How to get rid of snails – Seven top tips to maintaining a pest-free garden

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Snails are common in most gardens with an average of 200 snails living in a cubic metre of soil. Snails love the damp or moist weather so with recent storms they are being spotted much more often than normal for the summer months. It takes around two years for a snail to mature and they live for five years generally.

Snails are gastropods with a single-shell and soft body.

These creatures belong to the molluscs group and use their rasping tongues to eat holes in plants.

Snails are extremely common in British gardens and can cause significant damage to your plants.

Mostly snails feed at night, seeking shelter during the day from the drying impact of the sun.

A snail’s shell helps them move more freely than a slug over dry areas, without drying out.

You can tell you have a snail issue by eating holes left in leaves, stems and flowers.

Snails eat a wide range of vegetables and ornamental plants, especially seedlings and other soft growth.

These pests can climb well and are often found high up on plants.

Snails also eat decomposing leaves and organic matter such as rotting leaves, dung and even dead slugs and snails.

How to get rid of snails

You can often determine the presence of snails by the slime trails left behind.

Slime trails are evident by the silvery deposit on leaves, stems, soil and hard surfaces.

These creatures also make irregular holes in plants with their rasping mouthparts.

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Snails are so abundant some damage needs to be tolerated.

The best way to organically control the snail population in your garden is to go out at nighttime and remove them by hand.

You should re-home them on a patch of waste ground, away from your garden as they have a homing instinct or drop them in a bucket of hot, salty water which will kill them.

You can also encourage natural predators, such as thrushes, toads, hedgehogs and ground beetles.

In addition, you can surround vulnerable plants with barriers such as copper tape, crushed stone or egg shells.

You should not plant out seedlings until they are a good size and then protect them inside clocks made from plastic drinks bottles.

Another way to kill snails is to bury a saucer filled with milk or beer with the rim slightly below soil level to prevent ground beetles falling in.

If you want to use a chemical solution, you can use slug pellets to kill snails.

Tips to maintaining a snail-free garden

  • Predators such as toads, hedgehogs and slow-worms eat snails and therefore should be encouraged
  • Raking over soil and removing fallen leaves during winter can allow birds to eat slug eggs that have been exposed.
  • Replace beer traps every few days to ensure they remain effective.
  • Some herbaceous plants are less likely to be eaten by snails so you can look to plant these instead.
  • You should adopt a non dig policy as this enables snails to move deep underground and do more damage.
  • Grow ornamental plants like these in containers such as rough wooden tubs or terracotta pots, out of the reach of slugs.
  • Stop slugs coming into the house by sealing any potential entrance points and placing a strip of copper tape on the floor by the door as a barrier.

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