Eco Friendly Ways To Kill Snails In Your Garden

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If you are plagued with snails and slugs in your garden there are some environmentally friendly options that you can use to get rid of them. You may hate the thought of killing snails, (since they are a part of the ecosystem,) however if you want to have a garden and have an invasion, drastic methods may be necessary to get rid of them. Slugs and snails can quickly devour young garden plants and damage mature ones. Also, they can spread diseases which affect humans, such as e. coli and Rat Lungworm disease.  Here are some of the time – tested, eco – friendly ways that gardeners can use to kill snails and slugs and keep them from coming back.

Prevention, The Best Way To Keep Snails Out Of Your Garden

If you have an invasion of snails in your yard or garden it is very likely the result of an ecological imbalance. The most environmentally friendly way to control snails is to prevent them from gaining a foothold in your garden in the first place.  Like almost any other creature on earth, given an unlimited supply of food and water, shelter, and an absence of predators, snails and slugs will continue to multiply. How many eggs does a garden snail lay you may be wondering? Helix aspersa, the common garden snail, can lay a batch of eighty or more eggs, up to six times a year. That’s 480 offspring per year, just from one snail alone! Some species can lay clusters of as many as 2,000 eggs. If you had only a dozen or so snails in your garden, they could easily turn into more than 5,000 in a short period of time, provided they had no predators.

Snails and slugs feed on young vegetation as well as decomposing organic matter, like dog feces, dead plants and food scraps. One of the best ways to prevent a snail or slug population explosion is to avoid creating the ideal conditions for one. The first step in snail control is to keep your yard and garden clean and free of decomposing plants. While it may seem like a good thing to let organic matter lay and decompose in your garden, if you want to avoid creating an ideal breeding situation for insects such as snails, you should avoid this practice. Keeping your garden neat and tidy is the first step in pest management. Plant your garden in neat, wide rows and use a rake to sweep up dead vines, plants and leaves and place them in a compost bin. This is step number one in reducing available food for snails and preventing a population explosion.

Good housekeeping in your garden will also make the job of the snail’s major predators easier. By keeping your lawn mowed and debris out of your garden, birds and other predators can locate snails easier and help you eliminate them. Snails love to hide under objects such as flat rocks, garden decorations and in cracks. Make sure that you remove all of the snail hiding places that you can. This will help prevent snails and slugs from gaining a foothold in your garden.

Hand Removal Of Snails

Probably the most eco friendly way to kill snails is to remove them by hand and place them in a solution of soapy water. Also, if you have chickens, they love to eat snails! If you are really soft – hearted, and don’t want to kill them, I suppose that you could relocate them far away from your garden. Remember though, snails can travel up to a hundred yards or more per day and will quickly return. The best time to hand remove snails is at night or in the early morning. If you get out in your yard just after daybreak, on a day when the grass is still wet with dew, you can often find snails crawling and begin to hand pick them. Place them in a solution of water containing a couple teaspoons of soap or laundry detergent and this will kill them fairly quickly and humanely. Hand removal of snails can be effective during the first stages of an invasion, however if you have an established garden snail population, it will not have that great of an effect. If adult snails have already laid their eggs, there are likely hundreds of young and eggs that you cannot see. If that is the case, it’s time to move on to more drastic measures.

Copper Snail Barriers

Creating a physical barrier that snails will not cross is one way to keep snails out of your garden. For centuries, wealthy gardeners in Europe have used copper sheeting placed around gardens to keep snails away. It is believed that the copper metal reacts with the snails protective slime, therefore creating an electric current which keeps them away. There are several kinds of copper snail barrier tape on the market which you can easily place around your garden perimeter. Snail tape can be very effective against a variety of species, including slugs. In addition to buying snail tape, you can make your own copper snail barrier.

How To Make A Copper Snail Barrier For Your Garden

One way to make a permanent snail barrier for your garden is to place landscaping timbers around your vegetable garden, then affix lengths of copper pipe to the very top of the wood. Simply encircle the perimeter of your garden with landscaping timbers and then attach 3/4″ copper tubing to the top of the board. You can use unsoldered copper fittings and elbows to connect the lengths of pipe together.  You can attach the tubing by drilling holes in it and screwing it down with deck screws. The copper tubing will act in the same way as snail tape does, but will also form a rounded surface that they will hesitate to cross. To keep your snail barrier working, polish the tubing once a year.  Neither of these methods of course will do anything about the snails already in your garden. For those, you will have to use either hand removal, traps or insecticide.

Use Eco Friendly Snail Poisons  (Warning: Metaldehyde Snail Baits Can Kill Dogs, Cats and Other Animals!)

If you visit the garden section of stores such as Home Depot, you will usually find two types of snail bait for sale on the shelves. One type is based on the chemical Metaldehyde, which is highly effective in killing snails, but also highly toxic to dogs, cats and other animals.  If dogs or cats ingest Metaldehyde, they will experience drooling, tremors and death within a few days if not treated. Even if you don’t own pets, you should avoid using Metaldehyde, since you don’t know what domestic and wild animals may visit your garden at night.

There are natural snail poisons which do not contain dangerous Metaldehyde. Iron – based baits are a much more eco friendly snail control method. Iron phosphate based snail poisons are very effective against a wide variety of snails and slugs. Iron phosphate is a common ingredient in lawn fertilizer, and after the the granules are done killing snails they will fertilize your yard or garden. Baits such as Ortho Elementals Slug and Snail Killer (discontinued) and Monterey Sluggo Snail & Slug Control are made with a combination of natural attractants and iron phosphate. The iron compound stops the insect from eating, and they will crawl off somewhere an die in a few days. These eco friendly snail poisons should ideally be applied in the late evening, when rain is not expected. Bait can be sprinkled around gardens and flower beds, and in cases of severe infestations, broadcast in a spreader.

Good luck and happy gardening! Karl Schultz

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