April showers bring Mayflowers, but they also bring those slimy pests and snails.
They are nocturnal predators with a strong appetite for lush foliage and flowers. From dusk to dawn, they make leaves, flowers, soft herbs, vegetables, seedlings, delicate green bark, and ripe fruit.
Armored gastropods are so common in some places that growing vegetables and ornamental plants becomes difficult, if not impossible.
These slimy critters can dash through birdhouses and hide under the edges of pots and containers, creating a handful of slimy, squished snails as they move—ugh! So disgusting now!
If you enjoy visiting birds and other wildlife, or have outdoor pets, consider controlling these pests in a safe and environmentally friendly way.
Over the years, I have tried various techniques and products to help control snails and snails. Some work just fine, some don’t; some are safe for other garden creatures, while others are lethal to all.
In my experience, fighting snails and snail infestations is most effective when multiple strategies are employed. Bait and traps make it easy to remove these creepy cousins, and barriers prevent them from reaching your crops. So, how to get rid of slugs and snails at your garden, please follow the article below.
Habitat and Habits
Not all nocturnal predation is caused by gastropods. An easy clue to who is causing the damage is the visible trace of shiny slime they leave behind – if there is a slime trail, you’ll know the culprit is a slug or snail.
Both slugs and slugs belong to the phylum Molluscs and have similar bodies and biology. The main difference between the two is that snails do not have the outer spiral shell of snails.
Both propel themselves using muscular “feet” that constantly secretes mucus to help them glide, and both thrive in similar environments.
Both types of snails prefer cooler temperatures and are most active at night or on cloudy days. On sunny days or high temperatures, they seek out cool, shady havens from the heat and bright light.
In cold weather, they hibernate under debris that provides shelter or burrows into the topsoil. But in areas with mild winters, they can be active year-round.
Disrupt and Displace
A good starting point for a snail and snail management plan is to disturb and remove as many of their daytime hiding places as possible.
Favorite haunts can be tall weeds or the underside of just about anything on or near the ground—especially in damp, shady areas.
Under planks, garden ornaments, pots, ledges, decks, low branches, pot edges, debris, and protective ground cover are prime locations for gastropods.
To disturb their surroundings, cut off low branches, burn weeds with a weed burner, or trim weeds near the ground and remove unnecessary material to allow them to hide underneath.
Obviously, some areas cannot be removed, such as rock walls, decks, meter boxes, permanent bird feeders, etc. – but these are great places for bait and catch.
If you have the guts and practice diligently, hand picking is a valid option.
To attract slugs and slugs, water infested areas at dusk. After dark, hunt them down with a flashlight, hand pick and discard them – be sure to wear gloves!
They have to do this every night until their numbers are exhausted, after which a weekly attempt is enough.
Once caught, you can drop them into a bucket of soapy water or spray them with a diluted ammonia solution. One part ammonia mixed with 10 parts water in a spray bottle will do the trick.
Bait and Trap
One thing to remember is that baiting gastropods is meant to attract them – so keep bait and traps a safe distance from any plants you want to protect.
The Beer Dish Trap
Simply fill a shallow container with beer and sink it into the soil, then leave overnight. Slugs and snails are attracted to beer, glide over for a sip, then drown in it.
Remove the corpses in the morning, and refresh with their favorite suds!
The container can be as simple as a plastic deli bowl, or you can opt for something more decorative – like this cute ceramic snail .
Create an inviting environment for snails and snails, and hide underneath during the day with a flat object or anything that makes a good nest for the gastropod.
A piece of plywood, thick dark plastic, a tripod, a flipped container, or anything that provides a cool shade will do. The peels of citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits and half a melon also make tempting nests for her.
Start by watering the area, lay out trapping material, use a piece of lettuce as bait if necessary, and return within a day or two to clear and destroy creepy reptiles.
A variety of repellents can be used to distract gastropods away from the plants you want to protect.
British researchers found that applying garlic oil to the soil around plants repels gastropods and kills those who come in contact with them.
An effective method for small gardens is to crush garlic cloves (many – easy to get if you grow your own!) and place them around the perimeter of the danger zone.
Vaseline and Salt
Since the bottom of the planter rim is a favorite hiding spot, brushing the area with a mixture of petroleum jelly and salt will act as an insect repellant.
Scientists recently discovered that caffeine is highly toxic to snails and snails. To use as a repellent, sprinkle used coffee grounds (entirely caffeinated, not decaffeinated) over the edges of flower beds and vegetable beds.
Gastropods have delicate abdominal tissue, and any sharp material can irritate and cut their soft undersides.
For an added layer of defense, build a small berm at least 3 inches wide with finely crushed gravel, broken eggshells, diatomaceous earth (DE), or crushed oysters and clam shells.
