I saw Amy again when my wonderful composted top soil for my new herb garden was delivered (see Raised Bed Kitchen Garden is Almost Complete. This is the same Amy who asked me why her hydrangeas wouldn’t bloom. She has been reading this blog — thank you, again, Amy — and reported that her hydrangeas are now blooming. While here, she said has a problem with snails and slugs eating her plants and leaving that slimy trail we’ve all seen in our planting beds and on hardscapes such as walks and patios, etc.
I immediately told her to put salt on them to kill them. I forgot to mention to Amy that she could also place shallow pans such as jar lids or saucers with beer in them in her garden. They will crawl into the beer, then drown. I suppose I was really excited about getting that soil into my new raised bed kitchen garden.
I suspect that what Amy meant (and what most of us mean) when we say snails, is actually slugs. Both of these pests leave that slimy trail, as well as holes in tender leaves. The slugs around here are typically black, as shown in the photo below. Snails have a coiled shell which they carry on their backs. The shells themselves can be very pretty. What a shame they belong to such nasty pests. The snails I have seen here are either brown, such as the one in the 2nd photo below, or a very light tan. Currently, I am seeing far more slugs than snails in my yard, which is why I suspect that may be Amy’s problem, too. Amy, please let me know.
Unfortunately, the morning I took this photo of a snail, it was very humid due to overnight rain. My camera lens kept fogging up on me. This is the least foggy photo I could get.
Following my conversation with Amy, I promised to look up more information about this problem. I referred to Rodale’s Good Bug, Bad Bug. Here’s what I found:
The first thing I learned was that the jar lids or shallow pans should be sunk into the soil so that the lip of the pan is flush with the ground. It seems so obvious, I hate I didn’t think of that myself. The book did not say they would drown — only that they would be trapped. It also suggested traps such as grapefruit rinds, pots, and boards, which should be checked every morning. It’s then up to the gardener to destroy those trapped.
I cannot use the grapefruit rind method. We do not eat grapefruit because of interaction with certain medications. If you are taking antihistamines or certain cardiac medications, as well as other medicines, whether over-the-counter and prescription, please DO NOT eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice without first consulting a pharmacist. (I should probably mention, I am a masters’ level public health educator, too.)
Both snails and slugs prefer decaying leaves and flowers, but will also eat tender leaves, bulbs, and even stems. They will attack all tender plants, and can completely wipe out seedlings or new shoots. They are most active during periods of frequent rainfall, which is what we are having as I write this. Both of these critters’ colors can vary, of course, to include green, gray, tan and black. They can also have dark spots or patterned skin.
Rodale says both snails and slugs have eggs which are clear, are either round or oval, and are “…laid in jellylike masses under stones or garden debris…” They may lay eggs under any boards that may be put out as traps for the parents, too.
Amy, I hope this helps. I have a feeling we will be fighting these critters for the duration of our rainy season, which seems to have begun early this year.