While you may be ready to close up shop in the garden about now, if slugs have turned your hostas to Swiss cheese and decimated your lettuce garden, you'l find it's a good time to go after those creepy critters.

The bad news is slugs are hermaphrodites, meaning their bodies contain both male and female parts and they don’t need to hunt around for a mate to procreate. Sadly, all it takes is a single slug to start a colony. Several times a year they lay 20 or more eggs, and they remain active until the soil temperatures drop below 41 degrees.  So, if you have a slug problem in your garden, it makes sense to continue control measures until there’s a hard frost.

You don’t have to use toxic chemicals to control slugs.  Several products on the market that contain iron phosphate mixed with a wax-like substance that kills slugs are nontoxic to humans, animals, and safe for soil beneficials, including worms.  Application is as simple as sprinkling the small granules on the surface of the soil around plants that show damage. Sold under brand names such as Sluggo and Bonide Slug Magic, they’re available at big box stores and garden centers. Because slug eggs hatch all season, the product should be reapplied every few weeks.  

For home remedy lovers, there are lots of ways to go after slugs. Beer traps – a tuna can filled with stale beer) are a popular recommendation, but cover little ground and need refilling after every rain. 

The Smart Gardeners column of the October issue of Garden Gate featured a good way to control slugs that’s easy to do in fall.  Donna Hartman of Iowa uses pumpkins as pest traps. She cuts off  the tops and scoops out the seeds and pulp. She then places the topless pumpkins in her hosta bed  and lets them collect the slugs. Every few days she collects the slugs and deposits them in a cup of soapy water. In spring and summer, orange or grapefruit rinds turned upside down work as well but are not quite as festive. 

Two suggestions I found on the internet are not recommended. Sprinkling salt on the surface of the soil is a big no-no as it can damage your plants as well as earthworms and other soil-borne beneficials. Boric acid or borax  was also suggested, but to much boron will quickly kill plants.

Better to soak a wad of newspaper with beer and enjoy the leftover. Cheers. 

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at

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