Stop those snails and slugs!

Penny Woodward has a constant challenge keeping snail and slugs from chomping away at her vegies! Her expertise certainly comes in handy in her own garden and will help with yours!

Snails love tender plants and seedlings.
Photo: istock

In our gardens, snails and slugs that cause most of the damage are common garden snails (Cornu asperum), which have been in Australia for well over 120 years, and the various slug species, including brown and grey field slugs and leopard slugs. There are numerous other introduced species that may cause more problems into the future. 

Snails and slugs love to feed on some of the most tender plants in the garden, putting their rasping tongues to good use eating newly emerged seedlings, especially of peas and beans. They also eat holes into the middle of leaves, enjoy young leaves on citrus trees and devour some fruit, including strawberries and tomatoes. In my garden, snails or slugs, completely stripped the emerging leaves on a young cherry tree. They also eat decaying organic matter.

They thrive in wet, rainy, cool, moist weather and usually only appear during the day if it’s raining. Usually in daylight hours they hide under pots, in clumps of thick-leafed plants, under boards and anywhere else it is damp and moist. They’re busiest time is at night, meaning you probably won’t see them and can only tell they’ve been busy because of their slimy trails or the damage they’ve done. Slugs will also bury themselves in the soil and hide under mulch. During dry times, snails retreat into their shells and make a cover called an epiphragm, over the entrance. In this state of hibernation they survive for months without water.

Here's one tip from Penny that might surprise you all:

Definitely don’t crush or stomp on snails as this releases any eggs they’re carrying into the soil beneath, where they’ll hatch out at a later date. Also, don’t feed them to your chooks. Our lovely chook expert Jessamy Miller says snails and slugs can be a vector for tapeworm and pass it on to chooks. But ducks love and are fine to eat snails and slugs as they are not susceptible to this tapeworm. 

While on the topic of what not to do, don’t throw them over your fence into the neighbour’s yard or even out onto the road. In the first case it’s unneighbourly, in the second, unless they get run over, they’ll likely just come back. Research has shown they have a homing instinct and will travel up to 30 metres to find their way home. Mind you it is slow going – researchers have timed them travelling at only a metre per hour! 

For more natural solutions from Penny that will help keep snails and slugs away from our harvest get a copy of our September/October 2021 issue (OG 128) – purchase a copy today and have it delivered!

By: Penny Woodward

First published: September 2021

Related topics

Gardening Basics, Repels pests, snails, slugs, Natural solutions, Issue 128 -- September/October 2021, Pest & disease remedies