10 Simple, Yet Effective, Methods To Prevent Snail Damage
August 04, 2023
A garden is hard work – you do everything right and follow all the instructions for how to plant and maintain it. Everything is coming together and you’re starting to see new growth. Seedlings are coming up, new leaves and flowers are appearing, and it seems like you are well on your way to your first real fruit and vegetable production.
Then you see it. You wake up one morning and there are ragged leaves full of holes that appear to be completely shredded. Your garden is the latest victim of snail damage.
Luckily, this damage is only temporary – if you address it quickly. We’ve compiled all the best tips and tricks not only for getting rid of snails in your garden, but also for preventing snails from returning in the future.
Slugs vs. Snails
Slugs and snails are quite different from other common garden pests, as you can see by their slimy appearance. These mollusks produce a slimy substance called mucus to allow themselves to move on the ground. This mucus helps them retain moisture when crossing dry surfaces and protects them from being cut by sharp objects they may come across.
Both slugs and snails are part of the same class called gastropods. Most gastropods live in water, with snails and slugs being the only ones that are also found on land.
The main difference between the two is that snails have shells while slugs don't. Since slugs have no shells, they can hide better than snails by fitting underneath logs, stones, or other debris on the ground. As a result, you’re probably more familiar with seeing snails since their shells are easy to see.
Identifying Snail Damage on Leaves
Snails seek out new, tender plant growth, making your developing garden a prime target for their feeding activity. While the damage they cause to tender growth is obvious, few people are aware that snails also eat plant roots, stems, and fruits.
Since snails are nocturnal and feed at night, you may not notice their presence in your garden until you see snail damage on plants. They're especially active early in the spring, when new growth is most vulnerable to their feeding
Snail damage is most obvious when large, ragged holes are seen on leaves. You also may see their mucus trails in your garden (hopefully before any major damage occurs).
Natural Snail Prevention
Before jumping to repellents and pesticides, start by making adjustments to practices in your garden to make it less inhabitable for slugs, snails, and other pests. Using Integrated Pest Management is the foundation of our lawn and ornamental pest control services because remedying the source of pest problems is the most effective way to make sure the problem doesn’t return.
How to Keep Snails out of Your Garden
- Create a Protective Barrier: Materials such as gravel, woodchips, and sand are difficult for snails to climb over, making for excellent protective barriers in and around your garden.
- Tend to Your Plants: Proper placement of plants in your garden and frequent trimming will remove many favored hiding places for slugs and snails.
- Remove Debris: Remove leaves, rotting wood, and other debris from your yard.
- Physically Remove Snails: This is an often overlooked method that’s as natural as you can get. Simply handpick snails from your plants when you see them.
- Remove Excess Moisture: If you keep your garden consistently moist, consider cutting back on irrigation and allowing your plants to dry out more often. This will also lower stress on your plants.
Natural Snail Repellents
In the battle against snails, there are many tools at your disposal. If you’re planning to eat the fruits and vegetables produced in your garden, chances are you'll prefer to use natural snail repellents to avoid using more traditional pesticides (although we’ll talk about safe snail baits soon). While natural products don’t last as long, they can get the job done if used properly and frequently.
Diatomaceous earth is known by many as a great non-toxic, food-grade pest control product that'll certainly kill snails and slugs. Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms – you can’t get any more natural than that!
This product causes insects, including snails, to dry out and die. However, the problem is it needs to be kept dry to be effective, so it doesn’t last long outside – especially during the rainy season.
Coffee is another natural snail repellent, although it is also temporary in nature. Coffee grounds can either be scattered on the ground around plants or sprinkled on plants, soil, and snails. If coffee doesn’t prove to be effective, at least you’ll have plenty left over to keep you awake in your snail fighting journey!
Eggshells - yes, there's a use for them. Many gardeners use eggshells as a physical barrier around their landscape to deter snails and slugs. The sharp edges of eggshells will be very uncomfortable if these pests try to cross over them.
Copper is another natural snail repellent that’s so effective that it’s sold in many plant nurseries. Applied as a tape around the perimeter of your garden, copper will repel snails and slugs by reacting with their mucus and shocking the snails.
Did you know there are plants that repel snails? Certain flowers and herbs are great for snail and slug prevention. These include flowers such as hibiscus, azaleas, daylilies, and foxglove, along with herbs such as rosemary, mint, parsley, fennel, and basil.
Beer traps are certainly a fun tool to incorporate into your anti-snail arsenal. Get inside the mind of your enemy and put these traps in hiding spots that snails would love to find.
Any container like a bucket or a tuna can be filled mostly with beer and placed in your garden. Snails are attracted to the yeasty smell and will drown when they fall into your trap.
Pesticides that are used against mollusks – which includes snails and slugs – are called molluscicides. Favorite baits in use by professional pest control services include the active ingredient metaldehyde.
While effective, metaldehyde is also toxic and should be used as a last resort against snails. A safer bait that we prefer to use in our clients’ gardens in the West Palm Beach area is Intice 10 (Boric Acid). This boric acid-based bait is also extremely effective when used in home pest control services.
Another popular bait is iron phosphate, often sold in garden centers and hardware stores. This bait causes snails to stop feeding, resulting in them starving to death. This product is approved for use in vegetable gardens and is non-toxic.
Lawn Pest Control In West Palm Beach
Most people agree that snails aren't a pretty sight - especially on your lawn where it's nice to just relax in the sun. If you start seeing snails in your yard, our comprehensive lawn pest control includes snails, as well as whiteflies, mole crickets, aphids, mealybugs, and more!
If you're looking for lawn pest control near you in West Palm Beach, we're ready to help. We can also come to the rescue if you're in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port St. Lucie, Tallahassee, or their surrounding areas.
If you have any questions about our pest control services, just give us a call today for a FREE quote!