Yes, it’s snail season again. It’s also every home gardener for
themselves when it comes to battling these slimy crunchers.
Let me know if this sounds familiar. You go to the garden center and have a great time shopping for packs and packs of colorful bedding plants. Some $40 later, you happily trudge home and go to town planting your new flowers. The next morning, you go outside to take a look at your soon-to-be colorful garden, and you’re horrified to see destruction and mahem! It seems that every snail in town had a party among your flowers and not much is left.
Yes, it’s snail season again. It’s also every home gardener for themselves when it comes to battling these slimy crunchers. The first line of defense for most of us is snail bait. Ah, and what an array we have to choose from. There’re pellets, granules, powder, liquid and more. The problem with most snail bait is that they’re poisonous. If you have dogs, cats or a curious toddler, you may want to play it safe and avoid these baits. However, there are new types of non-poisonous baits on the market. You can also go the powder or liquid route instead of the easier-to-pick-up pellet types.
The fact is that snail baits do work. Usually you find dead snails all over the place after baiting. But another problem is that you have to be very vigilant and continue to bait every week or so. Watering will also do many of the baits in eventually.
If you’re really vigilant, you may want to try hand picking the critters. Of course, this method is not for the squeamish. I still have a very hard time stomping on snails. Instead, a favorite method of mine is to go out at night with a flashlight and old bucket in hand and collect to my heart’s content. Then, I salt them down, wrap them in newspaper and dispose of them in the garbage can. You can even have contests with the kids to see who can collect the most. Do not, however, salt the snails down directly in the garden because the salts can be harmful to your garden soil.
Another method of hand picking involves throwing the snails into the street. But to tell you the truth, I have so many of them that the street in front of my house can get pretty ugly very quickly when it comes to discarded snails! Stick to collecting them in old buckets, newspapers or bags, and then salting them down.
A variation on hand picking involves mixing a hand-spray bottle with a 50-50 mix of ammonia and water. Ammonia is not organic, but does break down into a dilute form of nitrogen, so it’s good for your plants. You may also have seen those copper tapes that zap snails. Copper tape really does work, but it’s not cheap and you need to form copper collars around plants or small areas of the garden.
There are many other methods, too – from old-fashioned beer traps to putting down other caustic barriers, such as crushed eggshells, fireplace ash and human hair. Take it from me, though, the beer traps are mostly a waste of good beer!