Feature

Getting rid of snails

G Magazine

Here's some novel eco ways to rid your garden of pesky snails

snail

Credit: Wikimedia

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One summer evening the rain was fresh upon the ground, yet the air was still heavy with that muggy Sydney heat. Padding around the house barefoot at 10pm, I decided to pour myself a beer and sit in the backyard to breathe in the last of the cloudburst.

It was a night for snails.

They were out in their hundreds, moving purposefully across the paved areas in that inexplicable way they do after rain. I fetched my boots and for a while jigged a silly dance, beer slopping in my hand, as I stomped on the lettuce-raiders.

After I'd knocked off the conspicuous ones, I topped up the old mugs of beer I have dotted about my garden and sat down to watch.

Snails love beer. Inexorably they are drawn to it. The trouble is, beer kills snails and slugs. They sidle up to the pots of beer, get drunk, fall in and drown.

It was like watching an AA group let loose in a brewery. They sat upon the lip of the mug, supping at the brew. Gradually, their eye-stalks grew droopy and they swayed from side to side. If snails could talk, they'd have been slurring. And probably singing. In time they released their grip on the mug and slid, helplessly, into the beer.

The whole performance was debauchery in slow motion.

Beer is a non-toxic method of slug and snail control. Conventional snail baits can release poison into the soil that can kill beneficial creatures as well as the snails. And there's also the risk of poisoning the family pet.
But it's not the only method of controlling the marauders. Watering in the morning (rather than at night) gives them less of a slippery surface on which to slide during their nocturnal wanderings.

Copper wire can be placed around the base of plants or pots. Snails are repelled by copper and avoid it. Similarly, iron is snail-kryptonite. Garden company Multiguard makes slug-repelling pellets with iron as the active ingredient. Extra iron is fine for the soil and the dog, but fatal to the snails.

No slug enjoys crawling over spiky things with its delicate foot, either. Crushed eggshells, volcanic rock crumbs, and diatomaceous earth are unpleasant enough to deter some of the grazing hoards. The last two are available from nurseries.

It's easy enough to make your own snail traps. I use old mugs, half-buried and filled with home-brew. A glass jar will work just as well. Remember to keep your beer refreshed, particularly after rain when snails are most prone to go on the prowl. Professionally made snail traps are also available, with a little roof so that rain does not overly dilute the beer.

The snails aren't fussy. They'll drink any old beer - although I'm told they shy away from light beer. So they're not so different from me, in that respect.