In the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, the protagonist, Dorothy, and her friends, the Tin Man and Scarecrow, walk through a dark forest, fearing that they may get eaten by “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” I’m pretty sure slugs and grubs aren’t on their minds at all.
If you haven’t seen the movie, the trio, eventually joined by a “cowardly lion,” follows a yellow brick road to an emerald city where, after some adventures, they are given what they most desire. They never do get eaten by wild creatures.
What’s all that have to do with gardening? As far as I’m concerned, slugs and grubs are much more of a threat to my garden than lions, tigers, and bears. However, I’m following the figurative yellow brick road to get what I most desire: a garden free of these plant-eating annoyances. And I’m inviting you to join me.
Creating a vegetable garden free of slugs and grubs
The easiest way to deal with slugs and grubs in the garden is to prevent them. I’d be happy as a clam if I never had to see a slug on my lettuce again. I’ve asked them nicely to keep away, but that doesn’t work.
So, here are a few things I’ve done to deter slugs and grubs. Luckily, most of these solutions are pretty easy.
1. Diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is an abrasive material that comes from the fossilized skeletons of tiny organisms. It’s naturally occurring, is not poisonous, and won’t impact your plants. For slugs and grubs, though, it’s like walking barefoot through a room of Legos: unpleasant and irritating at best.
2. Crushed eggshells. Crushed eggshells work the same way diatomaceous earth does. The biggest difference is that the eggshells will add nutrients to the soil as they break down – assuming they don’t get washed away by rain first.
3. Copper tape. Folk wisdom has it that slugs and grubs and snails avoid copper because their secretions create a reaction when they contact the metal. There’s also some argument that copper doesn’t work at all. Here’s what I can tell you. The copper tape needs to be wide enough to work as a barrier – the thin stuff won’t cut it. The downside is that this could get expensive.
4. Throw a party. Okay, you aren’t really going to throw a party, but snails, slugs, and grubs are attracted to beer. If they’ve already found their way into your garden, set out saucers of beer at night, and in the morning, you’ll have a lot fewer slugs in your garden.
5. Plant herbs. There’s seemingly no end to the benefits of companion planting. Herbs such as rosemary, mint, and thyme can repel slugs, snails, grubs, and many other harmful insects.
6. Plant flowers. While some herbs repel slugs, some flowers attract them. These trap crops, as they’re known, lure these little leaf eaters away from your vegetables, where you can deal with them as you please. Hostas, violets, and dahlias all fall into this category.
7. Invite songbirds to your garden. Blackbirds, robins, starlings, woodpeckers, and many other songbirds love feasting on slugs and grubs. You can make your garden and yard enticing to songbirds by adding a birdbath, feeders, and plenty of native plants, flowers, and grasses.
Have you found a good way to prevent harmful pests like slugs in your vegetable garden? What did you use?