Snails and slugs in your garden can be a menace. That brand new seedling you have just planted disappears overnight,
or the stem is chewed off just above the ground leaving a gap in the seed bed.
Its enough to drive one crazy.
You don't want to use poisonous baits as they are dangerous for children, dogs, cats, birds, and other animals that might enter your garden.
With constant use slugs and snails can become immune to the poisons so all you end up doing is poisoning the environment while
the snails sit back and laugh at you.
So what are our options to rid our gardens of these plant eating pests.
Lets identify the enemy and its traits
Snails come in different shapes and sizes. The main one being the big common brown shelled snail which reaches about 5 centimetres in length and has a shell the size of a table tennis ball when fully grown.
Slugs and snails are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female sex organs. They lay their eggs in masses of up to 100 eggs in soil, under debris, rocks and plants. The eggs are large, 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter, and are white or colourless.The eggs take from two to four weeks to hatch but will not do so unless their is moisture present.
A single slug can lay up to 400 eggs in a year, and they start doing so at the tender age of three months. Slugs can live up to 2 years and the common brown garden snail may live in your garden for up to 12 years
Decaying plant material
Soft and succulent plants (seedlings)
Leaves and foliage
How to control the snail plague:
Moisture in your garden is the key to slug and snail survival. They avoid the sun during daylight hours hiding themselves in cool damp places. Mulches, ground covers boards, buckets and soil are their favourite spots. You only see them in daylight hours if its cloudy or raining. At night they come out in full force to feed.
There are a number of different ways to control them.
By removing debris such as bricks, boards, garden clippings, and weeds in the vicinity of your garden you can reduce their habitat. Unfortunately mulch provides an ideal place for snails to hide and if you mulch around plants that are attractive to snails and slugs you are asking them to destroy your plants. Use irritants such as shredded bark , cinders or crushed rock to protect your tender plants.
When planting your seedlings out do not place them near to ground covers such as Ivy which is a haven for snails and slugs.
Thin out the ground covers around your flower beds as this makes the area drier and less attractive for snails and slugs.
A second method which thins out the populations is to catch the snails by hand when you see them and either stomp on them, throw them in the street, or in a bucket of salt water. Expeditions into the garden at night will make it a lot easier to find them as they are out and about.
A third method is to encourage the snails natural predators into your garden. Ducks love snails and if trained from young will go looking for them in your flower beds. A tip however is to feed them greenery before letting them loose in your garden.
Fowls will also eat snails but as they like to scratch for their food they might destroy your garden in the process.
Another method is to set traps for the snails.
Anything such as old tin, overturned bucket, planks and even cabbage leaves are an ideal trap for snails.Once they have finished feeding for the night they will look for somewhere to hide and the above are ideal hiding places for them. In the morning all you have to do is turn over the traps and collect the snails under them.
Snails and slugs are attracted by stale beer. Set them a trap by placing a plastic margarine tub, or old yoghurt container into the ground with its lip at ground level. Fill up with beer and leave for the snails. They will come and investigate and fall into the beer and drown.
You can use the same method with a mixture of honey and yeast. Mix up yeast , honey and water and boil for a few mintes. Once its cool place in the container in the ground and collect the dead snails and slugs in the morning.
In both instances replace the mixture every few days.
Copper is a very good deterrent to use against snails. It shocks the snail with an electric current when it passes over the copper. As copper is a sought after metal by criminals here in South Africa it would be a very expensive exercise to use this method as one would have to keep on replacing the copper strips that get stolen.
Above are a number of easy and non toxic ways to remove snails from your garden. None of them will eradicate all the snails but a combination of them will at least lower the snail population in your garden and give your young plants a chance to establish themselves.
Do you have moles wrecking your lawn and flower beds. Here is an easy and non lethal way to get rid of them.
If the mole is pushing up molehills, open the hill and find the mole's tunnel. Leave it open and if the mole is in the vicinity it will be back in a few minutes to close the tunnel.
You have now established that the mole is still in your garden. Now reopen the tunnel and after crushing a few garlic cloves throw them down into the tunnel. Dried crushed garlic also works.
Do not close the tunnel as the air moving through it will take the smell of the garlic to the mole and scare it away.
It's so simple and works.