Many gardeners are planting out seedlings now and consequently many seedlings are being lost to slugs and snails. Some seedlings like tomatoes, are immune. While others cause these slimy creatures to lick their metaphorical lips before devouring them for supper. Young plants of beans, peas, zucchini, pumpkin, cabbages, caulflowers and more need to be protected from snails and slugs. I now have a cache of pots with their bottoms cut out, or pieces of drainage pipe that I’ve cut with a hacksaw, all with a band of copper tape around the top. Every time I plant a bean seed or seedling, or a cucumber seedling, or any of the others mentioned, I put one of these around each one. The copper lasts for years so I use the pots and pipe over and over again and they have the added bonus of also preventing young plants from being dug up by birds. Once the plants reach a decent size I remove the pot or pipe, the exception being peas and beans as snails will eat these at any size.
At one point I received an email from a reader saying that he had tried it and it didn’t work (it turned out that during very heavy rain the snails had been able to make their way over the tape in a film of water). But I knew the system worked well in my garden because all my seedlings were surviving even though my garden is still full of snails. But I hadn’t actually put a snail near the tape and watched what happened. So I did. The snail started to head over the copper tape, and then suddenly reared back, twisted around and fell off. The theory is that it gives them a small ‘electric’ like shock. Slugs react in the same way. I was interested to see that once a snail had ventured onto the tape and received this shock, that they wouldn’t go onto the tape again. I then decided to film it so everyone could see what happens. So I found some new snails and the rest is on the film Here. Thanks to my son Dan for help with filming and editing. The only way we cheated was to speed some bits up a little as, well, snails can be a bit sluggish!
By: Penny Woodward
First published: November 2015