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Gardeners Advice

Dealing with Slugs and Snails
19 Apr

Dealing with Slugs and Snails

Posted By: Hugh Forbia Category: Garden Wildlife, Growing Veg, Pests and Diseases

Slugs, Snails and Gardeners

Slugs and snails are the bane of the gardener’s life. They seem to lie in wait until the first green shoots appear….or the moment when you have finished planting your display of beautiful bedding plants - and then attack! The tell-tale signs are slimy trials across the surface of the soil and holes eaten in leaves. If conditions are right, slugs and snails can demolish a whole plant in a very short time. They love damp conditions and are especially active after a spell of rain.

Slug or snail?

Does it matter? Both are a nuisance to keen gardeners! You can tell the difference by checking the type of damage caused and where it occurs. Both leave slimy trails, but snails are great climbers, so if the plants in your favourite hanging basket are being eaten, it’s probably a snail at work. Snails are also choosy eaters, preferring the softer tissue between leaf ribs. If you spot the skeleton remains of a plant leaf, you know that a snail is the culprit. Slugs tend to operate at ground level and lurk in damp, shady places.

A few ways to protect your plants

A liberal scattering of plug pellets may seem the obvious solution, but many gardeners prefer to use more environmentally-friendly methods:

Ash. Wood ash or cinders make a good protective barrier round plants, but avoid direct contact with the foliage. The barrier needs to be continuous and at least 5cm wide.

Beer traps. Sink a small plastic pot into the soil and half fill with stale beer. Cover with a flat stone or similar. Slugs are attracted by the smell of stale beer, fall in and drown. Commercially made beer traps are available.

Copper rings. Solid copper rings of various diameters are available to fit around most size of plants. Slugs receive a mild electric shock which acts as a deterrent.

Copper tape. Self-adhesive tape can be wrapped around larger pots. A cheaper version of solid copper rings can be made by cutting a ring of plastic from a discarded flower pot and wrapping copper tape round it.

Egg shells. Crushed egg shells create a jagged barrier which slugs and snails seem reluctant to cross. The decomposing shells work as a soil improver.

Hunt-the-slug. Work out where all the hiding places loved by slugs and snails are in your garden. Create the right conditions: damp, cold and shady, using old tiles, rotting timber, wet newspaper etc. —then round up and dispose of the pests.

Hand picking. A nasty, but very effective way to clear your garden of slimy pests. You’ll be amazed how many you collect. Wear disposable vinyl glovesHunt-the-slug. Work out where all the hiding places loved by slugs and snails are in your garden. Create the right conditions: damp, cold and shady, using old tiles, rotting timber, wet newspaper etc. —then round up and dispose of the pests.

Nematodes. Naturally-occurring micro-organisms which are slug parasites and are present in most organic garden soils. ‘Nemaslug’ is a commercially available way of introducing nematodes to protect a specific area of your garden from slug or snail damage.

Salt. A favourite method is to wait till dusk when slugs and snails appear and scatter salt over them. Clearing up the resulting mess is an unpleasant business and plants may be damaged if salt gets on them.

Sand or grit. Another form of protective barrier. Decorative grits and gravels are also used to show off plants to best advantage.

Slug kebab. Not for those of nervous disposition! Go out at night and spear slugs with a kebab skewer. Put it on your bird table as a tasty treat.

Slug pellets. Various brands of environmentally-friendly pellets are now readily available.

Spiky plants. After pruning, place spiky or thorny cuttings round your plants—a great way to deter cats too!

Wool pellets. A fairly recent introduction to the commerial market, these take advantage of molluscs dislike of the wools texture and create a fibrous barrier that they won't cross. Plants need to be surrounded by the pellets that expend during wet weather and create a mat around your plant. 

Slug and snail resistant plants

The following plants are known for their resistance to attack from slugs and snails (No guarantees!)


· Acanthus mollis (Bear’s Breeches)

· Achillea filipendulina (Yarrow)

· Agapanthus - hybrids and cultivars (African Lilly)

· Alchemillia mollis (Lady’s Mantle) *

· Anemone hupehensis and A.x hybrid *

· Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragon)

· Aquilegia species (Columbine) *

· Armenia species (Thrift)

· Aster amellus, A.x frikartiiand, A. novae-anliae (Michaelmas Daisy)

· Astilbe x arendsii *

· Bergenia (Elephant’s Ears)

· Centaura dealbata and C. montana (Cornflower)

· Corydalis lutea

· Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon)

· Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Heart) *

· Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove)

· Eryngium species (Sea Holly) *

· Euphorbia species (Spurge) *

· Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) *

· Fuchsia cultivars *

· Gaillardia aristata (Blanket Flower)

· Geranium species (Crane’s Bill) *

· Geum chiloense (Avens)

· Hemerocallis cultivars (Day Lily) *

· Liatris spicata (Gay Feather)

· Lysimachia punctate (Loosetrife)

· Myostis species (Forget-Me-Not)

· Nepeta x faassenii (Cat Mint)

· Papaver nudicaule and P. orientale (Poppy)

· Pelargonium (‘Geranium’) *

· Phlox paniculata

· Ornamental grasses and sedges *

· Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant)

· Polemonium foliosissimum (Jacob’s Ladder)

· Polygonum species (Knotweed)

· Potentilla hybrids and cultivars (Cinquefoil)

· Pulmonaria species (Lungwort) *

· Rudbeckia fulgida (Cone Flower)

· Salvia x superba (Sage)

· Saxifraga x urbium (London Pride)

· Scabiosa caucasica (Scabious)

· Sedum spectabile (Ice Plant)

· Sempervivum species (House Leek) *

· Sisyrinchium species (Pigroot)

· Solidago species (Golden Rod)

· Stachys macrantha (Lamb’s Ears) *

· Tanacetum coccineum

· Thalictrum aquilegiifloium (Columbine Meadow Rue)

· Tradescantia virginiana (Spiderwort)

· Tropaeolum species (Nasturtium) *Verbascum species (Mullein)

* denotes self-seeding plants


Slug and snail resistant vegetables

Slugs love vegetables - especially tasty young plants! Try the following which seem not to attract slugs as much as others:

· Winter brassicas: Kale, Sprouts, Cauliflower, Spring Cabbage

· Potatoes: Pentland Dell, Pentland Ivory, Pentland Squire, Pentland Falcon, Desiree

· Lettuce - red and ‘cut-and-come-again’ varieties

· Garlic

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