They may be slow and squidgy, but snails and slugs have an amazing ability to get everywhere. Under the cover of nighttime they descend – especially after heavy rainfall – and wreak total havoc.
In a relatively young and immature garden, such as my own, snails can prove particularly troublesome, as they like to feast on soft, young leaves and shoots. This of course makes them an issue for gardeners during spring when so much planting takes place.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to slugs and snails, you’ll never eradicate them entirely, and you shouldn’t seek to. As gardeners we must understand that our outdoor spaces act as ecosystems for a whole host of little creatures. Instead, aim to keep the issue of slugs and snails under control. Here’s how…
Tea and coffee
Rumour has it that slugs and snails hate caffeine. I’ve seen this in numerous places online and was even recommended this method by my dad. In fact, one of my grandma’s neighbours empties the dregs of his teapot into his flower beds every morning!
I’ve taken to scatting tea leaves (from used bags) and cheap coffee granules around the most vulnerable plants twice a week. Initially, this seemed to work really well, although now and again the odd brazen snail saunters along and sits right on top of a pile of tea leaves. So who knows whether this technique works or not. I continue to do it as I see it as something that works in tandem with other methods.
Make movement difficult
Another much-used method for repelling slugs and snails is scattering broken-up egg shells around plants – due to their soft bodies, they find it hard to move over jagged surfaces such as this. I would imagine that small stones or bark chipping might also work well, but I’m yet to try.
I inadvertantly came across this idea the other day. Some flowers that I’d had in a vase in the kitchen had wilted and after chopping them up to go in the compost bin, I decided to scatter some of them on the soil between plants. Why not? I thought. It’s all good, natural stuff. Anyway, the next morning, which followed a rainy night, I found a couple of snails chewing on these soft petals instead of the plants. WIN.
Round them up
This is the ultimate line of defence. Get a pot or bucket and pick up as many snails and slugs (slightly trickier to get hold of due to immense sliminess) as you can and take them elsewhere. Not your neighbour’s garden though…that doesn’t go down well. I normally use a nearby rather overgrown alley.
The great thing is that if your outdoor space is a balcony, they should take a while to make the journey all the way back up to your floor.
Consider pots, planters, and raised beds
As with balconies, anything that is raised off the ground is just that little bit safer from slugs and snails due to the fact that, once removed, it takes them longer to return. Although don’t get me wrong, I’ve been out in the morning to find them in pots and hanging baskets, and just everywhere (how do they do it?) but generally speaking, adding miles, or rather centimetres, to their journey helps you in your attack.
I recently moved a lavender plant from the ground into a pot as, for some reason, the snails just adored it. It’s doing a lot better now sitting atop a garden chair as they are yet to locate it.
As a final point, I don’t use pellets. First of all, when it comes to killing slugs and snails I worry about the effect of poison on other wildlife. I also don’t want a garden that resembles a mollusc graveyard, full of exploded slugs. I’m yet to try pellets that repel because I feel that my current, organic methods are working just fine.
Happy de-slugging and de-snailing! Feel free to share any of your own methods in the comments below.