You’ve invested a lot of time and effort in the planning and planting of your Heirloom Garden. After some time has passed you begin to notice, like many inexperienced Gardeners, that you have an infestation of snails and slugs reeking havoc in your garden. Trust me, ask any experience Gardener and they will tell you that this is common. For some strange reason snails and slugs seem to love your vegetables just as much as you (maybe even more). It may be the fact that it’s free and you’ve done all the work to bring it to their table. If you don’t get the snails and slugs under control (and in a hurry) you’re going to lose your garden real quick.
You could try using snail or slug pellets to kill the little buggers off. It’s all well and good, but why would you risk using chemicals in your organic or Heirloom Garden? If you do, aren’t you defeating the purpose of having a wholesome healthy garden in the first place? Now the question still remains, “How do you kill off the snail or slug infestation without harming your garden and your family’s health in the process? Well as a Permaculturist I’m here to tell you there are natural and “organic” ways to do it.
Over the last few years I’ve tested out a number of different ways to control snails and stop them from eating my vegetables and getting a free lunch. These tips differ in effectiveness and the effort required, but I have found all of them to have some positive impact one way or another. Try experimenting with these in your own garden and help to keep the snails and slugs at bay, without the need for chemicals.
Crushed Egg Shell
Experienced vegetable gardeners I know (including myself) use this technique and swear by it strongly & besides, you are adding a vital nutrient to your soil at the same time and that is calcium. Your Heirloom Tomato plants will benefit tremendously from, it and you’ll actually accomplish to things, (1) snail/slug control and (2) organic fertilizer. Now I must add here that you’ll wanna try and make sure your eggs are organic (if you can). Yes, many processed chicken eggs come from hormone produced chickens. So whenever you eat eggs, just take the discarded shells and crush them into a coarse substrate. I also feed my crushed eggs to my livestock as well. Sprinkle the crushed egg shells around the base of your sensitive vegetable plants. The reason for this method is quite simple, allegedly the snails hate the sensation of crawling over the egg shells and so will avoid your vegetable plants at all costs. It kinda of like walking on glass barefooted to them.
Diatomaceous earth is great solution for getting rid of snails. Just be sure to buy the non-toxic, food grade version. Gritty substances will cut the body of the snail, which will lead to it being injured. Diatomaceous earth is a type of powdered rock made from the fossils of tiny sea organisms. It has very fine, sharp edges which is harmful to the snails’ soft bodies. Diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled on the soil surrounding plants and flower beds. However, it becomes much less effective when wet, so a fresh layer will need to be reapplied after watering your plants or following rainfall.
Sharp sand can be used to make a harsh slug deterring barrier around tender plants. It also helps improve drainage in heavy clay soils. Builder’s sand and play sand are too soft to be effective.
If you’d rather avoid using chemicals then beer traps may be the way. You can buy these in many garden centers though they’re just as easy to make yourself. Simply sink a waterproof container such as a jam jar into the soil and fill it with beer. The real cheap (beer), nasty stuff seems to work fine; snails aren’t fussy. Consider placing some kind of cover over the top. A slate or flat rock, resting on a couple of stones so that you local snails can crawl underneath will work wonders. The snails – who seem to love a drink – climb over the edge of the pot to drink the beer, then topple in and drown. The snails will be attracted to the smell of the beer and climb into the saucer/bucket, where they will become intoxicated by the alcohol, fall in and drown.
An alternative to using beer and wasting it on snails is you can also make similar traps using grape juice or water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of yeast and a tablespoon of sugar. Every few weeks you just empty the stale beer or the grape juice/yeast recipe and the snail corpses before resetting it to go again, or better yet put the corpses in a the compost.
Solid copper ring Slug/Snail Tape (this product has GREAT reviews) of various diameter, used to encircle single or small groups of plants to inflict a mild electric shock on the unsuspecting slug. Look for rings that clip together. These are easy to slip round established plant stems, or join together to form a larger barrier. A copper ring also makes a good slug defeating container stand; or use several to support a board, making a slug proof platform for pots and seed trays.
A protective barrier of hair or fur around susceptible plants will entangle and deter slugs and snails, and the cut ends are surprisingly uncomfortable to slide over. An added benefit with using this technique is that hair will also supply some nitrogen to the soil as it decomposes.
Removal Of Cover Crops
Snails and slugs love to hide or live under cover leaves of “cover crops”. Cover crops are leafy vegetables that cover the soil and will often time maintain a moist environment for the snails and slugs. So you can prop up the leaves of peas, lettuce, squash, pumpkin and similar vegetables. By propping up the leaves you are still offering some type of environment to your soil in terms of keeping it (the soil) cool and at the same time not creating a moist environment that is conducive to attracting snails and slugs.
I hope you never have to worry about a snail or slug infestation, but if you do, you now have a few remedies to get rid of them.
Until next week, Keep it growing!