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How to deter slugs from seedlings

vegetable seedlings and slugs

Snapdragon Online got it's name because of slugs.

Back in 2001, with baby strapped to my front, I started a cut flower business, growing flowers in my garden and selling them at a Farmer's Market in Glasgow.

My then garden was very damp, the soil was heavy clay and surrounded by long grass. Not surprisingly there were a lot of slugs.

I planted out my rows of carefully nurtured seedlings - cornflowers, marigolds, poppies, cosmos, nigella, snapdragons. Within 2 days the slugs had eaten everything but the snapdragons.

Slugs don't like snapdragons.

My market stall had a lot of snapdragons on it that year and that inspired me to name my business.

Since then I have become a lot better at deterring surface eating slugs without resorting to pellets. Here are my main techniques.

All depend on knowing where slugs live in your garden - the ones that are most likely to munch your seedlings will be hiding somewhere damp during the day (long grass, down the edges of raised beds, at the base of box hedges, under the edges of landscaping fabric)


Slugs love beer, any beer, even the terrible beer that people bring to parties, even failed home-brew. Save small jars or pots (single yoghurt pots work fine) and bury them up to their necks between where the slugs are likely to be living and your plants. The idea is to waylay (and drown) them before they get to your plants. Fill up the jars with beer and leave.

The only disadvantage with this is that, in heavy rain, the beer can be diluted to the point that it is no longer attractive to slugs and you have to tip out the water and start again.


The only thing better than beer in the mind of a slug is cereal. They can't resist it. Rather than using piles of bran which can get messy, I use cheap own brand weetabix type cereal and again place it between the slugs and the crops.

It works in two ways, primarily as a distraction from seedlings (surround seedlings with a fence of weetabix if you have to leave them and go away for a few days), but also in conjunction with the next technique.


This is for the hunter gatherer - get a torch, go out at night and collect all the slugs up and dispose of them. It is messy but also strangely meditative.

This is the way that I dealt with slugs in my first garden - logging the numbers in a weird serial killery garden notebook. I stopped counting when I got past 4000.

It is less messy if you combine with the weetabix technique. Simply leave the weetabix for 3 days and then go out at night and collect up all the weetabix that should by now be covered with feasting slugs.


Ducks are the best slug control that there is - they spend their days looking for slugs under stones, down the sides of paths. The only downside is that they tend to turn your vegetable patch into muddy slime in the process. Upside - eggs.

I would love to hear your techniques for controlling slugs - please leave a comment if you have any tips to pass on.

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Chris Bell

Other ways to keep slugs away include scattering pine needles around the stems of your seedlings, or you can use crushed up egg shells in the same manner. You have to renew every now and then, but it is not exactly hard work.
Also if you own a cat, ask her for a small donation of fur that she has finished with. Slugs don't like that stuff much either.
Please note, none of these methods involve killing any creature, simply persuades the slugs to go elsewhere.