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Master Gardeners: Snails & Slugs


Published: April 7, 2017 • By: UCCE Colusa County Master Gardeners

Snails and slugs rank among our most despised garden pests. These mollusks emerge from hiding at night and chew holes in most plants. Slugs and snails are similar except slugs lack the external spiral shell. Management requires a vigilant and integrated approach that includes eliminating moisture and hiding spots, trapping, barriers, handpicking, and bait.

How do you know snails and slugs are causing damage?

• Many pests can cause holes in your plants. Look for the shiny, slimy trails slugs and snails leave behind.

What must I do to reduce snails and slugs?

• Remove their hiding places such as ivy, debris, or boards.

Regularly remove snails from shelters you cannot eliminate such as low ledges on fences, undersides of decks, and meter boxes.

• Place traps in your garden and dispose of trapped snails daily.

• Reduce moisture by changing to drip irrigation.

Consider snail proof plants such as impatiens, geraniums, begonias, lantana, nasturtium, and others with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage like sage, rosemary, and lavender.

I have to admit there are a lot of snails in my rosemary.

How can I manage snails and slugs without pesticides?

• Erect a copper barrier around the newly planted area, making sure there are no snails in the area. Use a 4 to 6-inch-wide band of copper, bury it an inch below the soil and bend over the top. The copper band can also be attached to a raised bed.

• Build a trap using a 12 X 15-inch board raised off the ground by 1-inch runners. As the snails collect under the board, scrape them off, and destroy them daily.

What about baits?

• Baits will not be very effective unless you also remove shelter, food, and moisture.

• Iron phosphate baits are safe for use around dogs, children, and wildlife. Read the label for animal safe baits!

— For more gardening information go to cecolusa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardeners.