how to stop slugs eating plants in pots

How to Get Rid of Ants & Slugs in My Potted Plants

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Sometimes potted plants may seem to be ant and slug magnets, but you can control infestations with barriers, traps and pesticides. Ants visit potted plants infested with aphids to harvest the sticky honeydew aphids secrete, and they are attracted to the dark, moist conditions beneath and inside plant pots, sometimes building nests in potting soil. Slugs also are drawn to the moist conditions underneath and inside plant pots and snack on plants overnight. Ants and slugs usually infest outdoor potted plants, but they stay on pots taken indoors.

Ants Feeding on Aphids

If ants visit your potted plants to feed on aphids, then an option is to make barriers that ants won’t cross. One barrier is soapy water. Dilute three or four drops of dish-washing detergent in 1 quart of water, and stand the plants on their drip trays in shallow trays containing the soapy water. Take care not to allow the soapy water to slop into the plants’ drip trays. Most plants don’t grow well standing in water. If your potted plants are on a plastic pot stand, then place the stand’s legs in tins that hold soapy water. That method can’t be done with wooden or metal pot stands because the water will damage the stands’ legs. An option for outdoor potted plants is to spray pot stands and the ground and walls around plant pots with a ready-to-use insecticide that is 1 percent propoxur, which kills ants. Don’t use it on edible plants, however. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and safety goggles to apply propoxur insecticide, and follow the instructions on the product’s label, which may advise spraying surfaces only until they are wet, not dripping excess insecticide. A ready-to-use insecticidal soap sprayed to cover the potted plants thoroughly can control aphids on the plants. Insecticidal soap isn’t harmful to people or pets.

Ants Nesting in Pots

Destroying ant nests without harming plants can be difficult. A method that doesn’t damage plants starts with diluting 1 to 2 tablespoons of insecticidal soap in 1 quart of water. Stand the plant pots in the solution for 20 minutes. Then remove the pots from the solution and allow them to drain thoroughly. Discourage ants from recolonizing a potted plant by standing the plant pot on pot feet, which lift the pot off the ground and allow air to circulate below it.

Slugs Living in Pots

You could pick out and kill slugs living in potted plants. Favorite hiding places for slugs are the undersides of plant pots and small cavities in potting soil at root ball edges. Check the bases of the pots, including inside their drainage holes, and pick out the slugs. Run your finger around the inside of the containers at the potting soil’s edge, and remove slugs hiding there. Slugs can be killed by squishing them or putting them in a sealed plastic bag in the trash.

Slugs Visiting Plants

Slugs often visit potted plants at night. Signs of slugs include silvery white trails and irregular holes in plant foliage. Remove potential slug hiding places near your plant pots; they include stones, debris and dense ground-cover plants. Also check for slugs on the undersides of benches and pot stands. You can trap slugs with boards placed near plant pots overnight. Check the boards in the morning, and destroy the slugs you find. An option is to use copper foil, which is an effective slug barrier. Wrap copper foil strips around plant pots or the legs of benches and pot stands. Alternatively, water the plants, put on gloves and thinly sprinkle ready-to-use, 3.25-percent metaldehyde anti-slug granules on the wet potting soil surface around the plants’ stems in evening. Don’t use anti-slug granules in pots containing edible plants or in areas accessible to children or pets. The plants shouldn’t be watered again for 48 hours.

How to Get Rid of Ants & Slugs in My Potted Plants. Sometimes potted plants may seem to be ant and slug magnets, but you can control infestations with barriers, traps and pesticides. Ants visit potted plants infested with aphids to harvest the sticky honeydew aphids secrete, and they are attracted to the dark, …

How to stop slugs eating young plants

We reveal the best ways to stop slugs eating young, vulnerable plants like hostas and delphiniums.

Wednesday, 3 June, 2020 at 12:52 pm

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Slugs are active all year, but they’re a particular problem in spring, when there’s plenty of young growth for them to eat.

Tell-tale signs of slug damage include irregularly-shaped holes in leaves, stems, flowers, tubers and bulbs and potatoes, and silvery slime trails.

In the first instalment of this two-part video from 2012, Carol Klein looks at some of the plants most loved by slugs and snails, such as hosta and Kirengeshoma palmata. She also recommends some plants to grow that they’re less fond of eating, such as hellebores:

There are many options for controlling slugs, including going out at night with a torch and bucket to pick slugs off by hand. However, if you combine a few methods, starting in spring and you should keep them under control.

Protect all seedlings, new growth on most herbaceous plants, and all parts of susceptible plants, such as delphiniums and hostas.

In the second part of her practical video, Carol Klein recommends more plants that are resistant to slugs and snails. Her choices include astilbe, agastache and penstemon:

Discover six ways to stop slugs eating young plants, below.

Use organic slug pellets

Pellets made from ferric phosphate are approved for use by organic growers and are just as effective as non-organic ones but less harmful to birds and other wildlife. Scatter the pellets on the soil as soon as you can before tender young growth appears.

Water in biological control

Microscopic nematodes that infect slugs with bacteria and then kill them, are an effective biological control which is watered into the soil. Apply in the evenings when the soil is warm and moist, from spring onwards.

Use copper barriers

Copper barriers are effective slug deterrents – if a slug tries to cross one it receives an ‘electric shock’, forcing it back. Put copper rings around vulnerable plants, or stick copper tape around the rim of pots.

Let them eat bran

Slugs love bran and will gorge on it. They then become bloated and dehydrated, and can’t retreat to their hiding places, making them easy pickings for birds. Make sure the bran doesn’t get wet, though.

Mulch with grit

Slugs find horticultural grit uncomfortable to travel over. Mulch around the base of plants in the ground and in pots – it looks attractive and helps keep compost moist and weeds down.

Use beer traps

Make a slug trap using cheap beer – they’re attracted to the smell. Do this by sinking a beer trap or container into the ground, with the rim just above soil level. Half fill with beer and the cover with a loose lid to stop other creatures falling in. Check and empty regularly.

Discover the best ways to stop slugs eating young plants, plus advice on slug-resistant plants to grow, from the experts at BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine.