From My Garden to Yours
Purple and White Delphinium Yellow Lupine
Purple Arroyo Lupine
March 16, 2018

Saving Your Plants from Snails and Slugs

In my yard, the snails and slugs are just waiting to mow down my seedlings and flowers – especially lupine and delphinium. It can be devastating to put so much work into your garden and overnight they can completely clear out an area and leave you with stubs.

My yard is really loaded with a couple different types of snails, plus slugs. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get rid of them (they hitchhike into my yard in nursery plants) but I’m getting better at keeping them from destroying my plants.

Snail & Slug Battle Tips

Keep areas clear of hiding spots. Clean up any areas that stay moist and cool (yes, I know that isn’t always easy!).

Whenever possible, only water in the morning so snails/slugs can’t enjoy your moist garden at night to get around.

Use a flashlight in the evening to pick them up. If you or your neighbors have chickens, they will be much appreciated!

Kill those Snails & Slugs

Slugs especially love beer. Fill a shallow container with beer and push into soil to be level so slugs can crawl in and drown. However, remember that the dish should not be accessible to birds (they’ll get drunk!). You can put it out at night and take out early in the morning. Or you can cut holes the sides of a plastic cover so that only slugs can enter.

You can also use a snail bait, like Sluggo. It’s safe for an organic garden and can be used around pets/wildlife. However, it must taste pretty good to more than snails because my cats love it. As soon as I put down Sluggo, the cats are snacking on it. To keep them out of it, I sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes over Sluggo. They hate those spicy flakes which I use anyway to keep them out of flower beds.

The only problem with these solutions is that they aren’t instantaneous. When I see damaged plants, I want it to stop that day. What’s the solution? Copper scrubbers.

Copper Scrubber Barriers

Snails and slugs are obviously covered with slime which reacts to copper, giving them a feeling akin to an electrical shock. Thus, they avoid copper.

Here’s how to create copper scrubber barriers for your plants:

Copper Scrubber to Block Snails and Slugs
I buy mine at OSH – it’s a package of three scrubbers.
Copper Scrubber to Block Snails and Slugs
Unfasten the wire at the center and unroll the scrubber.
Copper Scrubber to Block Snails and Slugs
After unrolling, the scrubber tube is about 21″ long. This will give you about 6-7 barriers.
Copper Scrubber to Block Snails and Slugs
I cut lengths to about 3-4″ long. Any type of scissor will cut easily through the scrubber.
Copper Scrubber to Block Snails and Slugs
After cutting, roll the scrubber back into a circle to place around the plant. To hold them in place, I’ve used little sticks or even bobby pins.
Copper Scrubber Protects Seedling from Snails and Slugs
Echinops seedling protected by scrubber. For taller plants, be sure that no part of plant touches the ground outside the scrubber.

More About Using Copper Scrubbers

Plant Marker: Copper Scrubber around Echinacea

A couple downsides to copper scrubbers: If you have a lot of plants, that’s a lot of scrubbers! Also, they aren’t infinitely effective. They lose their electrical jolt when they become tarnished. However, I’ve found that by the time they are tarnished, the plant is large enough to withstand snails/slugs. Plus, I’ve had plenty of time to use other methods like Sluggo to remove or at least substantially reduce the snail/slug population.

An upside: I’ve found another purpose for tarnished scrubbers. I place them around perennials that freeze to the ground. This is really helpful in the spring when I’m digging in new plants. I can see exactly where to avoid. In the adjacent photo, I placed a scrubber (used bobby pins to keep it in place) around echinacea after it froze, then cut off the foliage. When the plant re-emerged, then I removed the copper scrubber.

Predatory Snails

Many years ago, we purchased Decollate snails to minimize our garden snail problem. Decollates eat garden snails pretty voraciously and it was fairly effective. However, at that time we had a pretty small garden. Recently, I realized that we already have Decollate snails which I hadn’t seen previously. So it’ll be interesting to see if they are able to eat away at our garden snails effectively.

The advantage to Decollate snails: they don’t eat as much foliage as garden snails. Do be aware that if you purchase Decollate snails, they will be affected by use of Sluggo or other snail bait.

Other Methods

Coffee Grounds & Crushed Egg Shells: This has mixed results. Some gardeners absolutely swear by coffee and shells and others say their slugs/snails go right over them.

Epsom Salts: Many gardeners report this to be effective and can be helpful to your soil if it is deficient in magnesium. Epsom salts doesn’t kill them, but can deter snails/slugs. Like Sluggo, it doesn’t last and must be re-applied.

Salt: Highly effective, but do you really want to add salt to your soil? I don’t recommend it.

Other types of snail bait: Be careful. Some contain Metaldehyde which is poisonous to dogs and cats.

What works in your garden? I’d love to hear from you.

14 Thoughts

  1. Kat Rosa on May 7, 2018

    That copper scrubber tip!! Every year I have to fend off slugs to protect my emerging dahlias—definitely going to try the copper scrubber next year!

    • gardening-for-purple on May 7, 2018

      I hope it works for you! It’s been life saving for many of my emerging plants. 🙂

  2. Janey H on June 25, 2018

    Brilliant! Thanks for the copper scrubber tip. Have just this minute ordered a pack. Am plagued by slugs and snails here in UK and have spent a small fortune on copper tape for putting around pots but have avoided putting anything in the ground as it would be eaten.

  3. gardening-for-purple on June 25, 2018

    Great, let me know how the scrubbers work for you!

  4. Janey H on August 4, 2018

    @gardening-for-purple. The copper scrubbers turned out good. They don’t fit round the largest pots but are great for small medium ones and cost less than copper tape. I did brave putting a few young plants in the ground with little gravel circles around them but, as usual, they were eaten to stumps by morning. Next time something is getting planted in the ground it will have a copper scrubber around it! Can’t use UK equivalent of Sluggo as have a canine garden helper.

    • gardening-for-purple on August 4, 2018

      Glad to hear the scrubbers were helpful! For a bigger pot, consider cutting a scrubber on the long side and then wrapping around the pot. When you unwind the scrubber, there is an extra piece of copper wire that you could use to connect the ends. Regarding Sluggo, if it’s truly equivalent then it’s safe for pets – check label. My cats have eaten plenty of it and that’s why I put down red chile pepper flakes at the same time. Cats and dogs really don’t like the flakes – they are really hot and it goes up their noses when they sniff the area.

  5. Wayne Jordan on June 8, 2021

    My cat Eats the Sluggo is it safe for her to eat.

    • gardening-for-purple on June 8, 2021

      It’s iron phosphate which is safe for pets. But if your cat eats it, it’s not available for the snails and slugs. So that’s why I put down crushed red pepper flakes – so that my cats won’t eat it.

  6. Carol on January 26, 2023

    I have lots of copper pipe from our pipes in the house being replaced. I wondered if i could frame my veggie garden with them to deter slugs and snails? Or would the copper leeching cause harm in the veggies to humans?

    • gardening-for-purple on February 8, 2023

      That sounds like a great idea. However, you will need to polish it because copper tarnishes and it doesn’t provide the jolt needed when covered with tarnish. I don’t think (but I’m not expert on this) there would be enough leeching to make a substantive difference to your soil. 🙂

  7. Gail on March 13, 2023

    Will the tarnish be removed by boiling in vinegar/water/salt mixture? I think it’s 1 cup V to 3 cups W with a tbsp salt. I’m thinking each spring so I can reuse the copper scrubbiest?

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