Stop Slugs Eating Basil (Method that Actually Works)

Stop slugs eating basil

Slugs and snails are a problem for any vegetable grower but slugs are particularly problematic if you are growing herbs as they have a taste for basil plants.

The best way to defend your basil from slugs and snails is to plant basil in pots and use Vaseline and salt around the perimeter of the pot to prevent the slugs from reaching the basil. Salt has a dehydrating effect on slugs and snails, so they cannot cross a line of salt and reach your basil plants.

Ensuring your lawn is mowed every week reduces the preferred habitat for long grass for slugs and ensuring a good garden ecology can increase slug predators to help control the numbers naturally.

A lot of the traditional methods of slug and snail control such as copper tape, broken egg shells, coffee grounds, etc. are not always effective at protecting basil. Commercial slug pellets can be toxic to wildlife and pets so are best avoided.

The method of Vaseline and salt method is easy, environmentally friendly, and is the most effective way to prevent slugs from eating basil plants in pots!

Keep reading for exactly how to implement this solution so that you can enjoy the taste of basil without sharing it with the slugs…

Stop slugs Eating Basil in Pots and Containers

The best way to protect your basil plants is to plant them in pots and containers rather than in garden borders.

This way you can isolate the basil easier away from potential hungry slugs and with a few adjustments, keep the slugs off your basil.

Slugs do not cross a line of salt (ordinary table salt) as their skin is permeable so they absorb the salt and dehydrate which can potentially kill them.

The obvious problem is that salt dissolves in water, so every time it rains or you water the basil, it can wash away the protective line of salt and the slugs are then free to reach your basil plant.

  • The solution is to plant basil in pots where the edge of the pot or container is down-turned. This creates a helpful rain shadow that is protected from water and stays dry.
  • If you create a line of salt around the perimeter of the pot or container in the rain shadow of the rim of the pot, the salt will not get washed away after rainfall or watering.
Slugs and basil
A line of salt under the edge of the pot to stop slugs and snails.
  • The line of salt will deter any slug or snail from reaching the basil and they have to find their way back down from the pot so your basil is protected.
  • To ensure a line of salt stays on the uneven and slippery side of the pot smear a line of Vaseline around the perimeter of the pot or container and then evenly rub the salt into the Vaseline so that it sticks in place in a uniform line.
  • The Vaseline ensures the integrity of the defensive line of salt and stops it from dissolving as easily. if water (via condensation or humidity) does happen to reach the rain shadow of the pot.
  • Also, the line of salt will not be visible as it is covertly hidden by the rim of the pot so it does not detract from the appearance of your potted basil.
  • If your pot does not have a down-turned edge to form a rain shadow then you can try placing the pot of basil on feet to elevate off the ground and apply the Vaseline and salt to the feet of the pot to ensure the slugs cannot climb up your pot to the basil.

I have personally tried this method and can attest to its effectiveness and all my basil plants are free from slug or snail damage!

Not only is it an effective slug prevention tactic, the salt is not harmful to other wildlife whereas commercial options can potentially be harmful to pets and wildlife.

This simple yet effective method of protecting basil from slugs and snails is cheap, easy, and actually works!

Always water basil in the morning as this gives the pot a chance to dry before the slugs emerge at night.

(For all the best practices of watering, read my article on how to water basil plants).

Follow this method and you can enjoy fresh basil leaves through the summer without slug damage.

Best practices for Preventing slugs Eating Basil Plants

Whilst the method of Vaseline and salt is the only way to ensure slugs do not eat your basil plants, there are other methods of controlling slugs and snails in the garden so they don’t eat your basil, particularly the basil is planted in garden soil or a vegetable patch.

  • Cutting grass short and maintaining tidy edges around the lawn

Slugs and snails hide in long grass during the day because of the favorable moist micro-climate and so that they can hide from potential predators before they emerge at night.

Keeping your lawn cut short removes the favorable habitat for slugs to hide, so they are less abundant in your garden therefore, a weekly mow of the lawn will reduce the potential slug habitat.

Grassy edges where the lawn borders a wall or garden feature are often missed when mowing with a lawn mower and also provide the ideal habitat for slugs and snails.

Ensure the edges of the lawn are maintained with a string trimmer (aka weed eater or strimmer) to deprive slugs of another hiding place so that you do not encourage more slugs in the garden and they don’t eat all your basil plants.

  • Ensure a Good Garden Ecology

An effective tactic to ensure that your basil and garden plants are not eaten by slugs is to create a good garden ecology.

There are many predators of slugs and snails that control their numbers and keep damage to a minimum, which is one of the most effective and sustainable ways to manage slugs whether in the US or Europe.

Create the habitat to encourage predators of slugs and snails in your garden by, for example:

  • Digging a pond (frogs, newts, and toads all eat slugs)
  • Bird boxes (many species of birds will control slugs and caterpillars)
  • Place a hedgehog box in the garden

All of these species will control slug numbers very effectively to the point where slugs can no longer be an issue, and you get to improve your local biodiversity!

Methods of Slug Control to Avoid

There are a lot of myths around slug’s control for vegetables and herbs, so here are a few that have been disproved, so you do not waste your time or basil trying these methods!

  • There are many commercially available options for controlling slugs but they often involve toxins that can harm wildlife and pets so they are best avoided.
  • Copper tape is commonly advocated as an effective slug deterrent around pots but it is not 100% effective and slugs can still move over the tape.
  • Egg shells are also ineffective as slugs can still pass over them without any problems.

Read my other article on basil to revive it if the basil plant is wilting or if your basil is leggy or more information about why your basil is flowering and whether it is still safe to use.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stop slugs and snails eating basil plants in pots by using Vaseline and salt around the perimeter of the pot. Slugs and snails do not cross a line of salt as it has a dehydrating effect so you can ensure the basil remains free from slug damage.
  • Choose a pot with a rain shadow to protect the line of salt from dissolving and the deterrent can work effectively for months.
  • The salt method is environmentally friendly and cheap and it is the most effective solution for preventing slugs from eating basil and other plants.
  • Ensure that the lawn is mowed regularly and try to encourage a good garden ecology to reduce the habitat of slugs and to increase the number of slug-controlling predators such as birds, frogs, and hedgehogs to protect basil plants.

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