Nothing sluggish about them!



Not that I’m a huge fan, but it does seem as though both slugs (the creatures) and the use of the word “slug” (“get up, sweet slug-a-bed”) are incorrectly connected with slowness, grogginess, and general incapacity.

My observations of slugs indicate just the opposite. My husband and I were sitting in the garden yesterday and he spotted a slug crawling up a container. He flicked it off, but then just a minute or so later, it had once again reached the rim of the pot. When you look at it, a slug’s progress does seem somewhat laborious, but it gets a lot accomplished in a lot of different places in the garden. I have the perforated leaves to prove it.

A hard night’s work

They seem to have their preferences. They love coleus, lamium, and sweet potato vine, but never touch any of my hostas, elephant ear, or ferns. I think these may be too tough for them, but I’m not sure.

And what to do about it? So far, I have done nothing. In the past, I’ve tried the saucers filled with beer, but they’re distasteful to empty and the wisdom is that they may actually attract more slugs than you would otherwise have in your garden. Last year I sprinkled Sluggo around the plants that were hit the hardest and where the damage was the most noticeable. It’s supposed to be relatively harmless, but I really don’t know. Then, there is the solution of placing fine-grained gravel around the plants, which hurts their little slug bodies, so they avoid it. I like that the best, I think. Another that sound like too much trouble is the collar about the plant stem.

I can’t say I hate slugs that much—they’re fascinating creatures. But I know the time is coming when enough will be enough and I’ll have to do something.

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Your top pic looks like a banana slug, a PNW native. Rumor is that these are rarely seen in the ‘burbs, only in the woods, and that they primarily feast on dying, dead, and rotting vegetation, animal feces and other delectable (;-p) gems, not green stuff. It’s the pest slugs, all imports, that cause us PNW gardeners grief in the garden. Whether true or good PR, I don’t know but I do know I’ve never seen a banana slug in my garden, only the imports.

    I doubt the fine-grained gravel barrier trick works, at least it doesn’t in my garden. I’ve used 1/4-10 gravel in my paths and as mulch around plants prone to crown rot and I still find slugs. However, grinding slugs between heel and gravel is a very satisfying method of pest dispatch.

  2. The speedy gray-brown devils are European slugs, a pesky import with a voracious appetite that outdoes the native PNW Banana Slug.

    In fact, European slugs will run down, kill, and eat native Banana slugs, which is why, even though I don’t like any slugs at all, I feel justified in ridding my yard of invasive European slugs.

    Of course imagining a (relatively) speedy European slug mugging a Banana slug: “I can’t really describe the assailant, officer — it all happened so fast!”

  3. I think it’s awesome that you guys know the different slugs. I’ve just been going by big and small. It makes me want to buy a slug book and learn all about them.

  4. Although we have the banana slugs in our northwest redwoods, it is the vile brown ones that get sap on my hands when I garden. We also get the small “snails without homes” common slug. After feeding them numerous basil plans, I learned about wrapping the pots with copper tape. I believe it gives them an unpleasant tingle rather than the rough scratching of the gravel or pine needles I’ve heard about. And…it works! Of course, plants NOT in pots are still fair game for them but anything in a pot wrapped in copper is safe.

  5. I’ve had success by using cocoa bean hulls as a mulch. It has sharp edges (at least to slugs) and is an excellent mulch.

  6. You can salt them but that just seems evil! Diatomaceous earth works and they say copper strips work. I don’t like them at all but I do like that Sedona coleus and would be pretty ticked if a slug ate mine. You could get a duck or a chicken. I hear they love to eat slugs and that would be pretty entertaining.

  7. Thwarting the sligs is why we save our fireplace ashes. At this point, we only need them for the basil. They don’t seem to bother anything else. Lamium? They’re welcome to it. The stuff is like a weed in our yard.

  8. I’ve had more trouble with snails than slugs…and the snails will definitely eat hostas…that’s why I only have one left and that one is in a pot. I’ve used DE and it works but need to be reapplied after getting wet. Cut up copper scrub pads work for an easy ring-around-the-seedling. Fireplace ashes sound good (and free!) but I’d be afraid of adding too much to our already very alkaline soil.

  9. Besides saving wood ashes to combat radish root maggots and add to the soil for alkaline loving plants (ours is quite acid on the Laurentian Shield…..but it grows the world’s best blueberries in huge quantities!), I also save egg shells for slugs, and the litle green caterpillars that decimate delphiniums just before blooming and as a first line of defence against anything that eats holes in leaves. It also puts some calcium back in the soil.

  10. Eeeuw.

    I’ve tried salt and beer pans. Not fun.

    I use diatomaceous earth and Ortho Bug-Geta. That way I don’t have to witness their demise.

    Slugs still live in my garden but it seems like the population has been reduced.

  11. Here in the SF Bay Area slugs are a given. I try to keep the damage to a bare minimum by keeping slug favorites in pots.

    The pots sit on those weird plastic grids that keep them off the grass.

    From time to time I pull the pots off the grid things, flip those over, and dispatch all the hiding slugs with my cultivator tool. It’s gross but effective. Mostly.

  12. My method is a little more tedious than putting out something & hoping it kills them, but it works for me. When I see slug damage I put down a few pieces of old, soft,damp wood nearby, in a damp shady spot. Then early every morning I pick up the wood & “dispatch” (isn’t that a great word for killing?) the new tenants of the underside of the wood. After a week or so I always see an end to the slug activity.

  13. Has anyone tried sideways jars of cornmeal?
    I just got my first “slug damage” to an eggplant lats night – boy was he hungry!

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