Slugs are slimy little creatures known for being destructive and pervasive garden pests. Fortunately, because they are soft-bodied and virtually unprotected when body parts are peeking out of their shells, they’re pretty easy to eliminate. Vinegar is one of the most effective weapons against slugs, and it’s great that most households always have this kitchen staple.
Here’s how to kill slugs with vinegar:
- Prepare your vinegar spray.
- Go on a slug hunt.
- Spray the vinegar directly on the slugs.
- Clean up the dead slugs.
- Set out bait for remaining slugs.
In this article, I will guide you through eliminating slugs from your garden using vinegar. We will also talk about how you can quickly recognize the presence of slugs in your garden and some other ways to drive away these ravenous pests. Let’s start!
1. Prepare Your Vinegar Spray
There are no complex recipes or specific measurements to remember here. You may use plain white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or whatever type of vinegar is available in your pantry. Simply pour some vinegar into a spray bottle, and you’re good to go! The acetic acid in vinegar dehydrates slugs and kills them.
Acetic acid (vinegar) first dissolves the mucus surrounding the slug’s body before entering the slug’s skin. As slugs rely on their moist mucus layer to survive, the acid contained in vinegar kills them within minutes.
2. Go on a Slug Hunt
Go out to your garden to hunt for slugs. They like hiding in moist, shaded areas in the daytime to shield themselves from sunlight and heat. Pay special attention to these areas where you’ll most likely find these pesky creatures:
- Undersides of leaves.
- The undersides of stones.
- Under fallen branches.
- In the spaces between the ground and walls or fences.
Experts suggest going on slug hunts at night because this is when you’ll find them most active. Pick a cloudy or rainy night to boost your chances of seeing as many slugs as possible. Wet, cold nights are when they love to come out and feast on plants.
Signs of Slug Activity
It is pretty easy to recognize a slug infestation in your garden, mainly because of how destructive they can be. Unfortunately, slugs usually attack at night in springtime, especially after heavy rainfall, so the sight of damaged and half-eaten plants is what will greet you early in the morning. At this point, all you can do is to get rid of these pests as soon as possible.
Here are some of the most common clues signaling the presence of slugs in your garden:
- Ragged, uneven holes on your plants’ leaves.
- A trail of slime on leaves that the slugs have munched.
- Plants, especially seedlings, are devoid of leaves, with only the stems left.
3. Spray the Vinegar Directly on the Slugs
Spray the vinegar directly on the slugs. Remember that vinegar can harm your plants, so it is best to pick slugs off of your plants before spraying them. Avoid spraying on your pots or any wooden structures, too, because vinegar can cause discoloration. Vinegar will dry out the slugs and practically dissolve them as you watch.
Other Ways To Keep Slugs Out of Your Garden
There are other tried and tested ways to stop these voracious eaters from feasting on your plants. As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” This adage is true even with plants since preventing a slug infestation is much simpler than driving the destructive pests away from your garden.
Here are some tips:
Water Your Plants in the Mornings
Slugs prefer attacking at night, and a moist garden is a sumptuous treat they simply cannot resist. If you water your plants in the mornings, the moisture will evaporate when the sun sets. Slugs tend to shy away from dry gardens.
Use Plant Nettings
Plant nettings are one of the safest, most efficient, and inexpensive ways to protect your plants from pests. Ensure that the nettings you invest in have high-quality fibers so they don’t easily tear.
Make it a point to install them properly over your plants such that there is no ample space for any type of pest to crawl. A good plant netting can discourage slugs from feasting on your plants.
I’ve written an extensive guide about using nettings to protect your plants from Japanese beetles. Don’t miss it: Does Netting Really Stop Japanese Beetles?
Spray WD-40 on the outside of your pots and flower boxes. This oil will create a slippery layer that makes it extremely difficult for slugs to maneuver over. The more they try to scale the pots, the more slippery they get. The slugs will eventually lose interest and, hopefully, move away from your garden.
Expose Slug Hiding Spots
Make it a habit to rake your soil regularly, especially around plants that have previously served as snacks for slugs. Doing so exposes their hiding spots, so they immediately move away if they’re constantly being disturbed. Raking can also expose slug eggs to wind and sunlight, causing them to dehydrate and die.
