No matter how diligent and experienced you are as a gardener, things don’t always go as planned. Mother Nature has many ways of frustrating our efforts through weather, varmints, disease, garden pests, etc. Slugs and snails can be one of the most destructive creatures we face every season. They are efficient plant killers and getting rid of snails and slugs early in the spring should be a high priority.
How to Kill Slugs and Snails
Before beginning a slug and snail termination program, we have to know what to look for. The slimy critters can be difficult to find, especially during the day, because they hide in moist dark places like underneath rotting leaves and rocks or wood laying on the ground. It is actually easier to spot early damage and then go after them before they really take hold of a plant.
You should routinely inspect your garden everyday especially in the spring when tender young leaves are most vulnerable. If you see holes in your plants or encounter leaves whose edges have scallop shaped bites, you have a slug problem. Don’t wait! Get started immediately and kill the slugs and snails. Early intervention will save your crops!
Obviously, the most effective course of action is to physically catch and squish the little devils. If you go out to the garden at night or during a dark rainy day, you will see slugs chomping away. If you are a bit queazy about wearing rubber gloves and squishing them, you can also drop them into a pail of soapy water, or gather them up into a container and spray with a solution of water and ammonia. If you follow this procedure on a daily basis for two or three weeks, you will most likely have eliminated the problem and can then slow down your plan to get rid of slugs in the garden to once a week.
Keep away compost pile from snails and slugs
There are also some good preventative tactics you should use. One is to make sure your compost pile is well away from the garden itself. To slugs and snails, the compost pile is like living in a luxury hotel! All those rotting leaves, piles of wet lawn clippings and other garden wastes are like heaven to garden slugs. You should also try to keep the area around the base of your plants clean. Leaves that are growing low on the stems aren’t going to produce anything so you may as well cut them off which eliminates convenient hiding places.
Time of watering
Watering in the morning is also a good practice. Since slugs and snails are nocturnal and attracted to moisture, if you irrigate at night you’ll be sending them a message that now is a great time to come out for dinner.
Use of snail and slug baits
Today there are a number of safe and effective snail and slug baits that can be purchased at any garden center that are designed for killing slugs and snails. These slug baits contain iron phosphate and when eaten by the garden slugs, they will avoid your plants and crawl off to die in a couple of days. Be sure to apply the slug bait around the base of your plants after it rains or after you have irrigated. The moisture will lure the garden slugs out of hiding. Iron phosphate will not hurt your plants so you have nothing to worry about by sprinkling the bait throughout your garden. Remember, slugs and snails are most active in the spring, so lay your snail bait down early. While they may take some time off in the summer, they will return during rainy fall days which is when they lay their eggs. Another application then is a good idea.
Natural predators and flowers
Lastly, don’t forget about natural predators who love to feed on slugs and snails. Toads, frogs, chickens,beetles, garter snakes, birds, etc. will make a serious dent in your slug population. There are also several flower varieties that are bothersome to slugs and snails such as marigolds and black-eyed susans, ferns and ornamental grasses, astilbe, foxglove, mint and many many others. Plants some of these throughout the garden to serve as a barrier to garden snails and slugs.
Sprinkle some coffee ground
Since most of the world drinks coffee, here is one final tip. Slugs and snails hate the stuff, so feel free to sprinkle some spent coffee grounds right on top of the soil near your plants. You don’t need a whole lot…just a light dusting will do the trick.