How to become a master of the slimy ones in your garden
Do you remember when you let snails crawl on your hands when you were a child? It was a fun experiment, but you and your friends only did it once because it was so hard to wash off the yucky slime afterwards.
Well, back then you didn't care so much about snails eating your mother's flowers - you were a child, head in the clouds, scratches on your arms from running through the woods and bloody knees from falling and standing up.
And even though you still love nature, today your relationship towards slugs and snails has changed. You've got your own garden, a balcony or at least two plants at the front door - and not even an idyll in the center of the city is spared from crawling intruders. So what to do?
I'm sure that you're overwhelmed by all the advices how to protect your plants and become the master of slugs and snails. For helping you protect your plants against the slimy ones I checked all common advices and asked experienced gardeners about their secret weapons.
So here it is, the ultimate guide how to control slugs and snails that treat your dear tomato plants, strawberries and plantain lilies like some exclusive dishes on the garden menu. Starting with the most common advices (a to d) (some of them aren't bad) and ending with the best (no. 1 to 6) (you will love them) - here they are!
The most common advices:
a) water the plants in the morning rather than at night;
b) create moats filled with water, sawdust or dry sand around the beds;
c) use Indian runner ducks, Chinese quails, Mallards or other feathered friends who are fans of the French kitchen when it comes to slugs and snails;
d) use slug pellets (unfortunately the most common weapon in most people´s gardens).
Here's why I don't find these advices that helpful (in most cases):
a) Watering the plants in the
morning for getting rid of the slimy plant-eaters isn't as effective as it may sound. Slugs and snails like it wet and come out when it's cooler, that much is true. So you won't see them in the blazing sun. But: it's not that hot everyday, so whenever it's cool or wet enough (like after the rain) you will even see them in daylight. Plus: slugs are that slimy that they don't need wet ground necessarily. So this advice won't protect your plants well enough. And honesty, I just prefer watering my potted plants in the evening.
b) Moats? Well, I guess it's obvious that it's not that practical. You want to protect a bed, not a fortress, right?! It's way too much effort & maintenance and you still need to keep an eye on the slugs and snails that are already in the bed.
c) Having feathered friends who eat all of the slugs and snails sounds seducing. But even if you love animals as much as I do, there are so many things that you have to be aware of when keeping them. A species-appropriate husbandry is key! So if you think about that alternative you should ask yourself: do you have an appropriate shelter? In Winter you need to keep chicken, quails and most duck races inside which means that the shelter needs to be big enough, have activity opportunities and be cleaned regularly. And even in summer you need to feed the birds additionally to the slugs and snails they find.
Actually, there are even more questions to ask yourself when it comes to feathered friends: do you have a pond that is essential for that the ducks are happy? And can you make sure that the quails won't be eaten by your cats (or other predatory animals)?
This alternative is a great one, but needs a lot of responsible thinking before.
d) I hope that you haven't even been thinking about the last common advice. Using slug pellets isn't only ugly (little blue pellets everywhere on the ground isn't fancy at all!!!), but especially dangerous! The poison isn't only bad for the snails, but also for you who is eating the plants and especially for the cute animals like hedge-hocks, birds and toads who are eating the snails that have been intoxicated by the pellets.
Please keep in mind: chemicals are a no-go! What is bad for them, is bad for you!
So now you found out that the most common advices aren't as good as they may sound. At least not for me and the most of us. But I've got good news for you: I've got some really good advices how to get rid of slugs and snails - especially yucky Spanish slugs that are assailing our garden since the early 2000s.
Advice no. 1 comes from my dear brother in law and super duper Boy Scout Mattze. He's into growing veggies and built the raised beds in his and my sister's garden. Well, he knows how to keep snails and slugs away from their salad and zucchini! That's what I learned from him: for protecting raised beds you only need to put a copper strip around it. For normal beds you can buy small copper fences. Snails don't like copper. Tadaa! Easy peasy, good for you!
Advice no. 2 comes from my favorite gardener in the village. He has such a beautiful wildlife garden and is such an amazing human. Omg, when he tells you about his life, you're stunned! He reinvented himself a couple of times. Always by his side: his loving wife. He showed me what he does against slugs: you place a wet plank next to the endangered beds in the garden and put a little bit of dog treats below. Slugs and snails will crawl below and you can cut the slugs in two pieces (not the most "vegan" way, but definitely ecological). This way even more slugs will come their way to eat the dead slugs. So you can pick them up and feed them to other animals (back to b)), bring them into the woods or kill them all. I know from experience that hedge-hogs, common toads and blackbirds are no fans of Spanish slugs, only of snails that aren't that slimy. I can´t tell whether it´s right or wrong to kill them, also slugs have feelings. But cutting them might be the better option to contain the plague of Spanish slugs (they are actually not from Spain, but Central Europe as genetic tests have shown) that aren't only eating your plants, but that are also ousting the indigenous snails. What do you think about it?
The snails on the other hand are easy to be picked up and transported to a further away piece of land. They are important for the environment anyway.
And please don't kill escargots! They are the heroes of your garden and not so much interested in your plants. Instead they enjoy a good meal of slug eggs!
Advice no. 3 is for all coffee lovers who don't mind sharing. Snails and slugs are known for hating coffee. More precisely: caffeine is toxic for them. So if you dispense coffee powder or diluted coffee over the bed, you can keep the slimy ones away. But: rain and watering will wash the coffee out. So you need to do it again and again. Plus: please only use organic coffee since the conventional one is full of pesticides and additives = poison. Not good for you, not good for the environment. So go organic please!
Advice no. 4 is for the ones who are eager to experiment a little bit. Savory and chamomile are known for being on slugs' and snails' "I don't like to eat" list. So you can plant them around your beds. But: it won´t work for all of them.
Advice no. 5 is for the kitchen chiefs among the gardeners. Make plant extracts from compost, fern and liverwort by yourself. Therefore just put it into water and let it ferment for a little bit. Voilà! Your plant extract is ready for being used. But same as advice no. 4 and 3 the success depends on different factors.
Advice no. 6 is for the patient ones. It's what my mom does. She is a gardener by heart and goes on an walk through her garden every evening. Armed with a bucket and garden gloves she picks all the snails and transports them into the woods. Sounds way better than what my old hand grandmother does: whenever she sees a slug on her way she uses her cane to squash them. Ouch and yuck!
Advice no. 7 is what my family does: have a wildlife garden! It´s what everyone can do, no matter how small or big the garden is. If you have a garden where hedge-hogs, toads, birds and insects feel well, you´ve got a natural weapon against snails. And if you´re garden is also escargot friendly, you will have less and less slugs. We don´t have that many escargots in our region, so advice no. 1 to 6 are definitey worth a look!
So whatever advice is most helpful for you to master the slugs and snails, please remember not to use pellets. It may sound cheap and easy, but is bad for everyone, yourself included. There are so many natural ways to be in control of the situation. Plus: not all snails are eating your plants and even slugs have an important function. Yes, it's true! They also eat dead animals and excrements. Nonetheless the Spanish slug became a real problem. Since animals don't like to eat them they flourish and breed if you don't have enough escargots in your garden that eat their eggs.
I guess that you will choose more than one way to become the master of slugs and snails and decide to have a wildlife garden that supports the environment and a sustainable way of life.
I hope that you find my list helpful. So please like and share.