Diatomaceous earth is derived from silica and has sharp abrasive edges. But it has to stay dry to stop the slugs from gliding.
Use food grade DE, not the material used in the aquarium (smoother edges) and follow the directions when using it.
Beneficial nematodes are my personal weapon of choice when fighting gastropods.
100% natural, nematodes are naturally occurring microscopic worms that are mixed with water.
The best time to apply nematodes is after soil temperatures have warmed in spring and the heat has subsided in late summer/early fall.
>>> See more: feeding birds in the winter
They do not kill adult snails or snails, but when applied to soil, nematodes can enter gastropod eggs. They then release egg-killing bacteria, which then feed on the eggs and multiply before moving on – an effective kill rate of about 90 percent.
Beneficial insects such as humans, birds, pets and bees, ladybugs and earthworms are completely resistant to these hard-working microbes.
Nematodes move quickly in pre-moistened soil and can be sprayed with a hose and sprayer or, for smaller areas, a watering can.
You won’t see the effect of nematodes right away, but you will see a significant reduction in slimy herbivores the following year.
For best results, apply 3 times in a row – Spring/Fall/Spring or Fall/Spring/Fall. After that, the number of gastropods will be checked every 18 months.
The timing of this approach is important. A pack contains millions of live nematodes, and if you don’t plan to use them right away, you must refrigerate them until use. In the packaging, they have a limited shelf life of about two weeks.
Nematodes can be purchased online from various retailers. There are different types of nematodes, so be sure to list the ones you buy for slug and slug control.
Before buying, make sure the soil temperature is right and you have the necessary time to apply.
Predators will also do their part to reduce slug and slug populations, provided you have a welcoming environment – which usually means no cats or dogs to keep them away.
Some of the predators known to feed on gastropods are frogs and toads, garter snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, moles, thrushes, blackbirds, magpies and rooks.
This brings us to our final tip…
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but I love my snails, they are served hot with lots of garlic and butter!
If there are snails in the garden, it’s probably the common or brown snail Helix aspersa (aka Cornu aspersum) – one of the three main species used for snails along with H. pomatia and H. lucorum.
The brown snail has a soft body, beige or brown, and a cream or yellow shell with brown spiral stripes. At maturity, they are about 0.75 to 1.25 inches tall and about the same or slightly larger width.
If you’re not sure how to identify them, you can always get reference books in your area, such as B. Thomas E. Burke and William P. Leonard’s Snails and Slugs of the Pacific Northwest, available from Amazon.
Collect them at night (see pick above) and place them in an escape-proof container. Sweeten them up for a week with human-friendly foods like lettuce, basil, carrots, melon, apples, and more. This improves their taste and clears up their digestive tract.
After the sweet, rinse without eating or drinking for another two days.
After rinsing, place the snails in a covered mason jar and place them in the refrigerator for about an hour – this will give them a deep sleep before cooking.
Bring to a boil, cook for three minutes, drain and remove skin. Rinse with water, then some vinegar. Then prepare them with this delicious Bourguignonne Snail recipe from our sister site Foodal.com.
This is the sweetest karma!
Of course, if you plan to use this particular method of gastropod management, your garden should be free of any pesticides – including so-called “safe” snails and snail baits.
Safe Slug Baits
Three different types of commercial snail baits are currently sold in North America.
Traditional molluscicides in use since the 1930s use polyoxymethylene, which is highly toxic to domestic and wild animals and can enter waterways during heavy rains – for anyone looking for a safe, environmentally friendly way to limit snail hunting In terms of damage, it’s not a good choice.
In the mid-1990s, a new type of molluscicide (in several brands) that used iron phosphate as the active ingredient to kill it came on the market.
According to the EPA, iron phosphate is much less toxic to pets, birds, worms, and other gardeners and is generally regarded as safe (GRAS). But it also acts slowly, and can take up to a week to kill gastropods.
To speed up the kill, an inert ingredient called ferric sodium EDTA (sodium iron ethylenediaminetetraacetate) is added to some iron phosphate baits, which are also sold as the primary kill compound for other brands.
However, sodium iron may be toxic to domestic and wild animals such as aquatic arthropods and should not be used in or near aquatic environments.
Other brands combine iron phosphate with spinosad, a natural substance that is toxic to many snail pests but not to larger animals.
The Trail Stops Here
Slugs and slugs insist on finding food, so you have to adapt to their efforts.
Use a combination of traps and baits, hand pickers, barriers, repellents and predators to effectively control their environment and daily activities – your plants will never be plagued by sticky little pests again!
What about you guys, do you have any gardening questions or problem you would like answered about these hungry gastropods? If so, drop us a note in the comments below! Answer The Question will reply to you as soon as possible.