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Controlling snails in the garden the organic way

You might think that its all good and well to talk about the joy of snails in your garden,but what if they keep eating your seedlings or devour your prized Hosta's?I realize that snails and slugs can do a lot of damage in the garden so on these pages I try to give some advice.Because I'm an organic gardener you won't find chemicals mentioned here. Snails and slugs prefer plants with soft leaves or decaying plant material.So a good start is to grow plants with leathery leaves like Bergenia. A list of other suitable plants follows later. Lets take a closer look at ways to keep snails and slugs out of the garden,or to keep them away from your plants.

Barriers One method of stopping snails and slugs is the use of a barrier.The use of mesh wire netting is the easiest way. It doesn't need to be high and the top can be bend outwards in a 45 degree angle to stop snails climbing over the top. Ofcourse small slugs or young snails can crawl through the holes of the mesh wire-netting. A solution can be to use the kind of netting used to keep insects out. Or a strip of metal again with the top bend outwards,this will get very hot in the summer months making it even harder for snails and slugs to cross. mechanical barrier barrier with electric wire copperband Another method is a barrier with a electric wire surrounding it which gives the snails a low voltage(non-lethal) shock when they touch it.A variation is the use of copperband which is supposed to shock the snails when they try to cross it. Although I haven't tried it yet,surrounding your plants with a ring of copper pipe might work too. A way to deter snails and slugs(this will not stop them!)is making the surface hard to crawl on.Things you can use are:

  • gravel or grit
  • animal or human hair
  • a mulch of cocoa shells,for sale in garden centers
  • pine-needles
  • straw
  • thorny branches or leaves(Thistle)
  • thistle leaves
  • a ring of vaseline on the top of a flowerpot Ofcourse a cloche,homemade or storebought will do the trick too.Homemade cloches can be anything from plastic bottles to glass jars. an example of a cloche You might have seen those articles about coffee and snails or caffeine kills slugs.Well I hate to disappoint you but it isn't that simple.It is true that coffee deters and even kills young snails and slugs. But you need ground up coffee beans for it to really work,not used coffeegrounds.Besides for it be effective work the slugs have to eat the plants first which is what you want to prevent in the first place. But used coffeegrounds makes a pretty good mulch for your garden and if it deters a few slugs and snails,well that is only a plus. More information on this subject can be found here.

    Collecting by hand An easy way to reduce the numbers of slugs and snails(although you have to be persistent)is by picking them by hand.Early in the morning, late in the evening or on rainy days are the best times. Put them in a bucket and release them somewhere in a park or wood,but don't dump them in a bucket with water to drown(this can take a long time) or even worse put salt on them!

    Calling in the troops:natural predators Snails and slugs have a large number of different enemies which you can encourage by making your garden more attractive for them.Here are the main players:

  • Hedgehogs:very useful because they eat a large number of snails and slugs.
  • Frogs and toads:they need water ofcourse,but having a pond is always a good way to attract wildlife.
  • Songthrushes,mistle thrushes and blackbirds:Thrushes are especially keen on snails,of which they break the shell against a rock.
  • Common shrew
  • Ground Beetles:very good hunters of slugs.
  • Centipedes
  • Nematodes:against slugs,these can be bought commercially
  • Other minor predators:Rats,Jackdaws,Magpies,Rooks,Glow worms,other slugs and snails and moles.
  • Domestic animals:Ducks and chickens have both snails and slugs in their diet,but not everybody has a garden big enough for them.They also do more damage then good when not controlled well. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [1]Song thrush[2]Ground Beetle[3]Hedgehog[4]Common Shrew[5]Centipede

    Beer traps and other attractions A very common way to get rid of snails and especially slugs is the beertrap.I'm not a fan of these because i rather choose a more animal friendly way,but a lot of people use them. When you do you have to keep in mind a few things:

  • To be really succesfull you have to have one beertrap per one square meter.
  • Make sure beneficial insects like beetles can get out again if they happen to fall in.
  • In rainy weather the beer will get watered down and loose its effectiveness.

    A much better way is the use of sheets of wood,old carpet,boards or basically anything slugs and snails will crawl under.Remove them in the morning and you will get better results than beertraps.