Sandy’s Garden ... What Shall We Do With A Selfish Snailer?

What shall we do with a selfish snailer? / What shall we do with a selfish snailer? / What shall we do with a selfish snailer? / Early in the morning.

I read that a survey conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has revealed that 22% of gardeners in England get rid of snails by tossing them into their neighbours’ gardens! Do they not realise that the reasons that attracted the snails to their gardens in the first place will draw the rudely-evicted molluscs back to where they were before their expulsion? And, setting aside this reason for seeking a more permanent means of ridding themselves of these pests, do they not think that this is a very unneighbourly thing to do?

So here is some advice for selfish snailers which is also applicable to unselfish snailers searching for a means of ridding their gardens of these shelled nuisances by other than chemical means. First and foremost, snails actually prefer to eat decaying plant material rather than the soft, succulent tissue of the gardeners’ prized plants, so it is no more than common sense to deny them their favourite foods by clearing away all plant detritus. However, this is, at best, only a means of discouraging the little beggars. Equally, since snails lay their eggs in moist soil under stones, plant containers, or any sort of garden debris which will keep the eggs cool and damp, a debris-free garden with planters sitting atop clay feet to allow the breeze to keep the area below them ventilated and dry will further discourage them.

But, as most gardeners are only too well aware, these are only discouragements which many a determined snail will happily ignore. So what’s to be done … apart from flinging them over the fence, hurling them over the hedge or winging them over the wall? Well, the time-tested method is to harvest the little devils by hand, dropping the crop into soapy water in a container they can’t escape from … and they are quite accomplished climbers. Using tweezers to help in this boring task is recommended, for gloves are cumbersome and tweezers will serve equally well to prevent hands being befouled by unpleasant slime. Snails can, of course, be found during the hours of daylight: but many gardeners advocate performing this task after dusk, using a torch as a searchlight. Again, many snailers like to drop their prey into salt water, which kills the pests: but the salt water and the dead snails cannot be tipped out on to any part of the garden, for salt and plant life are not happy bedfellows. The usual method is to bag the bodies in a tied plastic bag and to consign this to the bin to be landfilled.

Some gardeners scrunch all caught snails underfoot, which has the advantage to the predator of the guaranteed death of the prey; and offers the prey a quick end. I have read that a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown that coffee is effective at repelling and killing snails and slugs … and that word ‘killing’ is the key word in the context of this advice. Apparently the gardener should either use a spray bottle to mist plants, leaves, soil and even the snails with cold coffee; or he (or she) can sprinkle coffee grounds around the base of the plants to offer protection from snails. And of course, the gardener may choose to encourage toads, frogs, robins, thrushes, ducks and chickens … all of which eat snails … to share the garden: but some of these alternatives may bring as many problems as they solve.

So what shall we do with a selfish snailer? Tie him (or her, for this is not a gender-specific solution) to a clothes pole with a hose-pipe on him, / Tie him to a clothes pole with a hose-pipe on him, / Tie him to a clothes pole with a hose-pipe on him, / Early in the morning!

Sandy Simpson