Yikes, Hundreds of Snails in Our Organic Garden!
We have hundreds of snails in our backyard, all over our large vegetable garden. No, I didn’t count them, but when you can see a dozen on one bush bean plant, just do the math. I think they are kind of cute (never thought that about slugs!) and I wish we could co-exist. But they are voracious, especially in these numbers. Most of them are tiny, but quite a few seem to be fully grown and probably producing the babies that are everywhere. We do have a few slugs, not nearly so many. Luckily, all those snails are only creating a problem for our bush beans. Everything else is only slightly affected if at all.
This is our first year gardening here in southern New Mexico at 6,000 feet. The other day we learned from our neighbors that the snails are all over town, every year. Some friends who moved to a higher elevation not far from here say the snails don’t like their colder winters.
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First Attempts at Control
At first, stomping on the snails kept their numbers down, but they got ahead of us.
We’d heard of putting out beer… we normally keep my husband’s favorite dark Negra Modelo on hand, along with the lighter Stella Artois. Niether are cheap. Would the snails care which kind? The next time Kelly opened one, I begged some dark beer from him and put it in the garden in a catfood can I had rinsed out for the occasion. One large snail went in, and then it became pretty full of smaller ones.I hoped they had died happy.
But this morning when I went out to collect green beans for a soup I’m planning to make for dinner, I was overwhelmed by the snails everywhere. They seem to be doing the most damage to the bean plants, but I saw them on kohlrabi, radishes, peppers, and other things.
Getting Rid of Snails in the Garden
I had one advantage over the snails: I could search the internet for how to get rid of snails in the garden. By the time I sat down to write this article, I had so many tabs open in my browser that it’s a wonder it didn’t crash.
Here are some of the methods that people describe, with links to their webpages…
Beer, Copper, Eggshells, Coffee
At WikiHow, they had a lot of ideas.
The article started out with beer, but on a larger scale than we have tried yet. Bucketfuls if need be. And they had a good substitute for beer… Mix water or grape juice with 1/2 teaspoon of yeast and a tablespoon of sugar. The article didn’t say how much water, but see the next article I quote.
Next, there is copper. You can wrap copper tape around the perimeter of your garden beds. We had done that against slugs when we lived in Olympia, Washington, and it had helped, but our garden is beyond that now. We’d be keeping the snails in! They also mentioned sprinkling copper pennies around the plants. Hmm, could try that. Evidently the snails get something like an electric shock from the copper.
Crushed egg shells were next. “The egg shells have sharp edges which feel unpleasant under the snails’ soft bodies, so they will avoid climbing over them to get to the plants.” A side benefit here is that the calcium in the shells is good for your soil.
Snails are killed by coffee. “Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have shown that coffee is extremely effective at repelling and killing snails and slugs.” You can spray coffee around in your garden, even on the snails themselves, and you can put coffee grounds below the plants you are trying to save.
The article goes on with more ideas, including some use of pesticides which wasn’t an option for us. But I had all those tabs still open in my browser, so I explored further.
Warm Yeasty Water
I’ve recently been doing more of my research on Pinterest, and when I put garden snails into the Pinterest search box (at the top of any page there), there were lots of cute snail crafts and also links to how to keep a pet snail. Carrying on, I found one particularly useful article for my murderous purposes.
It has a recipe for making up warm yeasty water to use instead of beer. I quote:
Eating Garden Snails
Four More Articles
- Organic Snail and Slug Control: How to Kill Snails and Slugs Naturally starts out with a warning that pesticide snail bait is the most common cause of poisoning in dogs. But the article does go on to mention an organic bait you can use that I didn’t see mentioned elsewhere. It wraps up with methods I’ve covered above. It’s called Monterey Sluggo Slug & Snail Killer 2.5lb. A friend recommended this to me as well. Will try it.
- A short question and answer at TMEN (The Mother Earth News) included several ideas new to me, including that if you wanted to use caffeine, it could be some No-Doz tablets mixed with water. This also made some good points about mulch as a snail and slug habitat and what to do about that.
- Slug and Snail Control is an article that older kids could read as well as adults. I liked its rather jolly tone that you can control them without killing them, and they go on to list both “caring and not so caring methods” of dealing with them.
- How To Kill Snails and Slugs – The Definitive Guide is indeed very comprehensive. If I’d found it first I wouldn’t have gone all over the internet. It has a lot of facts about snails. The article warns you at the outset that one method isn’t organic, but there are so many good organic ideas that it’s a great resource!
If you’re on Pinterest, here’s an image if you’d like to post. In any case, beside the two obvious snails, some of those little blobs are also snails, just getting a start on life on our bean plants. We’ll be using several of these methods and I will report back what works!