Organic Slug Control Methods

Garden slugs chew irregular holes with smooth edges in plants, and the damage often appears overnight. Try these organic slug control techniques to protect your crops.

  • Historically, salt was applied to slugs to kill them, but any salt sprinkled on slugs will end up in your soil, where it may prove troublesome for sensitive plants. Try these natural control techniques instead.
    Illustration By Keith Ward

This article is part of our Organic Pest Control Series, which includes articles on attracting beneficial insects, controlling specific garden pests, and using organic pesticides.


It takes only a little rain to bring garden slugs out of hiding. Feeding at night, slugs chew irregular holes in a long list of vegetables, and they are especially fond of salad greens, beans and cabbage family crops. Deep organic mulches provides habitat for slugs, so problems are most severe in heavily mulched gardens during periods of prolonged rain. Good organic slug control methods include handpicking, habitat modification, traps, copper barriers and commercial baits based on iron sulfate.

What Are Slugs?

Soft-bodied mollusks often described as snails without shells, slugs exude sticky slime as they move across leaves. Rarely seen on sunny days, slugs feed at night and during periods of wet, overcast weather. Slugs damage plants primarily by feeding on foliage, though they will also make holes in tomatoes, beans and other vegetables. 

Several species of different sizes often inhabit the same garden. Small gray milk slugs are frequent problems on lettuce, Chinese cabbage and other leafy greens. Larger gray garden slugs climb up taller plants to damage leaves and fruits. During the day, slugs hide in mulch or inside the boards used to structure beds.

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