Those Sneaky Slimy Critters

Ugh! Snails and slugs, the bane to most gardeners. Loosely related to octopi and oysters, they glide along on their muscular foot, secreting mucus to facilitate movement, leaving their trademark glistening trail behind

With similar biology, the snail carries an external shell while slugs have evolved without one. Both are most active at night or on foggy, cloudy days. During cold weather, they hibernate in topsoil, while during hot, dry weather, snails can seal themselves off with a parchment-like membrane and go dormant for up to 4 years!

Snails and slugs love to eat plants with tender foliage and fruit. Favorites include seedlings and plants with succulent foliage. They seriously damage basil, beans, cabbage, lettuce, and many other vegetable plants along with dahlia, delphinium, Hosta, and marigold.  Ripening fruits close to the ground like strawberries are easy targets. And they’ll climb trees to feed on foliage and fruit, especially citrus.

Check out this information on how to manage these creatures

Probably the most popular method of managing snails is to bait them with a poison.  While it’s a quick and easy way to eliminate them, it’s risky. The majority of baits contain metaldehyde which is highly poisonous to dogs and cats. The molasses or brown sugar added to the bait is attractive to snails and slugs, and dogs and cats. Don’t use metaldehyde snail baits where children and pets could encounter them

Effective products are available that can be more safely used around pets, humans, fish, birds, beneficial insects, and mammals. They contain iron phosphate, a compound found naturally in the soil.  If it’s not consumed by the snails or slugs, it will break down in the soil. However pets may still get ill if large quantities are eaten. Watch this short video to learn more.

With a little planning and a lot of diligence, you can keep these common garden nuisances at a tolerable level.

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