The 3 common signs that you’ve got a slug infestation on your plants – and how to treat it

Gardeners’ World share ‘quick tip’ for deterring slugs

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These soft-bodied molluscs thrive in moist conditions and are the most likely culprit for the many holes punched through the leaves, flowers stems and roots of your plants. Whilst there are many ways to treat these pesky visitors, how can you know if it’s really slugs causing the problem? These three simple tricks are a fool-proof way to identify a slug infestation in your garden.


The telltale signs of slugs amongst your plants is their shiny – slime trail which they leave behind.

Slugs feed at night so be sure to look out for their glistening trails in the morning sun, particularly during the summer months when the evening humidity is particularly attractive to these slow-moving creatures

Pay particular attention to these silvery deposits in your garden after heavy rain and after plants are watered especially in the Spring and summer as damage is usually most severe during warm humid periods.
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Slugs and snails are active all year but they’re a particular problem in spring, when there’s plenty of young growth for them to eat.

Irregular hole patterns

According to The Royal Horticultural Society, slugs can make irregular holes in plant tissue with their rasping mouthparts and will kill young seedlings by eating them entirely.

Vegetables and ornamental plants are a go-to meal choice for slugs so always take a look at soft growth and seedlings across your garden to assess the level of infestation through the irregular hole patterns they leave behind.

Growing the following plants can be very tricky if you have regular visits from slugs:

  • Hostas
  • Delphiniums
  • Dahlias
  • Gerbera
  • Sweet peas
  • Tulips

In the vegetable garden, peas, beans, lettuce, celery, asparagus and potato tubers are often damaged by these unwanted pests so take extra precautions if you’re looking to grow any of these uninterrupted.

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Keep an eye out for:

Large, ragged holes in tender leaves and flowers as this is a good indication of slugs being present among your flowers.

Chewed leaves with evidence of slime on the ground.

Timing is everything when working out what it is that’s eating your plants.

If you notice damage to your garden greenery in the Springtime check out the holes and see if they match the irregular holes which are typical of slugs.

From early March to late May, fewer insects are active so the likelihood of slugs being the culprit is higher.

If slugs have visited for a nibble of your garden, you’ll notice tiny scalloped edges or continual rows of small bites if a large pack of slugs have got to your flowers and vegetables.

Tip – check your plants at night with a flashlight to catch these pests in the act and confirm whether you’re dealing with slugs or snails.

How to protect your plants against slugs

The beer trap is a quick DIY fix for dealing with slugs through the art of distraction.

Whilst your plants are very appealing to these pests, a beer or yeast water substitute is a great distraction to ensure they are no longer hungry for your vegetables or flowers.

All About Slugs recommend the following method for an effective beer trap:

  • Cut half-circle entries in the rim of a margarine or yogurt container.
  • Bury the container an inch or so in the ground near any susceptible plants like veggie seedlings.
  • Make sure to leave about an inch of container above the ground so helpful beetles don’t fall into the trap.
  • Fill with an inch or so of stale or cheap beer.
  • Finally, replace the lid to keep out the rain.

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