05/03/2008

Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails……………

Any avid gardener will flinch back in horror at the dreaded “S” word.
But not me.
I like snails and though it’s true I don’t like them eating my veg I have come to an agreement with the snail population round where I live.
Now you’re probably wondering what in god’s name am I talking about well let me elucidate.
Surprising as it seems in my Spanish climate, slugs and snails can be just as much of a pest here as they are back home in the UK, especially now the weather is cooler and we’ve seen a lot of rain in the last few weeks. Snails and slugs in your garden can be a very frustrating problem for any gardener and you may all wonder how to go about eliminating them once and for all.

STOP RIGHT THERE!

You will NEVER eliminate snails and slugs from your garden.
If you try you will end up pulling your hair out in absolute frustration. Either that or rocking backwards and forwards in a corner somewhere dribbling from the mouth.
Trying to fight snails and slugs is fruitless – no pun intended.
There are a number of environment and budget friendly methods you can implement using items that you may already have in the house but you will be fighting a losing battle. Snails don’t comprehend property rights and boundaries – why should they. The whole world is their garden and they come and go as they damn well please. Like it or lump it.
So I have decided it is better to live in harmony with these gastropods rather than trying to fight them and not just for the sake of my sanity either. I actually find snails extremely pleasant and easy to get on with in normal circumstances. They’re never in a rush; all they care about is travelling the world with their homes on their backs and eating. What life could be better?
They are amiable and sociable and a fair few people I know would do well to take on some of the characteristics of the lowly snail.
Surely when there are so many similarities between myself and these mollusks we can both live in perfect harmony side by side?
It is true that snails are partial to most green and leafy plants you will ever want to grow in your garden – another similarity I hasten to add. They will happily chomp their way through most things you don’t want them too. Trust me though – it’s not because they’re out to get you….they really can’t help it.
If you just grow ornamental plants in your garden then keep all ground level plants to the likes of rhododendron, juniper, and bamboo varieties as snails don’t like these as food stuff – though they do admire their beauty. Snail delicacies should be kept above ground level in window boxes and hanging baskets as they’re not too keen on heights.
If you’re like me and are quite happy to let snails eat their way through everything in your garden EXCEPT the vegetable patch then you’re gonna have to tempt them away from that area by making them an equally pleasing offer.
Sound fair enough?
Snails have a penchant for other non vegetable patch foods like ivy, nasturtiums and tulips. Moisture is a favourite of our mollusked friends - so the general rule of green thumb is any plants with succulent stems and leaves will appeal.



To be on the safe side because we all get tempted from time to time and snails are no different in this respect, you may want to scatter a “fence” of crushed egg shells round your vegetables. Snails don’t like this at all as the sharp edges will cut their soft fleshy bodies – but they won’t be angry at you they’ll just give up, plus egg shells add good nutrients to the soil as well so you’re getting a two for one with this method!
While I quite like the idea of falling into a vat of beer I wouldn’t relish the thought of having to drink my way out – and I like beer! So please avoid the beer traps that you can make or buy commercially. As much as the thought of drowning in beer might appeal to some people it really isn’t a pleasant way to go trust me.
Snails are a very important part of the food chain and snails are only too aware of the fact that they have many natural enemies (crikey the similarities get more and more). Birds, hedgehogs, toads, ground beetles, snakes, chickens, ducks and geese are all enemies of the snail and will quite happily make a snack out of them. It is an option you might like to pursue if you are unable to live with them being in your space.


And I can’t talk about snails without mentioning the fact that we can eat snails too.


But just because we can doesn’t mean we should.



2 comments:

Felicity said...

Great post, my fellow snail lover :)

Another good things to use to keep them off veggies is garlic granules (I buy one sold specifically as a snail repellent, though a homemade one would probably work too). They don't like the smell and will vacate an area where garlic is present. Like eggshells, it also feeds the soil and therefore the plants.

I think all those lethal "snail remedies" like beer traps or bran (it expands inside them and kills them) are horrible! Live & let live, I say.

Jeni Treehugger said...

This is a GREAT tip Felicity and one I'm gonna try for sure!!
:)