How to Protect Your Garden from Slugs and Snails

How to Protect Your Garden from Slugs and Snails

What plants do slugs eat?

Slugs eat all sorts of plants.
Slugs eat all sorts of plants.

They eat any plant that’s not aromatic and has thin leaves. They especially prefer newly sprouted leaflets on easy to reach plants that are close to the soil.

They eat herbs, vegetables, plant decor, ornaments, shrubs, bushes, and any other foliage. They aren’t picky and consume just about anything they can crawl on.

Here are some common plants that readers ask about.

Do slugs eat mint?

Mint is an aromatic herb that naturally repels slugs. Other similar plants like rosemary and thyme also have the same effect. If you plan to plant mint, you don’t need to worry about mint as most varieties of it are safe.

You may have slugs taking a nibble here and there, but they should quickly be repelled by the strong scent and taste of mint. Mint is safe to plant as it’s resilient against gastropods.

Do slugs eat petunias?

Yes, slugs eat petunias because of their thin leaves and ease of access. Petunias are susceptible to slug damage. You should be careful because this plant has literally no defense against mollusks.

And there are many other similar plants that have just as much color on this list that you can consider.

Do snails eat aloe vera plants?

Not likely. Snails don’t seem to be particularly attracted to aloe vera as it has thick leaves that are packed with fiber, which makes it unattractive to snails because they can’t digest it.

Do slugs eat lobelia?

Lobelia is a delicious meal for slugs who chew at its stem bottoms. This plant is not resistant to slugs and snails and will attract gastropods with its thin stems that contain nutritious plant foliage for them to gobble up.

Do slugs eat salvias?

Yes, snails and slugs both eat saliva because of the soft leaves that it sprouts. This makes an easy target for their next meal. Their leaves and tender nature of the plant only attract pests to feast on it. Avoid if you have a garden prone to caterpillars, loopers, or garden aphids.

Do slugs eat foxgloves?

Slugs avoid foxgloves due to the coppery flowers. Gastropods can’t handle any copper as it’s extremely toxic to them. And foxgloves have both coppery blooms and spikes lined along the flower make it a hard pass for these pests.


11: Removing by Hand

Removing snails and slugs by hand doesn’t require special products or tricks. However, it is incredibly time consuming and may not be a permanent solution. You also have to be okay with touching slugs and snails! However, if you have the time and patience to use this method, you need to regularly check your garden for snails and slugs, pick them off, and move them at least 20 feet away from your garden.

8. Change Your Watering Schedule

One great way to help combat these creatures is to change your watering schedule. Instead of watering in the evening, start doing it in the morning. This will make your garden less favorable for the pests at night, as it will be dry.

5.  Attract birds to your garden

There are lots of species of birds that eat snails and slugs. This means that you can reduce your snail and slug population by taking steps to attract more birds to your yard. This method is lethal for the snails, but it is along the lines of encouraging nature to take its course and does not require introducing chemicals into your garden. It is also a quicker death than they would experience with snail poison or drowning methods.

16: Citrus Traps

Love cooking with citrus? Save your lemon, lime, orange and even grapefruit peels to scatter upside down in your garden before night. In the morning you will find a good portion of your slugs and snails have found their way to these tasty treats. You can then collect them and move the slugs and snails at least 20 feet from your garden.


Gastropods have delicate tummy tissue, and any sharp materials will irritate and potentially cut their tender undersides.

For an extra layer of defense, build a small berm at least three inches wide with fine stone chips, crushed egg shells, diatomaceous earth (DE), or crushed oyster and clam shells.

Diatomaceous earth is derived from silicon dioxide and has sharp, abrasive edges. But it must remain dry to deter gliding gastropods.

Use food grade DE, not the material used in aquariums (which has smoother edges), and follow instructions when applying.

10. Plant sacrificial plants

Sacrificial plants, also known as trap plants, help protect your garden from pests by attracting the pests elsewhere. For example, if you are trying to protect an ornamental garden bed from snails, you can plant some lettuce in the back or in less-conspicuous spots. Snails like the taste of lettuces better than most ornamental plants, so they will more likely dine on your lettuce leaves than your pretty plants.

Methods of control

The only sure-fire way to keep your garden free of snails and slugs is to destroy them. There are several ways to do this, or you can use natural deterrents to keep them away from your plants by making the garden less hospitable.


Scatter pellets or apply a snail gel around plants by hand, choosing an animal-friendly product to protect pets, native birds and lizards.


Set traps baited with fresh lettuce, citrus rind or stale beer, check them daily and squash the pests or drop them into a jar of salty water.


