How to get rid of snails from your garden

Reasons to Get Rid of Snails and Slugs

  • They're not pretty. To some, snails and slugs are an eyesore. Their mucus-covered bodies and slime trails are not visually pleasing. And this is one of the reasons I keep them out of my home and garden, especially where they collect around the water tank, tap, aquarium, bathroom, and fish pond.
  • They damage plants and crops. Apart from being a turn-off, these mollusks are pests. They eat plants, so they can really reduce crop yield and do some damage to ornamentals. They feed mainly on leaves, which means they can be a real threat in your leafy vegetable garden.
  • They can wreak havoc on water features. Snails and slugs near ponds or other water features in your garden can be detrimental in a number of ways. First, if the mollusks are parasitic, they can kill the fish. Second, if they are left to reproduce without control, they compete for resources. Third, they can clog the tank, pool, or pond filters and pipework.
  • They host parasites. Some of the mollusks are hosts of deadly parasites and microorganisms. For example, the faucet and mud gastropods carry liver flukes. Other gastropods carry parasitic worms that cause bilharzia.

That said, all gastropods can be controlled in similar ways, which can be categorized into organic, natural, and chemical methods. This article is about how to completely get rid of snails and slugs in houses, gardens, potted plants, water tanks, bathrooms, ponds, and fountains.

Snail On A Wet Patio Feature

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16: Citrus Traps

Love cooking with citrus? Save your lemon, lime, orange and even grapefruit peels to scatter upside down in your garden before night. In the morning you will find a good portion of your slugs and snails have found their way to these tasty treats. You can then collect them and move the slugs and snails at least 20 feet from your garden.

How to stop snails eating young plants

It’s a good idea to start off seeds in pots instead of sowing them in the ground where they’re vulnerable to snail attack. To keep young plants out of reach of snails, put them in a greenhouse or cold frame, or in a raised frame on a stand. 

Wait until they’re more established before planting them out. A cloche or plastic bottle with end cut off and the cap unscrewed will give them a bit of protection until they’re grown up enough to manage.

4. Employ Biological Methods (Predators)

One of the best, most natural biological methods is the use of predators.

For example, you can introduce chickens, geese, and ducks in your garden to feed on them. Other creatures that help are tortoises, turtles, frogs, toads, snakes, newts, salamanders, hedgehogs, beetles, nematodes, and birds.

You can also use predatory snails. These snails are attractive and do not carry parasites. You can introduce them in your garden; though in this case, you should not use other control methods, such as baits, traps, and pesticides.

If you want to get rid of gastropods in a fish pond, you can introduce a scavenging fish. Some recommended fish include loaches, catfish, and putterfish. These predators also feed on the pests, eliminating the menace completely.

Predator Slug

By La.Catholique on Flickr [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia

5: Copper Tape

Slugs and snails can’t cross copper. This is why some people use copper tape as a barrier in their garden, arrange it in a ring around individual plants or in a ring around your pot plants, just below the rim. You can also get copper impregnated mats too, to stand pots on. However, if plants grow leaves over the barrier or touch another plant, snails can use these as a bridge.

Disrupt and Displace

A good starting point for your slug and snail management program is to disrupt and remove their daytime hidey-holes, to the greatest extent that you’re able to.

Preferred hangouts can be a tall stand of weeds or the underside of just about anything on or close to the ground – particularly in moist, shady areas.

Underneath boards, garden decor, planters, ledges, decks, low-growing branches, pot rims, debris, and protective ground covers are all prime real estate for gastropods.

To disrupt their environment, undercut low branches, burn weeds with a weed torch or trim weeds close to the ground, and remove any unnecessary material they can hide under.

Obviously, some areas like rock walls, decks, meter boxes, permanent bird feeders, and so on can’t be removed – but these spots make good locations to bait and trap.

Getting rid of slugs in the garden – use baking soda!

You probably use baking soda in your kitchen regularly – but it has many more uses. You can clean a washing machine, descale a kettle or brighten curtains with it. It can also help you in the garden as a slug repellent.

