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Growing Good Food at Home

How to Deter Slugs and Grubs in a Vegetable Garden

Slugs and grubs and harmful bugs! Oh my! Let's follow the yellow brick road to a slug-free garden.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

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. 

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

Gardener sprinkle Diatomaceous earth( Kieselgur) powder for non-toxic organic insect repellent on salad in vegetable garden, dehydrating insects.

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?

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

  • Heather

    I’m in a wet land and slugs are us. I’ve also tried most of the suggestions – eggshells (no good) beer (not that good either), copper mesh and tape (does seem to work), and D-earth. The problem with the last one is that it will hurt the beneficials too – like spiders, ants, etc. so I’m wary of that one. I saw a video by a lady from the UK who took some clear plastic jars, like large mayonnaise jars with the bottoms cut out, and put some copper tape at the top edge (no lid) and placed it around her plants. I tried that and it did work, but it takes a lot of jars. Amazon has the copper tape and it’s reasonable. Lee Valley has the copper mesh and it’s reusable. I also use those garden cloches from Lee Valley for zucchini and squash starts and they work great. By the time the plant is large enough to take it off, the slugs don’t hurt it. They really are interested in the seedlings, I find. Thanks for the article.

  • Mirela S.

    I’ve tried all this methods and nothing worked. I picked the slugs and snails in the evening and gave them an Epson salt bath. I removed them one by one , in the dark and lots of patience


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