcd at 12:40 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Watch out with the beer. If you leave out the dish, the slugs drown...and then neighborhood cats will slurp up the beer-soaked slugs and then get sick.

Fresh rosemary branches and leaves will keep them away. Diatomaceous earth is food-safe for people and pets but will kill the slugs if you apply it consistently. I would use both and not beer.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:44 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Beer really does work - and I feel less bad, because they die drunk.
posted by Toddles at 5:27 PM on November 13, 2016

Beer is your answer.

This is kind of effective but be prepared to be squicked out. Slugs are cannibals. They will eat dead slugs. So if you do the beer in a buried jar trick you will end up with a slug sludge made of a ridiculous amount of dead slugs (I did this while living in England). Then where ever you dump them you will get even more slugs.

I stopped trapping and started just putting them in my composter instead - the slugs love it in there and it really helps break things down.
posted by srboisvert at 5:51 PM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Copper has always worked for me. That and a dog that eats them. Gross but effective.
posted by fshgrl at 9:15 PM on November 13, 2016

I've found the "organic" slug pellets that contain iron phosphate to be essentially useless. (and iron phosphate is inorganic so it bugs me twice) I'm going to try nemaslug on my allotment next year. It is a nematode that you water in to the soil which then breeds in the slugs killing them. It is an organic slug control mechanism.

As to how I usually dispatch them, I have a killing spot a bit away from the plot, but just on the corner. I've put a nice flat rock there and I slice slugs in half with a trowel. It has the extra added benefit of drawing in slugs from all around to eat the dead, so I can dispatch those as well. A gross job, but there is no easy way to get rid of slugs.
posted by koolkat at 1:51 AM on November 14, 2016

The beer trap in this time lapse video seems more effective in hydrating slugs than killing them. I wouldn't bother.

I'll often find slugs hiding out during the day under flat areas in and near the garden (plant pots and paving stones), and will check those sometimes and kill any slugs I find. On preview, you could put down a board or something as koolkat has suggested.
posted by exogenous at 8:08 AM on November 14, 2016

I use sluggo and also have a copper tape barrier all the way around the top of my raised bed. I also go out at night after planting in the spring and pick slugs/snails off the leaves and the rock walls and fence in the surrounding area, especially after it rains. To kill them I use a small container full of fairly salty water to drop them in. I had the same problem with just plain water-they just climbed out. The beer trap never worked for me either. I am not any kind of expert but I read that slugs carry rat lungworm so people may want to be careful about letting pets eat them. I can't keep my chickens from eating them though...they grab and gobble super quickly, and run away at full tilt while they do, lol.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 10:32 AM on November 14, 2016

Surprised no one has mentioned dry wood ashes. The ashes absorb the slime and desiccate the little *****s. Good time of the year to be collecting wood ash from fireplaces.
posted by rudd135 at 6:32 PM on November 14, 2016

I had good luck with coffee grounds (though you want to keep an eye on the soil pH if you constantly add un-composted coffee grounds). Also, tobacco flakes scattered around the base of the plant (nicotine is an insecticide, so if you are trying to encourage beneficial insects this could deter them as well). Diatomacious earth is supposed to deter them, but I believe you have to add more every time it gets wet. I have heard of people using crumbled egg shells for the same effect.

The sluggo bait never worked for me; neither did the beer traps.

If all else fails, you could try one of these DIY battery powered electric fences.
posted by ethical_caligula at 9:47 AM on November 15, 2016

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