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Slugs, snails, and cannabis plants

Published May 21, 2022 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / abadonian

Slugs and their distant cousin, the snail, are both looked down on due to a bad reputation as devastators of crops, but it's important for growers to understand these common creatures and the essential role they may play in eco-friendly gardening.

They may look off-putting as they take a few nibbles from your plants to go. However, fewer than half of all slugs are a danger to your precious cannabis plants. Even varieties that do wreak some havoc here and there do an important job by recycling animal waste and dead plant materials and act as a healthy food source for many animals, including birds, frogs, predatory flies, beetles, and hedgehogs.

Many kinds of slugs and snails perform essential jobs in the ecosystem, like consuming algae and other growths, that have little to no impact on the health of plants they might lounge near.

A biodiversity emergency

We're in the middle of a biodiversity emergency as a described insect apocalypse is occurring right before our very eyes. We know that invertebrates, in particular, have taken a massive hit in numbers, and that's bad news for the planet, the food chain, and our outdoor cannabis gardens. It's time to underscore the importance of viewing these creatures in a more positive light rather than battling with them on sight, which only further contributes to the problem at hand.

Yes, some slugs and snails will do damage to your plants, but since they do so much good, it's important to learn how to tell the difference between those that are harmless and others that are more likely to be problematic while also considering most ethical ways of handling these pests.

Identifying a problem

Not all slugs or snails will go after your tender cannabis plant's leaves and stems, but a good rule of thumb is to assume that larger ones are likely to cause a problem. If you only have a few of these hungry creatures, then they may be removed and transplanted away from your garden by hand. However, it is important to note that even smaller slugs and snails can cause damage, so if you're seeing large populations or concerned about the potential of it happening, there are a few organic things you can do to solve the issue without turning to pesticides.

How to deter garden slugs

After learning how important garden slugs and snails are to the environment, it's easy to see why the first thing gardeners should consider is how to deter these pests rather than killing them.

1. Maintain a healthy ecosystem

The easiest way to ward off slugs and snails is by creating a healthy habitat that allows predators like birds, frogs, toads, or hedgehogs easy access. Healthy soil also goes a long way in producing healthier plants that are much more resistant to damage by garden slugs.

2. Create a slug resistant area

It's impossible to keep slugs completely away from a ground garden, but you can turn a small area into a slug-free zone using plastic liner or raised beds lined with mesh or fabric to keep them from coming up from the soil and getting anywhere near your plant's root systems.

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3. Use Copper rings

Placing copper rings around the base of your plants is another excellent way to deter slugs and snails, as those that try to cross it will get a small electric shock, which should keep them out. However, a simple ring will not keep slugs from rising from under the soil, so this method is best if used in combination with a liner of some type.

Grow slug resistant plants

Slugs and snails (despite the potent) oils that are produced by certain types of plants include:

  • Rhu
  • Horsetail
  • Garlic
  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Comfrey
  • Parsley
  • Borage
  • Hyssop
  • Chamomile
  • Mint
  • Savory
  • Rosemary

How to get rid of slugs

If you're already facing a terrible situation where slugs or snails have completely taken over your garden, then it might be time to consider a solution that's a bit more powerful than the deterring suggestions made so far.

Beer traps

Many gardeners swear by beer traps, which act as bait to draw slugs out of the soil and into containers where they can be easily removed and disposed of. Cut the top from any beer can and bury the bottom until the rim is poking ever so slightly out of the soil. Now fill it halfway with beer and cover it lightly with the removed top which will act as a lid. Check this trap daily, and refresh the liquid as needed.

Feed them bran

Snails aren't a fan, but slugs absolutely love bran, so much, in fact, that they'll eat it until they blow up in size and become dehydrated, making it difficult for them to hide or retreat away from predators. The best part is that while bran isn't the most nutritious option for birds, frogs, or other predators who feast on them, it's incredibly safe, especially when compared to store-bought alternatives like slug pellets, which kill everything.


Garden slugs are kings of the garden, but microscopic nematodes are a far more powerful foe. This method of biological control infects slugs with bacteria that kill them, and they're easy to host. Simply water the soil in your garden when it's more than 5°C at night while it's still warm from the sun. If you do this from Spring until the end of the growing season, it's a truly effective application that lasts, though it doesn't always offer immediate results.

Pest deterring companion plants by region
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