Soldiers, arm yourself. It’s time for mollusc war – how to kill slugs and snails

074I have a tiny confession to make, and one that might shock many gardeners; I kinda like slugs and snails. They’re pretty cool! I remember my mother not being too keen on my idea to make a snail habitat when I was younger. Surprisingly very few snails every appeared…I’m sure she was squashing them when I wasn’t looking. These critters have cool tentacle eyes that can just collapse and disappear. They protect themselves from harm with a slimy coating. Snails – even cooler – they carry their homes around with them. That’s pretty amazing! And, even if you’re not a lover of the common garden snail, then you have to love those banded snails. C’,mon, admit it, they’re pretty!

The problem is, as my gardening passion has thrived, my love for these garden molluscs has had to waver. To start with I just tried to live alongside them. That didn’t last too long as my hostas disappeared and my seedlings became slimy eaten stalks. Now I turn a blind eye when I crush them, collect them in bottles to throw out, or – grossness – cut them in half (this has a way of attracting more slugs; cannibalistic freaks!).

2012 was an AWFUL year for gardening. There was too much rain, if you can believe it, and if you thought the snail problem was bad last year, then you just wait. All those well fed critters from last summer will have laid dozens of eggs, meaning that this year is going to be a nightmare. So, to cut a long story short, in 2013 I’m going to be battling like never before.

I’m not one for slug pellets. Most garden sheds around the UK probably have several bottles of this stuff, but whilst it’s a sure way to end a slimy slug, it’s also a good way to kill birds, amphibians or even your cat. So, no, don’t use them if possible. Instead, I’m going to dig out those old sauces and plastic bottles that have been stashed away, and I’m going in with a multi-pronged approach;

– The Slug Stomp

This, by far, is the best method of getting rid of slugs and snails but, like that pesky thing called exercise, you’ve gotta do it regularly. Every night, when the sun goes down and the molluscs come out, it’s time to stomp. I generally crush snails and slugs and then put them in a bottle (fabric conditioner containers are quite good). You’ll pick up loads to start with, and fewer over time, but don’t stop completely because if there’s one thing a neighbouring snail likes, it’s a garden full of healthy plants and no other competitors.

– The Slug Pub

It’s a G&T for me, and a nice bowl of beer for the slugs. Yep, they like booze as much as we do. You can’t be out in the garden every night doing the slug stomp, and you’re bound to miss some critters. By placing a shallow bowl of beer in your garden, particularly near highly vulnerable plants, you can simply pick up the slugs and snails in the morning as they’re dying of a hangover.

– The Slug  Juice Bar

For those slugs and snails who prefer to be teetotal, going down the citrus fruit route is perfect. Simply cut some oranges or grapefruit in half, leave them amongst the borders as you do with your sluggy pubs, and you can collect up the health-kick molluscs in the morning.

– The Slug Snip

Okay, the slug snip is a bit gross. It basically means you just cut a whopping great slug or snail in half with a pair of secateurs and leave it where it dies. The slightly vile thing about slugs and snails is that they can’t help but eat their fallen kin, so if the idea of giving your snaily friends a night of joy with slug pubs or juice bars isn’t your thing, go to the other end of the scale and create carnage instead.

A slug-ruined carrot. In my opinion, if you arm yourself with these four methods, then you’re onto a good thing. Copper rings, plastic bottles, coffee granule mulch and other variants, are actually pretty useless. Snails climb, halfway up the house if they need to, so put rings around the stems of plants is pretty useless. Even if pests don’t attack from below, they’ll simply crawl over from touching leaves. It’s the same thing with mulches…eventually there’s enough plant cover to allow slugs and snails to squirm their way from one slimy plant to the next.

It’s a shame that I have to kill these beasts, because they are pretty cool when you look at them on a biological level. But, alas, 2013 is the year of the mollusc war.

How do you protect your plants from slugs and snails? Any tips….feel free to share them in the comments.

2 Responses to Soldiers, arm yourself. It’s time for mollusc war – how to kill slugs and snails

  • I have a hoe that is specifically designed to weed between paving stones, but it does an admirable job as a long-shafted knife to cut slugs in half with so I don’t have to be as close to them as when you use secateurs…

    The first year I had my garden I tried collecting the slugs and pouring boiling water over them, but in one evening walk around the garden I could collect more than a hundred – my record was 179 – so it soon became a bit tedious to collect that many.

    I also encourage predators that will eat the slugs and their eggs. Roman snails, for instance, are not very agressive towards living plants, preferring dead plant matter and – crucially – the eggs and youngs of other snails and slugs, and I also have a toad, some blackbirds and some other birds that are helping me out. I gave up on pellets as they seemed to do very little to the slug population, and anyway I like the idea of trying to get the garden wildlife in balance, even though our slugs are an invasive species that does not lay dozens, but hundreds of eggs – and in the moist Danish soil, most of them WILL hatch and become new slugs!

    The war is on! (Or; it will be, once spring arrives.)

    • paul says:

      I think slug life is a purgatory. I use an english butter knife with the round end to despatch them to try in the next realm.

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I'm Geoff, and I'm a plant hoarder.

Like magpies collect bright shiny things, I can't resist plants. An exquisite flower, soft ferny foliage or a beautiful majestic tree - I love them all!

Here, I'll indulge in all things flora and share my passion. Join me as I develop my garden and hoard more plants without apology.