How to Keep Slugs Off Strawberry Plants
Keeping slugs away from strawberries is one of the most difficult tasks in gardening. Strawberries are sweet and soft which means they are ideal food for all types of small and large slugs.
Slugs only come out at night and they do so exclusively for food. While they might eat all types of food in the garden, slugs are most interested in the foods they consumed before. This means slugs will always return for the same delicious strawberries once they’ve tasted them.
You can eliminate slugs on strawberries by reducing the watering frequency. Replacing much with orange or citrus peels also helps offer new food for slugs to concentrate on instead of strawberries. Alternatively, you can remove slugs by hand.
Keeping slugs away for good is often a combination of measures. You might need to work with a reducing watering rate and slug traps in case of more serious infestations.
Do I have a slug problem with my strawberries?
You need to eliminate all other possible pests on your list of usual suspects when you see affected strawberries. But how do you know it’s slugs that eat your strawberries?
Perfectly circular grooves on strawberries are an indication of slugs. These grooves always appear at night as there’s no visible pest during the day.
The more of these circular grooves you see during the day the more slugs are present in your garden.
How to remove slugs from strawberries?
You need to eliminate slugs from the soil of strawberries if you want to keep them out.
Reduce watering frequency (when possible)
Slugs love high humidity. They like it so much they only come out at night when there’s no direct sunlight to further reduce humidity.
Slugs only come out during the day when it rains or soon after the rain is gone. Otherwise, they remain hidden in the soil where they stay away from all predators since they move slowly and since they depend on soil moisture to survive.
Reduced watering frequency means you might only need to water strawberries every second or third day. You no longer need to water strawberries daily once they’ve been growing in the garden for at least a year. They build resilience and they can resist long periods without water.
Mulch can help keep predators such as cockroaches away. But mulch is also a moisture-creating barrier that ensures the soil of the strawberry plants is never dry. Moist soil is a breeding ground for slugs.
Most slugs cannot even lay eggs in dry soil which means removing mulch also reduces or eliminates their capacity to lay eggs in the ground.
Mulch isn’t required around strawberries. It might have an aesthetic appeal, but mulch adds no real benefit to the gardening success of strawberries.
Clear dead strawberry leaves and weeds
Dry or dead strawberry leaves are common. Almost all plants have dry leaves and they can shade the ground unnecessarily which also maintains high moisture levels.
You can eliminate all dead leaves by removing them by hand. Strawberry leaves on the soil also need to be removed so that there’s sufficient sunlight at the root of the plant, a place where slugs hide during the day.
Other weeds that grow next to strawberries can also be removed at this time. You can eliminate all weeds by hand and ensure proper soil aeration and reduced natural habitat for slugs.
Weeds can sometimes be removed by hand if your soil is soft. You might need a small gardening shovel to remove them otherwise since many weeds have deeper roots compared to strawberries.
Moving strawberries in the full sun might also be recommended. If you try to grow strawberries in a shaded place you won’t get too far from slugs which tend to love these environments for the high humidity soil levels they facilitate.
Replace mulch with citrus peels
A distraction method is also recommended against slugs on strawberries. You need to offer them something else to eat so that they leave your strawberries to grow.
Citrus peels such as orange peel and lemon peel are recommended against slugs. You place the peel right under the strawberries so that slugs don’t move up for food as they come out of the ground.
Slugs will continue feeding on the peels as long as they are fresh. Some types of slugs will also eat orange peel even after it starts to decay as many slugs also eat decaying food.
Buy a copper barrier
Copper wire barriers are often used against slugs. These can be added to the garden so you create a physical barrier against slugs.
This method has proven results, but it also comes with a few drawbacks. Copper barriers require you to remove these metal nets by hand whenever you want to get strawberries. They might also be an unsafe attraction in the garden for kids and pets.
A soft copper barrier is one of the most common choices when it comes to a proven method to keep slugs away that’s also safe for people with children that play in the garden.
Remove slugs by hand
The old method of removing slugs by hand is one of the least impactful solutions against slugs. You need to wake up early in the morning just before sunrise to catch them in the garden.
Once you see them, you can remove them by hand and collect them in a sealed plastic bag. Using gardening gloves is recommended since some slugs are known for carrying and spreading bacteria.
Most slugs removed by hand still have eggs they’ve laid in the ground which hatch within days. This means you need to come back to the garden to remove the newly-emerged brood of slugs once again.
Manual removal is recommended when it comes to organic gardening. Those looking for an organic solution against slugs on strawberries rarely find a less-impactful method than manual removal.
Attract slug predators
Not all animals in the garden are bad. You might see a large frog and think about removing it. However, many frogs and toads eat slugs. Ground beetles also eat slugs.
Many types of birds and even chickens eat slugs. People with chickens around the house know there’s a race to the slug whenever one comes out between all chickens. You can let the chicken out early in the morning to eat all slugs in the garden. However, you need to pay attention as chickens also eat strawberries.
You should not count on pets to eat slugs as this might be dangerous. Dogs can get sick from eating slugs and cats might not feel too good when injecting bacteria-prone slugs as well.
Invest in slug traps
Slug traps are another efficient non-invasive solution to keep your strawberries safe. Some traps use lures and tiny boxes. Others are simple sticky bands that you lay around strawberries that slugs cannot pass over. They get stuck in the sticky trap and eventually die.
The more slugs you have the more traps you need. You need to think about strategically surrounding the strawberries with sticky traps to create a real anti-slugs barrier. This means laying a long sticky trap tape around the perimeter of the strawberries.
Some slugs live right under the strawberries which means you need to add traps inside this perimeter as well. Slugs can hide in the ground at a depth of just a few inches and become completely invisible during the day. This doesn’t mean they don’t live right next to the strawberry plant.
Should you use pesticides on strawberries against slugs?
The use of pesticides on strawberries is accepted and recommended. Pesticides kill slugs when properly applied. However, pesticides may not kill all slugs. They might be absorbed in the ground in areas where there are no slugs or slugs that might escape.
You should always hire a contractor for applying pesticides for slugs on strawberries for safety purposes and to properly cover the entire area so that no slugs remain behind.
Slugs are present on strawberries that have round grooves without any other biting signs. These strawberries are only eaten by slugs at night when you don’t see them as slugs are nocturnal creatures.
You need to use a combination of methods to kill slugs and keep them away from strawberries. You can draw them out by reducing the watering frequency. They need to start looking for high moisture environments whenever you don’t water your strawberries. Slugs can also be removed by hand to quickly eliminate the problem.
Those new to gardening often make the mistake of adding mulch or too much mulch around strawberries. This might make the garden look good but it also maintains the constant soil humidity that slugs love.
You need to remove mulch from the area of the strawberries to maintain a natural humidity level. Furthermore, you can replace mulch with the citrus peel so that slugs have something else to eat and to deter them from strawberries.