“The primary use of conversation is to satisfy the impulse to talk.”
-- George Santayana
“Catch a snail in our jail.”
-- Advertising slogan
Is your garden talking to you? I know that if it isn’t Catharine, mom
or a client, then it must be the garden, reminding me there is work to be
done. I inadvertently stepped on a pair of snails on the way to work this
morning, a reminder that the snail thing is a disconcerting part of May.
Most of us can accept minor damage to plants and allow natural methods
like the weather to assume the major role in controlling garden pests.
But the late rain this spring and possible garden neglect have provided
snails and slugs the perfect opportunity to hide and breed in our
What is the difference between a snail and a slug? They are both
mollusks (cousins to the oysters and clams) and are essentially the same,
but the snail has an external shell. Both secrete mucus to glide over
surfaces -- upon drying it becomes the familiar slime trail. Without
moisture they are dormant, but overcast weather has allowed the slimy
guys with the cover to produce lots of eggs in our gardens.
Collection and destruction of snails and slugs by hand is the oldest
control method, and is still a good one. For example, our slow moving
friends usually concentrate near the damage they create, and are easily
plucked off -- if you’re willing to hunt at night or early morning, aided
with a Petzel headlamp.
The control of snails by their enemies, especially by predators, is
another viable solution. The introduction of Decollate snails may be very
effective in slowing down their evil, brown relatives. However, these
“good” snails don’t win overnight. It can take up to a year before they
gain the upper hand. In the meanwhile, discontinue snail bait and rely on
supplemental hand management.
Traps and barriers are useful in checking snails and slugs. I
recommend using “The Pit” snail & slug trap. The green trap is filled
with leftover beer you confiscated from the kid’s bedroom and may be
emptied and returned to the garden. I also recommend the use of slug and
snail copper. It holds a small electrical charge, which repels slugs and
snails. Use it to protect individual plants or entire planting areas.
Cocoa mulch is a relatively new introduction to your local nursery. As
mulch, it suppresses another form of pest . . . the weed. It is also
useful in retaining soil moisture and provides nourishment to plants as a
mild fertilizer. I have also discovered that its texture deters slugs,
snails and even some cats. But I am most intrigued by this product
because it smells just like hot cocoa!
Many gardeners rely on snail and slug control through the use of
Methaldehyde-based pellets and granules. This nonpersistent molluscicide
works as an attractant and toxicant. Before spreading the bait, wet down
the areas to be treated to encourage evening activity. If you must use
bait, go for That’s-It or Corry’s around edible plants.
Last weekend, Catharine and I were grooming the garden and admiring
her beautiful roses. I was startled to find myself staring down at four
snails crawling down the handrail. With great effort, I restrained myself
from squishing them . . . even though the evildoers had been happily
munching on our plants. Instead, I fed them to the Decollates -- a great
way to clean and recycle in the garden. See you next time.
* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery, 1540
S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist,
Catharine Cooper, and has three cats. He can be reached at 949 497 2438,
or E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.