Are you wondering whether using baking soda to get rid of snails is difficult? Some claim it’s the most effective method of getting rid of slugs. All you have to do is pour it in whatever spots you want to protect against the pests. Soda creates a barrier that repels slugs and snails – they are not able to cross it, so they give up and leave your garden.

Source:insider.com/rat-lungworm-parasite-infects-p

Source:insider.com/rat-lungworm-parasite-infects-people-who-eat-slugs-and-snails-2019-7

Place Snail Barriers

Much to your dismay, snails in your garden likely have unrestricted access to their desired food source: the roots and leaves of your plants. Most gardeners want to get rid of snails while leaving the soil composition and microbiome of their garden relatively undisturbed. These gardeners need to look no further than the contents of their own pantry and garage. 

Natural items you may already have around the house can be used to create grating barriers that snails will be unable to pass over. Below a snail’s hard outer shell is the vulnerable, soft body they use to transport themselves around. Using irritating materials such as abrasive gravel, sharp eggshell fragments, diatomaceous earth, or rough wood chips will deter them from getting any closer to what they thought would be their next meal.

What do slugs do and why getting rid of slugs, anyway?

Garden snails and slugs, just like other pests, come to the garden primarily in search for food. Finding shelter on hot sunny days is their additional motivation.

But do you really have to wonder how to get rid of snails as soon as you spot them? As for snails without shell, that is – slugs, it is recommended to act immediately. They are quite unique pests and their presence in the garden doesn’t bode well at all. Nonetheless, if you notice garden snails, you can hold for a while and observe their behaviour. Sometimes snails don’t prey on healthy plants and eat just scraps or naturally dying elements.

Interestingly enough, some snails can positively affect garden crops. They might eat weeds and their seeds. In this case, finding a way to kill snails is unnecessary.

Source:thompson-morgan.com/pests/snails

Source:thompson-morgan.com/pests/snails

3. Set up a Beer Container Trap

First, find a spot in the garden where you can bury a container. The container should be buried deep enough so that the rim is level with the ground. Next, find some stale, flat beer and pour it into the container (about an inch deep). The snails and slugs will be attracted to the smell of the beer and drop themselves into the trap.

Do Coffee Grounds Deter Snails?

Yes, they do.

Using coffee grounds is another great natural way to manage them.

Coffee grounds have a bitter taste that snails fin

Coffee grounds have a bitter taste that snails find distasteful.

You can spray some coffee grounds on the soil in your garden to keep them away from those areas. There are reports that you can kill a snail if you spray a solution made from caffeine on it.

So you might want to buy a caffeine-based spray or make one yourself.

You can then apply it to the place where you find snail activity. You could even spray the caffeine solution on the plants or directly on them too. You may have to spray the coffee grounds sparingly as they are known to be bad for pets.

Barriers

Gastropods have delicate tummy tissue, and any sharp materials will irritate and potentially cut their tender undersides.

For an extra layer of defense, build a small berm at least three inches wide with fine stone chips, crushed egg shells, diatomaceous earth (DE), or crushed oyster and clam shells.

Diatomaceous earth is derived from silicon dioxide and has sharp, abrasive edges. But it must remain dry to deter gliding gastropods.

Use food grade DE, not the material used in aquariums (which has smoother edges), and follow instructions when applying.

Signs Of Slugs in Your Garden

If you notice any of the following, you may have slugs or snails in your garden.

  • Irregularly shaped holes in plants, especially in new plants
  • Slime trails on mulch and plants
  • Chewed seedlings or seedling leaves
  • Small scalloped bite marks around the edges of plant leaves

Note: Snails and slugs typically like to wreak havoc on gardens in the Spring – before other insects come out. 

What Draws Snails to My Garden?

There is rarely a garden without a snail or two because snails are part of the landscape too. The reason for that is that gardens often have a lot of things that they thrive on.

Moisture is one such thing.

As a matter of fact, snails lose as much as  8% of their body weight every hour that they crawl on trails. The reason is that they secrete mucus, and that requires some water. The less dry the environment, the less slime it needs to move around.

