A snail problem in your yard or garden can be a real pain to deal with. Here are 5 methods, 4 of which are organic to help you solve your snail problem! At the old place, we always had a manageable snail problem. We had a lot of snails in the yard but they seemed, for the most part, to leave the vegetable garden alone. But not so at the new place.
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Look what we woke up to yesterday!
That was a beautiful head of buttercrunch lettuce that was about 10 days away from being harvested. Now it’s a few stems! To say I was a bit grouchy about it would be an understatement.
Dealing with a Snail Problem
I will admit I’ve been a little lax in the snail patrols lately. The garden is in one of those periods where it is pretty much in maintenance mode, just a little water and weeding is all it needs. So it wasn’t until last Saturday that I really realized what a snail problem we had. We spent an hour or so weeding the section of the garden closest to the back fence and we picked two bags of snails from the strawberry patch while we were at it.
Here’s the main culprit, the fence line between our yard and the pasture behind us is just chain link. The snail population in that pasture must be huge and the fence doesn’t keep them out (duh, it’s chain link). So they live in the grass and weeds during the day and raid our garden all night! Ugh! And the owner of the pasture isn’t concerned about weed control or mowing this year because he is selling it and a shopping center is going in. The good news is we get a nice solid fence, the bad news is they haven’t put it up yet!
When I saw the destroyed lettuce plant yesterday morning (before the sun came up). I set off in search of the offending snails and found more than 20 in that bed.
This is what I found when I checked the fence line. Holy cow! I have a snail problem and it really snuck up on me.
So how does the gardener go about dealing with a snail problem?
5 methods for dealing with a Snail Problem
- Non-organic chemical snail baits
- Hand picking
- Removing cover
- Beer/Lemonade traps
- Organic Snail baits
So let’s chat about each method for snail control:
Conventional Snail Baits
The first and probably most common method is using commercial slug/snail baits. These baits attract the snails (and slugs) which then feed on the bait which poisons the snails and kills them off. They are pretty effective and can be used to create a barrier of poison around your garden.
But as an organic gardener, I have several problems with these baits. First off they are POISON, not only to the slugs and snails but also to birds, dogs, cats, other wild animals and worst of all children! If for no other reason than that they will never find their way into my garden! Second, because they are a chemical as they break down in the rain or irrigation water, those chemicals would then go into the soil and it would be possible for them to be taken up in the food I’m eating from that garden. I don’t know if my science behind that is solid but even the thought keeps me from using them.
Hand Picking a Snail Problem
The second method is hand picking. Get the kids involved with this one! They will have a blast and you can even pay them bounty! The best time I have found to handpick snails is in the early morning (before the sun comes up) after rain or irrigation. Simply pick them up toss them in a plastic grocery sack and then when your done double bag them, tie the bags shut and put them in the garbage. I really don’t mind sending my snail problem to the landfill.
Another great time to pick snails is after a thunderstorm on a hot summer day. For some reason, those hot summers storms seem to bring the snails out of hiding and make them easy pickings. This is the method we usually use to control a snail problem and if you are diligent it can be pretty effective.
Remove Snail Cover
Third try to remove as much “cover” as you can. Snails like moist shady spots so be sure to keep the weeds down surrounding your garden and possibly eliminate beds that have plants like English Ivy and other dense plants that are close to your garden area. You need to create a big zone of uninviting ground for the snails to have to cover before they get to your garden.
Beer or Lemonade Traps
Next, are Beer or Lemonade traps. These are fairly simple to build. Just bury a container at ground level and then fill it with beer or lemonade. The snails are attracted to the liquid and then they fall in and drown. We don’t drink alcohol around our place so we don’t have a ready supply of beer so we use lemonade and it works great!
We have found this method very successful, but also very disgusting. A cottage cheese container full of dead snails is not a pretty sight and not a pretty smell either. I would say this is a good method if you only have a moderate snail problem. With a lot of snails, you are going to have a big smelly mess to clean up several times a week.
Organic Snail Baits
Last you can use any of the commercially available organic snail baits. We use Sluggo. It’s an OMRI listed organic product. It is not poisonous to animals or children and does a pretty good job of getting rid of snail problems. I usually sprinkle it on beds of plants that are highly susceptible to snails, like lettuces, kale, cabbages, and strawberries. I also use it to create a barrier around my garden or between the garden and areas where the snails hang out.
Get Started Early
I have found that the key to protecting your plants from slugs and snails is to get started early in the spring. A daily patrol for snails just before the sun comes up early in the spring is great prevention. Get those little guys before they start reproducing and the populations get big! One or two snails chewing on your lettuce is annoying. Twenty can ruin a plant overnight! Obviously, do what I say not what I did (at least this spring).
I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions and I would love to hear your input on any other organic methods you have tried in your garden!