A backyard infested with gastropods can be the cause of much angst for the novice gardener. But there are a number of solutions to rid these pests from your patch, says Frances Michaels.
As the co-owner of Green Harvest Organic Gardening Supplies, Michaels knows how to save plants from becoming dinner.
Here are her tips:
1. Take control of the snail harbours in your garden, Michaels says.
Snail harbours are the plants that snails hide among during the day or hibernate within during dry weather.
Popular plants are the Bird of Paradise and Agapanthus, because they offer protection against predators.
"I always warn people that you've got to be careful cleaning areas like that out," says Michaels, who's based in Queensland. "That's also where you're likely to find funnel-webs and, in my part of the world, snakes."
Snails also hide under compost heaps and piles of timber.
2. Once you have reduced the amount of snails in your garden, Michaels suggests using bait stations as a regular form of control.
Bait stations attract the pests to one spot, however they won't save seedlings if you have a big problem, she says.
As a passionate supporter of non-toxic products, Michaels backs Multiguard snail and slug pellets. The Australian product contains iron, which she says is an important soil micro-nutrient.
Organic baits also often claim to deter pets and wildlife due to their strong taste.
3. Some gardeners use copper to deter snails because, Michaels says, it is highly toxic to snails and if they try and cross it they get a reaction similar to an electric shock.
Some people make miniature snail fences out of copper and place them around the base of a plant.
Gardeners can also buy copper tape and create collars that can be placed around seedlings or under the rim of pot plants.
These copper products are, however, unlikely to work in wet subtropical and tropical regions, says Michaels.
4. Beer traps are another option and consist of pouring beer into a container that only a snail or slug can get into.
The pests are attracted to the smell of the yeast, and then fall into the beer and drown.
Michaels says sugar water is apparently more effective than beer, but adds that both traps need to be emptied regularly as once a dead slug decomposes the traps lose their appeal.
5. There are a number of materials that can also be sprinkled on the ground around the stem of a plant.
One is Diatomaceous Earth, a form of silica, also known as sharp sand. Snails can't easily cross it, Michaels says, because at a microscopic level it feels like razor blades.
Sawdust is effective because it irritates snails and slugs when they pick it up. Ash from home fireplaces works this way as well, while some gardeners swear by crushed egg shells.
All of these methods, says Michaels, only work if the weather is dry.
6. For families with young children, Michaels suggests the novel idea of an incentive scheme where parents pay five cents for every snail a child collects from the garden.
7. As for native biological controls, Michaels says there are not many.
Australia's most effective natural control, she says, are blue tongue lizards, which will eat them.
Leopard slugs are also predatory and will eat other slugs and snails, while chooks will be happy to add them to their diet.
By Jennifer Ennion