Snail Free Gardening


Green gardening should be cheap. Organic gardening was the way of the world before chemical companies found ways to create compounds that could destroy pests quickly and effectively. The thing that makes organic gardening less-favored than, say, using pesticides, is that it's not as efficient. You have to put more effort into organic gardening.

But it's worth it. It's cheap, it's fun, and you can protect your water supply. Remember, whatever we spray on our lawns and gardens ends up in our drinking water.

I haven't had too much luck with critter control where I live. Seattle is a very snail and slug-heavy area, and I have one very serious problem:

I love snails.

I think snails are beautiful. I grew up in an area where there simply aren't any snails, and I was so taken with the little guys when we used to visit my grandmother in Pasadena. I was heartbroken when my father announced the ingredients to the escargot that I had just sampled while dining at my very first French restaurant. When I take my dogs out for their last walk at night here in the Pacific Northwest, I often have to tiptoe through the streets because the snails come out in droves and line the sidewalks - I can't bear to step on one.

Thus, I can't stand the idea of drowning them in beer or setting traps and then throwing them in the garbage (although I don't suppose I would object to some one actually trapping and eating them - I wouldn't do it, but I can see why someone would).

My mom used to drip some weird, sludgey black poison to protect her roses from slugs. I never liked this, and snail bait can be very dangerous to household pets. But I'm happy to report that there are plenty of ways to reduce the damage that slugs and snails do to your garden that don't involve pesticides. Sure, it take a bit more elbow grease than plain ol' poison, but it's worth the effort.

I should stress that there's probably no such thing as a snail-free garden, just a garden that snails don't really like to visit that much.

Here are some tips from discouraging those mollusky visitors, courtesy of The Garden Helper:

  • Pulling the weeds from your garden is something you need to do anyway. As you pull each weed, you remove a potential slug outpost.
  • Keep all decaying matter cleaned out of your garden beds. While leaves make a good mulch, once they begin to compost they become food and shelter for slugs and snails.
  • Prune the branches of any shrubs which are laying on the ground. Keep the old leaves and such cleaned out. By doing this you will have destroyed yet another slug haven!
  • Cultivate your soil regularly to keep the dirt clods broken up, and unearth any slugs which may have burrowed under the surface.
  • The shaded areas beneath decks can be a slug arena: keep them weed and litter free.
  • Keep the lawn edges trimmed. Slugs will congregate under the umbrella of unkept grass.
  • Cedar bark or gravel chips spread around your plant will irritate and dehydrate slugs.
  • Rosemary, lemon balm, wormwood, mints, tansy, oak leaves, needles from conifers and seaweed will repel slugs.
  • Enlist allies... snakes, ducks, geese, toads, and [chickens] would enjoy helping you out as they dine on your slugs.

Here are some other ideas that I've gathered over the years:

Create as sunny a garden as possible. Now, this is tough, especially for those of us who live in the Land of Perpetual Rain, but put all of your snail-prone plants in a sunny area. If you have lots of shady areas in your garden, try to keep it free of ground cover like ivy, where the slugs and snails like to sleep during the day. I have a long strip of skinny yard that is VERY shady, and I'm making it into a rock garden with some moss and a couple of tiny Japanese maples. It's low-maintenance and pretty, and snails just aren't interested in it.

Protect prone plants with copper barriers. For some reason, slugs and snails won't cross copper. You can buy copper foil online for pretty cheap. I have a teeny courtyard that I use to grow tomatoes, so I put copper around the base and around the lip of the huge ceramic pots that I use. It looks pretty as an accent if you put it on right. You can also put a loop around the base of a plant.

If you are a great big meanie, traps are easy to construct. Spray some beer on a board and place it, beer-side down, 1/2 inch off of the soil in a shady area of your garden. The snails that collect under there can be eaten, or thrown into your evil coworkers yard. You can go out at night and collect them, as well. They are nocturnal, so day time collection is harder.

Also, take note: another use for vinegar!

"As you wage your war on slugs and snails, you are almost certain to be 'slimed' at least once. YUK! Mix up a little warm water and vinegar, and use this formula to remove the slime from your hands like magic!"

Photo by mozzercork.

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Guest's picture

my favorite, albiet cruel way to deal with slugs is to pour salt on them.

Guest's picture
Cheryl Perry-Walker

o glade to find a place to get green idea's for my garden and around the home. We have 5 small dogs and one car that hunts for the hole neighborhood, it took a while to convince them. But now they leave him alone.

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