In many parts of the country, slugs and snails are the springtime bane of the gardener’s existence. There are few things worse than waking up in the morning to go check on your garden only to find slimy, glittering trails that lead to devastated plants.
Slugs and snails leave slime trails as they crawl, which serve to both lubricate their movement and tell every other snail in the area that there’s a feast to be had if you go this way. What’s worse is that snails and slugs are hermaphrodites, and quickly create whole broods of new snails.
These little critters are voracious eaters and can decimate a row of seedlings in a single night and wreak havoc on the leaves of fully grown plants, bringing them to their knees. Getting rid of them or keeping them out of your garden is a must.
Organic Slug and Snail Control Options
There are several organic options for slug and snail control. Although these creatures hate salt, so do your plants, so salting the area won’t work. What will work is creating a barrier of abrasive that will keep the snails from crossing into your garden. Organic, safe for the garden things like sand, crushed egg shells, diatomaceous earth, and copper are common and easily-used snail barriers.
Another option is to use traps to ensnare or kill the slugs and snails before they get to your garden.
Slug and Snail Traps
You can catch or kill slugs and snails with simple traps that attract and pen them. Two things to remember about these creepies: they don’t have feet and they don’t swim. Since they move by laying down a carpet of slime and sliding over it, if you neutralize their slime, you stop the snail. So most slug traps follow this basic principle: put up a liquid barrier that keeps the snail from getting across. A moat, if you will.
You can construct them out of many different types of material. One popular (and easy) method is to cut soda bottles in half lengthwise to create troughs. Bury these as a border around your favorite plants so that the lip is just above the soil. Fill with water nightly. These mimic some commercial moat traps that can be purchased pre-made. Anything similar to a soda bottle in diameter (about 4″ around) will work in its place, so long as it holds water. So sliced PVC pipe, old rain gutters, etc. can be used.
Another is to put a pie pan near the garden (or several in strategic locations) and fill them with beer. The slugs and snails will be attracted to the beer, but won’t be able to get out. This, of course, renders the beer undrinkable, so use the cheap stuff.
Finally, a common and (usually) effective option is to place 2x4s around your garden standing on their edge. Staple tinfoil to the board to create a covering for the outside. Most slugs, unless very large, will not be able to traverse this barrier and snails will find it impossible.
You can also leave wet newspapers, cabbage leaves, or citrus rinds out overnight to act as distractions for the slugs to keep them off your plants. Several store-bought trap and bait options are also available.
Watering in the morning instead of the afternoon or evening will leave the topsoil dry by nightfall. This keeps the relative humidity in the garden low overnight and most slugs and snails will not be attracted to the area.
Removing debris such as unfinished compost, leaves and weeds trimmed or pulled, and similar things that attract slugs should be cleaned from the garden every day.
Finally, you can incorporate plants that slugs and snails are repelled by into your garden. These include phlox, campanula, hemerocallis, and mantha.