I love to watch old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. You can learn a lot from that show. Worf teaches us, for example, that in Klingon culture, any day you die in battle is a good day to die. So, before crushing my arch nemesis in the battle for garden domination, I first say, “It is a good day to die, my friend.”
Snails – I hate them. They crunch and munch the night away leaving desolation in their wake. Entire plants can be eaten by these maruauders in just a few hours.
I know hate is a strong word but I do, so very, very much, hate them.
Hating snails for 45 years means I’ve waged war with snails for 45 years. And over those years, I’ve compiled an impressive host of weapons in my arsenal. These weapons are diverse, the methods employed are varied but first and foremost, I am totally dedicated in my quest for supremacy and snailialation. Constant vigilance is key for ultimate conquest.
As a Master Gardener, I try not to use pesticides. I use a variety of other weapons first and then will use snail bait as a last resort. Here are some of my favorites:
- Copper – It gives snails and slugs a slight electrical shock on contact. Evil, huh? Keep in mind, though, that the shock won’t kill them. It creates a barrier only. This can be very helpful for raised beds, trees, containers, flower pots, and other areas in your yard or garden. You can find copper bands in most gardening centers or home improvement stores.
- Beer – Stale beer is very attractive to slugs and snails. The lushes. Fill a saucer filled with stale beer and sink it into the ground so the top of the saucer is at ground level. Snails will get into the mixture and drown. Slugs, however, are tricky and can get out of shallow containers. For them, use a deeper trap like a deep yogurt container, or a plastic cup. Note: gastropods are not beer aficionados – buy cheap beer.
- Eggshells – Slugs and snails don’t like to cross paths with grit. Crush up eggshells and throw in the garden beds. Some folks say that the sharp edges of the shells slice open the undersides of our little friends. I don’t know if that’s entirely true but it sounds evil, and therefore, I like it.
- Hands – The very best organic method is to handpick the offenders and do what you will with them. I kill them. A more compassionate person will relocate them. I’m not that person. Handpicking is very effective if done thoroughly on a regular basis. At the beginning of the battle you may have to go out on a mission every night. Weekly handpicking can be sufficient after the population has noticeably declined. Search them out after dark with the assistance of a flashlight, pick them up, place them in a plastic bag, and dispose of them in the trash. Or drown them in a bucket with soapy water, watch them die, and put them in your compost pile. I just crush them, after, of course, telling them, “It is a good day to die, my friend” and leave them right where they were squished.
- Rebar – Yes, rebar.
The Epic Battle
My husband and I used to live in a quaint Fresno neighborhood of homes built in the late 1950’s. Our little garden was charming. Charming and filled with plants snails just loved. So, every night I would go out on my killing mission. Armed with a flashlight and sturdy gardening clogs, I would seek them out and stomp to my heart’s content. But sometimes the snails would be out of stomping range. Enter the rebar. I dubbed my rebar “Snail Biter.”
Yes, I read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and knew a weapon without a name was no weapon at all.
On the night of the Epic Battle, I was in the front yard flashlight in one hand, and Snail Biter in the other. The beam of the flashlight cut through the darkness. I stealthily (not that you have to employ stealth to sneak up on a snail but I’m trying to create a mood here) crept about, peering into lush garden beds. Ah hah! The motherlode – a escargartoire of snails! I could not reach them with my foot so I readied Snail Biter for action. Just as I raised my weapon, I was blinded by a fierce, white light and heard, “FREEZE – THIS IS THE POLICE!”
Did I mention I lived in a quaint, older neighborhood? I should have said quaint in some places and and not-so-quaint in others. The police routinely cruised the area and on that night, found me trying to root out snails from my garden with my weapon of mass destruction. Thankfully, it didn’t take the cop too terribly long to figure out I was no threat to society and go on his way. I was then able to resume the battle.
For the snails that night, it was, indeed, a very good day to die.