They rarely survive after prolonged exposure to high temperatures without water. That is why they always look for damp areas or areas with water. If your garden is full of moist, wet areas, then it will most likely be a favorite haunting place for them.

If your garden does not have any of the natural predators of these pests, then it becomes a place of refuge in that area. The kind of plants you have in your garden can also make them stay in your garden.

As a general rule, snails are attracted to the types of plants that we love to eat.

So if you grow peas, lettuce, cabbage, and citrus, you are most likely to have a problem with snails.

The kind of soil you have in your garden can also be attractive to snails.

Acidic soils are deficient in the calcium that snails need for their shells. Snails are drawn to well-limed grounds that are rich in probiotic bacteria because these bacteria aid the digestion of the decaying matter that snails love so much.

So if you have any in your garden, you can be sure that you are open to a snail infestation.

Snails often prefer to mate in the late spring and early summer after which they find a place to lay their eggs. Snails and slugs are often drawn to other snails during the mating season.

6. Scatter Egg Shells

Break egg shells into tiny pieces then scatter them on the garden soil. Snails and slugs don’t like egg shells because of their sharp edges.

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How Snails Survive On Your Land

Brown garden snails thrive in moist environments that are safely hidden from the heat of the sun. Most active during foggy, cloudy, or rainy days when it’s damp, these snail scoundrels will feed on a wide variety of living plants and decaying plant matter – such as young tree bark, ripe or ripening fruit crops, or young tree or plant leaves.

Other common plants snails consume include:

  • Basil
  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Dahlia
  • Delphinium
  • Hosta
  • Lettuce
  • Marigolds
  • Various vegetable plants

When feeding on plants, snails opt for seedlings, succulents, turfgrass, or herbs. As they munch on your foliage, they scrape their rasp-like tongues along the smooth edges of plant leaves and succulent arms, causing irregular-shaped holes and chips across the outermost surface area. Thankfully, most snails won’t be able to eat enough of your plants to kill them before you notice, so the damage they cause on your ornamentals is mostly an aesthetic issue.

Snails also go after many different types of ripe or ripening fruits – such as strawberries, tomatoes, and citrus fruits (feeding on both the fruit and bark of citrus trees). When snacking on fruits, they chew out circular-shaped areas on the rind – making the fruit appear unappetizing and blemished. Snails can be extremely damaging when nesting and reproducing in citrus fruit orchards, as citrus farmers utilize irrigation methods that create the perfect, moist environment for snails to prosper.

What do snails eat?

Snails eat just about everything: from seedlings and the tender new growth of ornamental plants to rotting compost. In the vegetable plot they’ll make a raid on large, leafy greens, tender herbs and ripening soft fruits such as strawberries. Some will even eat other animals such as worms.

Warnings

  • Avoid using salt to kill snails, as it will likely damage your plants or the soil in your yard or garden.

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  • Be careful when using coffee grounds, as they can affect the pH of the soil.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do slugs have a purpose?

Slugs can be beneficial to an extent because when they chew on and break down garden debris it converts to nitrogen-rich fertilizer. This in turn can enhance the nutritional value of the soil in a similar way that worm composting works. Slugs and snails are also beneficial as a food source for birds and other common garden critters like frogs, toads and snakes.

Should you kill slugs in your garden?

Like we mentioned above, slugs (in moderation) can serve some purpose for soil nutrition, however, they frequently become rampant and destroy gardens. Snails are also known for carrying diseases and parasites which can be a threat to household pets if they get ahold of one. 

Why are there so many slugs in my garden?

Typically, you’ll find a large amount of slugs or snails in your garden after it rains or after you’ve watered your plants. That’s because snails and slugs are moist creatures. They lose a significant position of their body weight by crawling around, and will therefore look for moist places to survive.  

Are slugs poisonous?

No, slugs are not poisonous. The only danger that slugs pose to gardens is that they eat the plants–making them more of a nuisance than a hazard.

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