vegetable patch management
pest control
DEFEND - snails A
This section looks at how to defend your vegetables against slugs and snails without having to resort to heavy chemical artillery.

The simplest method of getting rid of large slugs and snails is to go out into your garden at night with a torch and remove them by hand.  Going out for two or three evenings in mid Spring for a half hour hunt can make a very large dent in your gastropod population. It is especially useful to do this just when seeds that are sensitive to slugs and snails are sprouting.

Some people kill them by putting them in salty water but I find it easier to collect them in a tin then empty them onto a hard flat surface and squash them with a brick or the heal of my boot.  If you have chickens the slugs and snails can be kept overnight in a jar and fed to them in the morning.  But I have found that my chickens do not like it if you feed them too many at once, so only do this if you have collected a small number.

By hand removing slugs and snails not only will you be able to get rid of large numbers of these pests quickly you will be able to work out where the biggest concentrations of them are coming from, so you can target those areas with other pest control methods.

The down side of hand collecting slugs and snails is that it is not a good idea to do this if you suffer from back problems, as it involves a lot of stooping. You also have to have reasonable eyesight as, even with a torch, they can be difficult to see at night.

Photo of purpose built slug and snail cover trap.
Purpose built slug and snail cover trap.
Many large slugs and snails travel into your vegetable patch to feed at night, returning to nearby cover during the day to hide until the next evening. If you place objects, such as pieces of old timber or damp Hessian bags, on the edges of your vegetable patch then a percentage of these travelling slugs and snails will end up under these objects during the day. All you have to do is occasionally lift up the timber or Hessian and remove any slugs and snails that are hiding under them.

Lifting these objects, which I describe as cover traps, only has to be done once or twice a week. This is because slugs and snails appear to return to the same spot each night once they recognize it as a safe hiding spot that is close to food.  To encourage them to hide under your cover trap water it regularly to keep it quite damp.

Illustrations of snails travelling to vegetable patch
Large slugs and snails often hide in nearby cover during the day and venture out onto your vegetable patch to feed at night, returning to their hiding places at the end of the night.
Illustration of snail cover trap
By placing a snail cover trap between your vegetable patch and nearby cover at least some of the snails will end up hiding underneath it.