Safer Solutions Total Environment Centre
Safer Solutions
. .
Home arrow In Your Garden arrow FAQ arrow Slugs and snails are eating my vegetables
Slugs and snails are eating my vegetables PDF Print E-mail

The major pest species of slugs and snails are all introduced. They are widespread and particularly common in irrigated gardens. Damage mostly occurs by feeding at night. They will also feed during early morning and early evening after watering or in damp, overcast conditions. Holes are chewed in leaves, while seedlings and freshly planted juvenile stock can be completely eaten.

Slugs and snails will shelter under leafy plants, groundcovers, mulches, shaded sides of walls, fences, rocks, decking, potted plants, trees and in hanging baskets. Eggs are laid in moist soil. Compost heaps are favoured places for egg laying and for hiding from predatory birds and lizards during daylight.

Look for the presence of a slimy trail on soil and affected plants. When dried trails looks silvery.


  • Slug and snail baits are stomach poisons which work after being eaten. They’re sometimes referred to as molluscicides. Baits based on iron EDTA or iron phosphate are available and relatively safe for pets and children although ingestion may cause vomiting. 

Snail baits are most effective when used to protect emerging seedlings and freshly planted juvenile stock such as annuals. Gardeners generally tend to be heavy-handed in their application, using bait rather like pelletised fertiliser. Apply sparingly, reapplying after heavy rain which causes bait to gradually crumble and dissolve. On breaking down, iron-based baits release their iron content as a mild plant tonic.

If you have children, keep a dog or believe there are blue tongued lizards in your garden, place a small amount of bait inside a jar with a narrow neck, such as a chilli or Worcestershire sauce bottle, laying the bottle lengthwise, pressed into the soil surface and cover it with mulch. This permits entry by small snails and slugs but makes it harder for other creatures to access the bait.

  • Khaki Campbell and Indian Runner ducks are breeds favoured by permaculturists for natural slug and snail control.
  • Dilute one part expresso coffee with ten parts water. This dilution rate is based on using caffeine-rich expresso coffee, not instant or decaffeinated coffee or reused coffee grounds. Spray the solution on and around plants where slugs and snails are likely to travel or feed. They absorb the caffeine through their mucous membranes and die from a heart-attack. Reapply after rain or irrigation, which rinses this non-persistent solution off.


  • is the world’s most commonly consumed psychoactive compound;
  • is a central nervous system stimulant which temporarily encourages alertness. Drinks containing caffeine include coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks;
  • Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid compound, called guaranine when found in guarana and theine when found in tea. It is found in the beans, leaves and fruit of over fifty plant species where it acts as a natural pesticide either paralysing or killing certain pests feeding on them;
< Prev   Next >
Organic Gardening Guide
Detox Your Home