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Q: What are some nontoxic ways to get rid of slugs?

A: As anyone who gardens in the Northwest knows, slugs are little thieves who slither in at night to eat the leaves and fruit on our favorite garden plants. You can’t prevent them from appearing.

But happily, there are environmentally friendly ways to rid your garden of these slimy predators. Here are a few of the most effective:

Put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and lay it on its side wherever there is slug activity. The slugs are attracted to the scent, but the texture of the meal is too harsh and it will kill them. Leave the jar out overnight, and in the morning you can dispose of them without harming the environment.

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Another popular method is the beer trap. Slugs are extremely attracted to beer of any flavor or quality. Dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole.

Be sure to use a receptacle with steep sides so the slugs can’t crawl back out. Fill the bowl about three-quarters full of beer and leave it out overnight. In the morning, the bowl or jar will be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat.

A similar lure-and-trap system can be creating by using a mixture of honey and yeast. Boil a cup of water with equal parts honey and yeast, then let the mixture cool. Place it in a jar in a hole in the ground near where the slugs are most active.

Slugs are also attracted to dry cat or dog food. It doesn’t harm the slugs, but it allows you to lure them into a confined area and then dispose of them.

Cut out a couple of small “doors” in the metal rim of a disposable pie pan and place it upside down over the pet food. After several hours, you should find a pile of slugs underneath. After disposing of them, you can reset the trap for the next batch of slimy suspects.

Caffeine-based sprays are harmless to pets, kids and plants, and they reduce the appetite of slugs.

Apply Slug Snub or a similar product around infected areas, especially on leaves and the soil surrounding any slug delicacies.

Coffee grounds can also be extremely effective. Create a thick barrier of coffee grounds around the edges of your garden.

The rough granules will tear up any slugs that try to cross over, and the grounds are good for your garden soil because they increase its acidity. Roses in particular thrive in soil with an acidic pH.

Salt does live up to its reputation of being completely lethal to slugs by drying them up and killing them almost instantly.

But use salt carefully — it can also ruin the soil for your garden plants.

If you want to use salt for your garden, place a barrier over the soil and cover that with salt. Salt also works effectively around the base of planters on your porch or walkway.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to

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