Use copper tape as a collar for young plants and pots, or as bed edging. Copper makes an effective barrier, as it gives snails and slugs a slight electric shock. This tape is about 30mm wide.


Search and destroy snails and slugs by hand-picking them out of the garden and killing them. If you can’t bear to squash or drown them, mix a solution of equal parts vinegar and water and pour it into a spray bottle for a homemade and eco-friendly pesticide. Spray the solution directly onto both snails and slugs to kill them, but be careful where you use it as vinegar is a herbicide and will also poison your plants.


Position timber boards on the soil near vulnerable plants and the pests will migrate to the underside where they can be easily removed. Clear away decaying vegetation and debris like rocks and leaf litter to eliminate daytime hiding places. Mulch also makes a good home for snails and slugs, so keep it less than 80mm thick.

TIP Don’t spread mulch until plants are well established and daytime temperatures are reaching 21°C.


Lay barriers around plants, especially lettuces, to stop snails and slugs in their tracks. These soft-bodied pests will turn away from a sharp or scratchy barrier rather then crawl across it to get to the salad bar. Surround plants with strips of coarse grit abrasive paper or broken eggshells. Coir also works, as the tiny fibres stick to snails and slugs, making it hard for them to move.


  • Flint M.L., Wilen C.A. How to Manage Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Snails and Slugs. University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. (Rev 2016).
  • Hodgson E. How to Control Snails and Pest & The Best Management Program. (FAQ). Utah State University. (2008).
  • Murphy G., Coupland J. Slugs, Snails and Slime Trails. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Fact Sheet. (PDF). (2004).
  • Sakovich N. J., Bailey J. B., Fisher T. W. Decollate Snails for Control of Brown Garden Snails in Southern California Citrus Groves. University of California. Publication. (1984).
  • Pundt L. Managing Slugs in the Greenhouse. University of Connecticut. (2011).
  • McDonnell R., Paine T., Gormally M. J. Slugs: A Guide to the Invasive and Native Fauna of California. University of California. Publication. (2009).
  • Goh K. S., Gibson R. L., Specker D. R. Garden Slug. Cornell Cooperative Extension. Field Crops Fact Sheet. (PDF). (1988).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

What Damage Can Snails Cause?

For a small creature, snails can pack a big punch. Snails have a rough,  rasp-like tongue, which they scrape across the edges of plant leaves. The result is large holes and chips across the surface area of the plant, which can damage or even kill your greenery.

But that’s not all they do.

Here are a few reasons to get rid of snails as soon as you see them:

  • Snails reduce crop yield. If you have a flower or a  vegetable garden on your property, snails will eat your plants and reduce your crop yield. They’re particularly hard on leafy vegetables.
  • They can destroy water features. Snails and slugs are parasitic and can kill fish in decorative ponds and water features. Plus, these water-loving mollusks reproduce rapidly and can short your electronics and clog pond or pool filters and pipes.
  • They spread disease. Snails carry diseases and parasitic worms (including Schistosomiasis that can be dangerous for domestic pets and people. Having them on your property may be putting your health at risk.
  • They are unsightly. Nobody wants to pick a fresh leaf of lettuce from the garden only to find a snail. Snails are unsightly and disgusting and will make your yard or garden a less enjoyable place to be.


If you have the stomach for it, handpicking is an effective option when practiced diligently.

To lure slugs and snails, water any infested areas at dusk. After nightfall, use a flashlight to hunt them down, pick by hand, and dispose of them – you’ll definitely want to use gloves for this option!

You’ll need to do this nightly until their numbers are decimated, after which a weekly foray should suffice.

Once caught, you can dispatch them in a bucket of soapy water or by spraying with a solution of diluted ammonia. One part ammonia mixed with 10 parts water in a spray bottle will do the trick.

Slug resistant herbs

There are also quite a few herbs for you to choose from that don’t attract snails. Feel free to plant borage, chamomile, comfrey, mint, rue, rosemary, thyme, valerian, parsley, lavender, hyssop, horsetail, savory, and even wild garlic.

Slugs and snails will avoid these herbs and leave them alone so you can harvest all of it for yourself. There are more out there, but these are a decent place to get started on your herb garden. Snail free!

Are Snails or Slugs Taking Over Your San Francisco Bay Area Garden? We’re Here to Help!

Here at Smith’s Pest Management, we help residential and commercial properties in Northern California from Marin to Monterey get rid of snails on their property.

Contact us today to schedule your pest removal appointment and finally get rid of the snails on your property once and for all.


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