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Slugs, Snails, and Slime Trails

We’ve all been there. You wake up in the morning and take your morning cup-of-joe out into your garden, only to have your heart broken at the sight of your tender starts covered in slime and completely obliterated. You’ve had visitors.


Anyone who lives in the PNW knows that these gastropods are just a part of life. By understanding more about them, though, you can help mitigate the damage your crops suffer and save yourself a few gray hairs. North America has upwards of 500 native species of land snails, and one thing holds true for all of them—they’re alcoholics; and, hermaphrodites. And, they are absolutely crucial in the natural cycle of life in your garden. So, I guess that’s three. They also have slime trails that are as unique to them as fingerprints are to people, and can have as many as 400 or so hatchlings a year!


One way to work with these little critters is to distract them with companion plants you don’t care much about (or, plant more than you plan to harvest). Loose leaf lettuce, red clover, and lawn chamomile are all top choice menu items that will draw slugs and snails away from your other, more desirable crops, but nothing seems to work quite as well as beer. It can be any kind. Just, find an old bottle and bury it in your garden. Make sure there’s a way for these little beings to access the liquid inside, and they’ll happily fall into the golden pools of drunken self-destruction. If beer isn’t quite to your taste, you can try other natural ways of discouraging these visitors.


Diatomaceous Earth and Salt act much the same in the sense that they are both incredibly dehydrating to the gastropods. Diatomaceous Earth also goes a bit further to cause lacerations on their soft bodies, but both are easily washed away in the rain and will need reapplications often -- and salt is likely to damage your plants. Copper tape works really well, but can become costly quickly. If you’re lucky enough to have ducks, chickens, frogs, and toads, these little foragers will be happy to help you in your hunting. You can encourage these predators by incorporating shelters and building small habitats that will make them feel at home in your garden, but beware as poultry can become as much of a garden pest as the slugs and snails you’re eradicating.


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