Use Plants That Slugs Hate
Slugs hate the smell of certain plants. Consider situating these natural slug repellents around plants they’ve previously feasted on to discourage them from returning. Plants that slugs hate include these:
Leave a pile of scrap vegetable leaves or stems out in your garden in the early evening. The rinds of citrus fruits would be great, too. Choose a cool, damp night since slugs prefer feeding in such conditions.
Later in the evening, armed with your trusty flashlight, head back to this pile, and you’ll surely see a congregation of snails feasting on the vegetables. Scoop them out, toss them out of your garden, or eliminate them with whatever method you choose.
Build a Protective Ring Around Your Plants
Slugs are soft-bodied creatures, and anything sharp and prickly on the ground will easily send them slithering away. Scatter these elements around your plants to create a protective barrier from slugs. Consider using these natural slug repellents:
- Crushed egg shells.
- Salt (this should be done as far away from plants as possible because salt has adverse effects on plants and soil).
- Stem cuttings with thorns.
- Self-adhesive copper tapes (this sends tiny electric shocks to snails upon contact)
- Diatomaceous Earth (this substance dehydrates snails).
Nurture Slug Predators
Certain animals love snacking on slugs. It would be great to keep these animals roaming through your garden so they can always keep the slug population under control. Note that these animals usually do not disturb plants, but it would be best to observe each animal’s behavior to check if they do not cause any damage to your garden.
Consider adopting these slug predators as pets or encouraging them to stay in your garden by providing shelter, food, and water:
Set Out Slug Traps
Slugs are attracted to the scent and taste of beer. Simply leave a bowl of beer out in your garden overnight. They’ll get attracted to the smell, climb in to investigate, and drown. In the morning, you’ll likely find dead slugs swimming in your bowl of beer. You can set these traps out at night when slug activities peak.
Here is how to set out beer traps for slugs:
- Fill a bowl with beer.
- Bury the bowl halfway into the soil so the slugs won’t have difficulty climbing in. Leave the bowl out overnight.
- Fish the dead slugs out in the morning so the beer can attract more slugs at night.
- Replace the beer every few days because it will begin losing its potency on slugs.
4. Clean Up the Dead Slugs
Get rid of the dead slugs with a water hose to wash them away from your garden. Do not just leave the dead slugs lying around. The sight of dead, rotting slugs is not a pretty sight, and the smell of their rotting flesh might attract other pests into your garden. Additionally, the dead slugs might put you and your pets at risk of exposure to bacteria and diseases.
Slugs can be harmful to pets when ingested. A slug is not poisonous in itself, but it may be a carrier of certain parasites, especially lungworms. Dogs and cats, in particular, may become curious about these slugs and decide to lick or eat them.
Here are the symptoms of lungworm infection in pets:
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Behavioral changes
- The animal is bleeding for longer than usual after a minor cut or wound.
If unchecked and undiagnosed, a lungworm infection in pets can become a more severe condition. It can even lead to death. Here are some of the more severe effects of lungworm infection:
- Heart problems
- Internal hemorrhage.
5. Set Out Bait for Remaining Slugs
Rather than going on slug hunts every night and killing them one at a time, you may also set out baits for these pesky crawlers. Gathering them in one location will make it much easier for you to eliminate them. This option will also save you the trouble of hosing down various garden areas to clean out dead slugs.
Here is how to set up slug baits:
- Lay an upturned flower pot on the ground.
- Prop up one side with a board or rock to make it easier for the slugs to get in.
- Scatter rinds of citrus fruits underneath the flower pot. Snails love oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits.
- Leave the slug bait out in your garden overnight. In the morning, you’ll find slugs gathered underneath the flower pot, enjoying the shelter from the sun and heat.
Ravenous slugs feeding on your plants feel like a crime, especially after you’ve invested so much time and effort in your garden. Hopefully, these tips will come in handy if you ever find yourself caught in the middle of a slug infestation. A vinegar-filled spray bottle might just be your best weapon.
If you wonder why your garden has so many snails, you can read my other article here: 14 Reasons Why Your Garden Has So Many Snails