Growing your own vegetables is very rewarding. That is, until the pests come calling. One of the most aggravating banes to the vegetable gardener is the slugs and snails. They appear, usually at night when you’re sleeping and unable to pluck them away, and nibble away at all your precious seedlings and plants. The appearance of holes in the middle of leaves is a pointed clue to a snail problem. Those silvery slime trails over leaves and soil may look pretty and sparkly in the sun, but are a death sentence for your tender young plants. The pests will continue until there are no leaves left to sustain the life of the plant.
How many plants I’ve lost to these pests is frustrating. Not only is the problem a time-wasting nuisance, it becomes costly replacing those ruined plants. As a beginner gardener, the battle with pests in my garden almost made me want to abandon the idea. However, with a little maintenance and care, these ravenous pests will not be such an issue.
First, it is important to remove as many hiding places for them as possible. That means keeping grass short and taking away any buckets or debris under which they can shelter. Keep other plants trimmed back from the garden as any greenery will be a haven for slugs and snails.
Next you will need to employ some method of pest control. There are numerous products available on the market for just such a problem. Slug and snail bait will attract the pests, and reduce their snacking on your plants.
The key things to look at when using slug and snail bait are:
Check it is safe.
Ideally you want a product that is safe for children, birds, pets, and beneficial insect life. Most brands employ a bitter agent in their pellets, making them unappetising for anything except the intended targets. It is still possible for poisoning to occur, so compare labeling for the best possible choice.
Choose a product that is beneficial for the garden.
Some varieties will feed the plants in the garden once they begin to break down. Others may not break down or only provide negligible nutrients back into the soil.
Use at the right time.
Slugs and snails will come out after rain or watering, so it is important to place pellets in place after these events for maximum effect. Older pellets will not be as successful once they become soggy, so a fresh application is required.
Choose carefully where to apply the bait.
If there is concern over possible poisoning of pets or children, place it in areas where there is less chance of accidental, or curious, ingestion. This may require rigging a pet-proof cover or cage. Placing the bait concealed underneath larger leaves will help also.
The ingredients in the pellets will poison waterways and ponds. They also might contaminate the edible portions of vegetables if placed on them. Always wash hands thoroughly after applying them to the garden.
Failing this, there are alternative methods of control. Salt, sawdust, crushed egg shell, and beer may all be used with varying degrees of success.