How to Win the Snail Battle

comments (6) March 1st, 2009

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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They have to go.Click To Enlarge

They have to go.

Photo: Anthony Deffina

I have been fighting this battle in my gardens for thirty years and have given great effort to abide by the live-and-let-live philosophy. I have tried barriers--which worked fairly well, still more snails came. I planted more plants, hoping there would be enough to go around, but that seemed to have served as a fast-food sign. I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that the only way to really get on top of these creepy garden pests and their voracious appetites is to remove them from the equation entirely.

Yes, I am suggesting murder. As a rule, murder is frowned upon by the law; not to mention the public-at-large. But when it comes to snails and slugs, all bets are off and I say, "Off with their heads!"

If you think that sounds a little dramatic, check out these snail facts:

  • Snails are "gastropods," which translates to "belly foot." That alone makes me want to throw up. A series of muscular contractions propel him towards your gorgeous garden.
  • Snails are hermaphrodites. They can reproduce all by themselves; no dating required. They lay up to 100 eggs.
  • Snails are nocturnal and strip your plants of their greenery while you peacefully sleep.
  • Snails breathe with teeny, tiny snail lungs and the slime they goob everywhere is produced form a gland under their relentless, teeny tiny mouths. Snails have 25 thousand teeth (if that doesn't give you nightmares, I don't know what will).
  • They rely on their senses of smell and touch as they are completely deaf and have poor eyesight.

Wait- it gets better. Apparently, snails hibernate during the winter. They live on stored fat (that was provided by your plants, I might add) and can seal themselves up inside their shells for up to four years.

For me and my garden, hand-picking and using generous amounts of Sluggo have been lifesavers; in my plants' case, quite literally. Yes, snails are a rare find anymore in the hallowed grounds of my garden beds. If you, too, are fighting the snail battle, here are some organic methods of snail control:

  • Try spreading diatomaceous earth around the garden. It has sharp grains; therefore snails won't cross the line for fear of being shredded.
  • Shallow pans of beer, spoiled yogurt, and yeast with water. Try sinking saucers or tuna cans in the soil to attract the snails. Hopefully, they will crawl in and drown.
  • Copper collars can be used around especially precious trees or vines. The copper reacts to the slime they produce, causing an electrical current.
  • Buy some Sluggo--a product that works brilliantly, but won't harm children, pets or wildlife.
  • Good old-fashioned hunting them down with a flashlight in the early morning or night under logs or terra cotta pots, gathering them, and tossing them.

The Beauty of Sluggo

The product, Sluggo, is iron phosphate. It's very attractive to snails and slugs and it lures them out for a little snack. That snack proves to be their last. Shortly after ingesting Sluggo, the snails stop eating, giving immediate results for your garden. Snails die within 3 to 6 days of ingesting the product. You may not notice the dead snails as they go to wherever snails go to and die. The rest of the Sluggo breaks down and becomes fertilizer for your yard or garden becoming a win-win!

Of course, one could always make the argument that snails do play some kind of a role in the garden besides eliminating pampered plants. They do break down decaying matter; producing rich compost-like waste. Snails disperse seeds and are food for birds, frogs, toads, toads, and ground beetles.

Yeah? Well, I think if you have to pay your grade-schoolers five cents for every snail they toss in the garbage - it'll be money well spent.


posted in: garden pests, snails

Comments (6)

steven9726 writes: I read somewhere where coffee grounds help to eliminate slugs and snails. Is that true. I had the shop where I work save the coffee grounds for me. I have about a five gallon bucket full of coffee grounds prime and ready. Is someone going to tell me this is not so?
Posted: 9:50 am on April 23rd
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: jennifers - Good one! Chickens will eat them, too.
Posted: 12:14 am on March 21st
Victoriap writes: My yard is at the bottom of a hill, so yes...your right, I get everyones moisture AND snails! Gobs of them. I am definatley trying Sluggo this year. I don't see any luck in borrowing any ducks!:)
Posted: 5:39 am on March 13th
Kate_Frank writes: I can just see it. "Hi, can I borrow your ducks for a few days?" :)
Posted: 7:15 pm on March 10th
jennifers writes: My uncle's neighbor has ducks. It turns out they love to eat snails. So, if you have a neighbor with ducks, see if you can borrow them for the night.

You might try putting the live snails you catch into old coffee cans (with a lid) and bringing them to the local duck pond, if you don't want them to go to waste.
Posted: 8:50 pm on March 9th
Kate_Frank writes: That photo makes me shudder.

But I'm officially sold on Sluggo. Seems like everyone raves about it.
Posted: 2:03 pm on March 2nd
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