The Snail and Slug Snack Stand is CLOSED

Posted: December 23, 2012 in Urban farming

Of all the garden pests we have, the slugs and snails do the most damage.  (Aside from the single tomato hookworm incident.  Who knew you could hear a bug munching on your leaves?!)  Slugs and snails snack on everything.  I’ve seen snails balanced precariously on the edge of my baby carrots, the leaves disappearing almost before my eyes as that damn Helix aspersa horks carrots not his own.  They are so obnoxious that one begins to understand the mental thought processes behind Monsanto.  Here is a list of various attempts to rid ourselves of the slimy pests and to close down the snack stand. I’ve considered cooking up some escargot- Helix aspersa, our common garden snail, is after all, the main ingredient, but have yet to work up the nerve.

1)  Decollate snails.  These carnivorous snails eat Helix aspersa.  The package in which they come shows a decollate with large teeth chasing a hapless and sobbing Helix aspersa through thick grass.  It’s a strangely comforting picture for those of us beleaguered by legions of Helix aspersa.

Drawback:  Alas, nothing on the container mentions that decollates also snack on seedlings.  I found this interesting tidbit in my Southern California Organic Gardening book.  Darn the luck.

2)  Beer traps.  We put small Tupperware containers with beer in the beds.  The snails are attracted by the smell, investigate, and fall in.  At first, we tossed the snails and slugs that fell into the beer in the green waste can.  But, the chickens really enjoy the beer marinated slime balls, so now we dump the carcasses into the rose garden.  Chicken hors d’oeurves are served!  Also, those damn seedling eating decollates fall into the beer, too.

Drawbacks:  The first night we put out traps, we only had Sierra Nevada on hand.  I’d prefer to use Coors or Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Why should I pay more for the good stuff for those damn snails?  But, no, Ken insists on using Sierra Nevada.  “They like it and fall into the trap.”  I think we’ve now used nearly a 12 pack of good beer hosting the snail rave of the century.

3)  Slug hunting.  At night, they come out in all their slimy glory.  Ha, ha!  We go out with flashlights and pull them off of various plants and toss them into the beer marinade.  This is probably the most effective way to keep them under control.

Drawbacks:  Random officer of the Orange P.D:  Uh, excuse me ma’am?  Do you need assistance?
Me, clad in plaid PJ bottoms, flip flops, a heavy jacket, one latex glove, and armed with a flashlight and a brown paper bag full of snails:  Not unless you want to help me pull snails out of my garden.
Random officer:  Uh, so, you’re the homeowner?
Me:  Oh, yeah.
Random officer:  Uh, okay.  Have a good evening.  (Radio calls him off to a ‘real’ crime, although I’d say that what those damn snails do to my carrots is a real crime).
Me, rattling the bag of snails:  You too!

Also, this particular method hurts the back a bit if there are lots of snails.  And the sharp ends of the chicken wire will poke your exposed body parts.

4)  Coffee grounds supposedly deter snails and slugs and make great fertilizer.  Aside from dumping the contents of our saved coffee once or twice all over the kitchen floor and under the sink, there are no serious drawbacks to this method and it does seem to help.

5)  Copper wire around the base of plants you don’t want chomped supposedly prevents snails from the aforementioned chomping activity.

Drawbacks:  I’m not entirely sure what this accomplished.  I guess the rings look pretty.

Ultimately, what finally seems to have worked was chicken tractoring the beds between planting.  We gave the chickens at least two to three days in each bed and the snail and slug problems are far less aggravating this year than last.  Aside from my rutabagas.

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