Lettuce is one of the crops that slugs can do serious damage to when they are feeding on the greenery you have planted in your garden. It is one of the top crops that slugs will favor, along with strawberries, basil, marigolds, and more. So if you have started to notice damage to your lettuce when you inspect your crops it could be that slugs are eating your lettuce.
How to Tell if Slugs are Eating Your Lettuce
When slugs eat lettuce you will find irregular looking holes in the leaves of the lettuce that have smooth edges. There are other insects that can cause this too such as earwigs. The main indicator that it is a slug eating the lettuce and not an earwig is you will more than likely find a slime trail along the ground that the slug leaves behind.
How To Keep Slugs Away From Your Lettuce
There are several things that you can do to help control the population of slugs in your garden and lessen the amount of damage they can inflict on your lettuce crop. All of these options are organic, but keep in mind that you will never get rid of 100% of the slugs in your garden.
Barriers such as copper rings are popular for keeping slugs from getting to your plants. The main drawback of this method is cost. Copper is not the cheapest metal and you would need a ring for each lettuce plant.
Using a barrier of diatomaceous earth around your lettuce is another option. Slugs don’t like this stuff due to the texture so they will avoid trying to cross over it. The drawback of this barrier method is that every time it rains you will have to replace the diatomaceous earth.
By removing things in the garden that slugs like to stay in and under can help lower the number of slugs in that area. Slugs like dark and damp places. So things like flower pots, large rocks, mulch, and some decorations can give them a perfect habitat. By taking these out of the garden they won’t have the ideal places to live and lay their eggs.
Traps are a popular tactic to use to get rid of slugs. You can use beer slug traps or oil slug traps. They will attract slugs from up to a few feet away and then the slugs will get stuck in them and drown.
Another option is to use a trap crop so the slugs will choose one crop over another. An example is a border of marigolds around your lettuce, slugs are attracted to marigold plants so you would be sacrificing the marigolds in order to let your lettuce survive until harvest. This is also used commonly to help keep slugs from eating chamomile.
Torchlight Slug Searches
Grab your flashlight and bucket at night or early in the morning and grab them off your crops. While not the most nondisgusting way to get rid of slugs, it is effective. You can then either throw the slugs in your compost, give them to chickens, or dispose of them however you would like.
Slug bait is another option, you can use one made from iron phosphate so that it is an organic way to get rid of slugs and will be safe for animals.
Slugs love to eat lettuce and are able to do quite a bit of damage to a lettuce crop if their numbers are left unchecked. You have quite a few organic options available to help keep slugs off your lettuce, but it will be something that every gardener will have to do each growing season.
- Wilen, Cheryl A. How to Manage Pests, Pests in Gardens and Landscapes, Slugs and Snails. University of California Statewide IPM Program. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7427.html