Gardening season is nearly in full swing, bringing seasoned growers and hobbyists alike to their yards with visions of lush, healthy greenery. The approaching warmer weather provides the potential for a home garden that would make even the greenest thumbs on your block envious.
Humans aren’t the only creatures that appreciate a rich flower bed, however—a thriving garden also invites destructive pests. It happens to the best of us: we step out to water our vegetables and notice halted plant growth, chewed leaves, or dying seedlings. If upon further inspection you notice glistening slime trails near the damage, you can be certain that you’ve found the culprit: snails.
Snails can wreak havoc on your foliage, attacking and eating the roots and leaves of your plants. Clearing your garden of snails can be a tricky process, but here are some simple tips to keep your growing garden safe and snail-free this season.
Keep the Ground Clear
By nature, snails are nocturnal and live their best, most prosperous lives in dark, moist environments. Gardeners unwittingly provide five-star accommodations for snails by planting ground-covering plants, leaving soil moist when snails are most active, and by leaving decaying leaves or brush in their gardens. Simply cutting back on ground cover and taking care to clear your garden of old leaves and other plants will knock out the likelihood that snails will make your garden their new home.
Snails also seek out moist soil to lay their eggs. Watering your plants in the morning will allow your freshly cleared ground soil to dry out in the hot sun throughout the day, making conditions far less enticing for these tiny nuisances.
Hit Snails Where It Hurts
Looking for a safe and organic way to let snails know they’re not welcome in your garden? A simple, all-natural way to control the snail population is to put up abrasive obstacles around your plants. Underneath their hard shells, snails use their soft, slug-like bodies to maneuver around. Using rough materials such as crushed, sharp eggshell fragments; rough gravel; wood chips; or diatomaceous earth will act as deterrents and make it difficult—or even impossible—for snails to make their way to your plants.
Place a Beer Trap
People and snails alike have an affinity for beer. A tried-and-true method to capture troublesome snails is to place a beer trap in your garden and wait for them to climb in. To maximize the trap’s effectiveness, be sure to choose a small container that’s deep enough for the snails to get a full beer bath. Then bury the container with about one inch above the soil. This will ensure that problematic snails get in while beneficial, snail-eating bugs stay out. Don’t worry about emptying the container every day—snails will be more attracted to your beer trap after it sits a few days in your garden.
Create a Snail Barrier
Another foolproof way to maintain a snail-free flower bed is to take an organic repellent route: copper. Snail slime contains proteins and ions that react negatively with copper metal. Surrounding your plants with copper tape or wire, or placing these items on the perimeter of your raised beds, will deter snails by causing an aversive, unpleasant reaction when they move in close.
When using barrier methods to control snails, be sure to do a thorough check for existing snails (as well as tiny snail eggs) amongst your plants to ensure that you are not trapping snails in with your plant life.
Catch Snails by Hand
It may seem needlessly time-consuming, but many gardeners swear that removing pesky snails by hand is the single most productive method to reducing or eliminating them in your yard. Snails are prolific egg-layers, laying up to 80 eggs at a time (yikes!) in shaded or hidden areas. Snail eggs are often hard to spot on your plants, and the process tedious, so grabbing matured snails and tossing them once and for all may be your ticket to a healthy, thriving garden. Grab a few friends (or bug-hunting kids), head out in the morning or evening when snails are most likely to appear, and follow the snail slime trails to make the most out of your venture.
Snails can be tricky garden invaders. Following these tips can aid in keeping your plants lively and secure from potential snail damage. Nobody wants to be a bystander to garden destruction, no matter how big or small. If you’ve seen the signs of snail damage in your yard and don’t want to take matters into your own hands, give us a call. We’re here to help you and your family keep your garden safe from pests all year round.
Sources: https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2073/2014/03/Snails-and-Slugs1.pdf https://ucanr.edu/sites/glennmg/?story=1614 http://www.aos.org/orchids/orchid-pests-diseases/snails-and-slugs.aspx http://www.dgsgardening.btinternet.co.uk/slug.htm http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/xerces-organic-approved-pesticides-factsheet.pdf http://arnobrosi.tripod.com/snails/evo.html http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r107500111.html