Snails and slugs are one of the most common pests in the garden. Even experienced gardeners tear their collective hair out at the destruction these creatures can cause. We would give you a few tried and tested tips, and some others perhaps not so well known, to help you deal with them – you won’t get rid of them all together, but at least you will be able to keep them under some sort of control!
They may not all work for you – a lot depends on just how bad the problem is where you live – but it is certainly worth trying some if not all of them. This article gives practical suggestions on how to minimise slug and snail damage in your garden!
Garden slugs are shell-less snails that feed on dead organic matter. They are soft-bodied with a pair of tentacles, each bearing an eye at the tip. The gray garden slug is very common, dark gray, and about one inch long. The other most common species is the spotted garden slug, which is up to three inches long but can extend to about six inches. It is brownish with obvious dark spots. They feed on the leaves and flower petals of rose, daylily, dahlia, zinnia, and other flowers. They are commonly found hiding in the heads of lettuce and cabbage. They are also predators, feeding on adult fleas and other insects.
These methods will be more effective against snails than slugs, as slugs live in the ground and can therefore avoid barriers. On your garden borders, you can use barriers around plants, such as crushed eggshells, grit, bran, or wood-ash or soot. The theory is that slugs and snails are reluctant to cross these materials and will therefore wander off elsewhere to look for their next meal. Make sure you put plenty down without any gaps.
Scatter oat bran around your garden plants – slugs love it, but if they eat enough, they expand and die! Petroleum jelly smeared thickly around the rims of pots has a similar deterrent effect.
You can purchase copper tape with an adhesive backing, which you can stick around the pot sides – this gives the snail a small electric shock as it tries to cross.
Use beer traps – very effective at dealing with both slugs and snails, and you can buy these from a garden centre. Place the trap, filled with cheap beer, in a hole with the top at soil level. You can also use out of date fruit juice, or even milk just about on the turn. Alternatively, make your own by cutting off about 3-4 inches off the base of a plastic drinks bottle.
After eating your half grapefruit, cut a small hole and place the skin upside down on the soil. Garden slugs love it and will congregate inside and each day you can collect them up.
Collect all the garden slugs and snails you can find in the late evening, when they start to become active and drown them in a bucket of heavily salted water. Plain water will not work – they will simply swim to the surface and crawl out! Or, if you know where they hide out, you can gather them up during the day – try looking under logs or bricks, and shrubs, any dark, damp corner.
And what to do with the slugs you’ve collected? If you put live slugs or snails into your compost heap, they will probably stay there, as there is plenty of matter for them to feast on. You can also put the dead ones in there too, those in the beer traps including the beer – but scoop the dead slugs and snails out of the salty water first.
For a biological control, you can use nematodes – microscopic parasites that kill the garden slugs above and below ground. Obtained from organic garden suppliers, you simply mix the powder with water and spray on to the soil using a watering can. This can be effective for around six weeks.
If you are lucky enough to have the space, adopt some chickens or ducks – they just love eating slugs – and you can have some free eggs into the bargain.
Make your garden wildlife friendly, to encourage the natural predators of slugs and snails to come and visit. Dig a pond to encourage frogs and toads; leave out food for hedgehogs; and put up bird feeders. This will not provide an ‘instant fix’ for the problem, but in the long term will give you a healthier garden with fewer pests.