6 Easy Ways To Control Snails

Here's how to protect your plants from snails and slugs

A snail crawling on a leafy green

Snails and slugs love to eat leafy greens and seedlings

They eat their way through the garden under the cover of night, leaving a slimy trail to show where they’ve been.

A nocturnal menace to the garden in the warm months, snails and slugs have a huge appetite for many types of plants.

They love vegies, especially lettuce, but are happy to sample other delicacies from the spring garden smorgasbord.

Left unchecked they’ll attack flowers, with annuals like pansies and violas a favourite feast.

These pests like moist soil and are most active during cool weather and humid periods, so they’re especially busy in spring and early summer.

At night, snails and slugs climb onto plants to eat foliage, hiding in leaf debris or sheltering under shrubs during the day.

Signs of invasion

Before using pest control in the garden it’s essential to correctly identify the problem and use the appropriate technique or product.

If you know what to look for it’s easy to spot when gastropods are helping themselves to your plants.

Healthy seedlings can disappear overnight, plus foliage and flowers show ragged or chewed-looking holes with the lower leaves of plants usually consumed first.

Snails and slugs also leave a trail, so look for shiny streaks on foliage and silver-grey slime trails appearing on the plant, soil or pots.

The best way to catch them in the act is to search for them by torchlight, before sunrise or after dark.

Plant that has holes chewed through it by snails

Look for ragged or chewed leaves to find evidence of snails

Methods of control

The only sure-fire way to keep your garden free of snails and slugs is to destroy them. There are several ways to do this, or you can use natural deterrents to keep them away from your plants by making the garden less hospitable.

Poison

Scatter pellets or apply a snail gel around plants by hand, choosing an animal-friendly product to protect pets, native birds and lizards.

Bait

Set traps baited with fresh lettuce, citrus rind or stale beer, check them daily and squash the pests or drop them into a jar of salty water.

Shock 

Use copper tape as a collar for young plants and pots, or as bed edging. Copper makes an effective barrier, as it gives snails and slugs a slight electric shock. This tape is about 30mm wide.

Catch

Search and destroy snails and slugs by hand-picking them out of the garden and killing them. If you can’t bear to squash or drown them, mix a solution of equal parts vinegar and water and pour it into a spray bottle for a homemade and eco-friendly pesticide. Spray the solution directly onto both snails and slugs to kill them, but be careful where you use it as vinegar is a herbicide and will also poison your plants.

Deter 

Position timber boards on the soil near vulnerable plants and the pests will migrate to the underside where they can be easily removed. Clear away decaying vegetation and debris like rocks and leaf litter to eliminate daytime hiding places. Mulch also makes a good home for snails and slugs, so keep it less than 80mm thick.

TIP Don’t spread mulch until plants are well established and daytime temperatures are reaching 21°C.

Block

Lay barriers around plants, especially lettuces, to stop snails and slugs in their tracks. These soft-bodied pests will turn away from a sharp or scratchy barrier rather then crawl across it to get to the salad bar. Surround plants with strips of coarse grit abrasive paper or broken eggshells. Coir also works, as the tiny fibres stick to snails and slugs, making it hard for them to move.

Make a beer bait 

Slugs and snails are attracted to the sweet, yeasty combination of sugar and beer, making it the ideal bait.

  • Sink a shallow bowl or tub in the ground with the rim at soil level.
  • Stir a pinch of sugar into 150ml of stale beer then pour the mixture into the bowl to a depth of 30mm. The pests will crawl into the beer for a drink and drown.
  • Empty and refill the baits every two days.

A beer bait with a snail caught in it

A homemade beer bait is effective at killing snails
Vote It Up: 

See also

How To Know What Weeds To Pull And What To Leave In The Garden

An international weed, water hyacinth infests aquatic systems on every continent

One of the least favourite but essential chores that must be performed regularly in the garden would have to be weeding....
Eradicate Aphids

Learn how to get rid of this common garden pest. Image: Thinkstock

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on sap and leave a sticky deposit as they suck the juice from leaves and stems...
A flower with powdery mildew, How To Get Rid Of Powdery Mildew, Handyman Magazine,

Keep an eye out for powdery mildew when the humidity is high and the weather has been dry. Image: Getty Images 

First appearing as faint white spots on leaves, this fungus gradually forms a white dusty film over the entire surface....
Plant with diseased leaves, Treat Nutrient deficiencies in plants, Handyman magazine,

Treat nutrient deficiencies and get your plants thriving again. Image: Thinkstock 

When you have followed all the rules on the label for your plant but it’s still in poor health it could have a nutrient...
Anyone who’s had a citrus tree will be familiar with bronze orange bugs. Also called stink bugs, they produce a foul-smelling...
A snail trap in the garden

Homemade traps and sprays work well in the garden

Using environmentally sustainable sprays, traps and deterrents to control insect pests and diseases is good garden practice....