Are slugs good for anything in the garden? When you think of the havoc that they inflict on your seedlings, flowers, herbs, and vegetables it really makes you wonder just what purpose slugs have in our ecosystem. But just like everything that can make your skin crawl, slugs do actually do serve a purpose in the garden believe it or not.
Are Slugs Good For The Garden?
Slugs are most active on warm nights that have high moisture levels and calm weather. The morning following these nights is when many gardeners find the most damage done to their crops. So when you find so much damage you have to wonder if the slugs are good for the garden.
As much as we can’t stand slimy slugs, they do provide some benefits to the ecosystem of our gardens.
Benefits of Slugs In The Garden
First and foremost, slugs help decompose things for us. As they feed on things such as dead insects, fallen leaves, and dead worms they help transform these things into beneficial nutrients in the soil that our crops can use to grow well. All in all, slugs are a compost factory for dead waste that ends up in our garden beds.
Slugs also provide food to birds, snakes, toads, and other predators that think slugs are a delightful meal.
Should You Leave Slugs In Your Garden?
We do not recommend you just leave all the slugs you find in your garden. It is always best to try to control the slug population. Slugs multiply easily, and their numbers can become abundant which will in turn cause damage to your crops.
Even with your best efforts, you are still going to be left with enough slugs around for them to serve their purpose in the ecosystem.
Without any slug control, you are going to find slugs eating things such as basil, lettuce, mint, delicate flowers, and much much more. They are not picky when it comes to what crops they will ingest.
You do have options to plant things that slugs won’t eat. For example, slugs stay away from rosemary bushes. You can strategically plant rosemary in your garden to help out other crops and deter slugs away from your most vulnerable vegetables and flowers.
Other things such as slug traps, slug bait, barriers, and deterrents can also be used to help control the population of slugs in your garden and flowerbeds.
Controlling the environment can also help curb snail populations. Slugs like to stay hidden in old plants that can cover them, mulch, under stones and pots, and other places that provide abundant shade and will keep moisture in. Remove these and you will help keep some of the slugs away.
Some slugs in your garden can provide benefits. They are a natural compost maker as they feed on dead matter. But left unchecked they can eat plants and crops and cause all kinds of damage to your vegetables. It is best to try to curb the population of slugs in your garden to help prevent too much damage to your plants.
- Barnes, H. F., & Weil, J. W. (1944). Slugs in Gardens: Their Numbers, Activities and Distribution. Part I. Journal of Animal Ecology, 13(2), 140–175. https://doi.org/10.2307/1449
- Naeve, Linda. Slug it Out with Slugs in Your Garden. Iowa State University. https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2006/jun/070201.htm