Saturday, September 09, 2006

Snails


It rained last night! Not much, but enough to be refreshing. I spread a bit of slug bait and looked for snails to hand pick (and squish), but only found one!

When we first bought our house we had a terrible snail problem; our garden was like an escargot farm! A few days before we painted our house we washed the siding off with a pressure washer...That night we went outside and found one side of the house covered with snails, 100's of them...It was like a garden horror movie. There are still quite a few snails and slugs in the garden, especially in the front garden, but out eight year battle has paid off.

Our war against the snails started as a two prong attack...Bait and hand-picking; it now is a three prong attack...Bait, hand picking, and eating! No, the man of the house and I don't eat the snails, but Berry and Basil LOVE them, they don't even need garlic butter. Berry likes them fresh, while Basil prefers to eat the ones I have squished, he lets them sit for a few days until they turn into snail jerky. I think the dogs are the reason we have fewer snails in the back yard than in the front yard; maybe I should set up their exercise pen in the font bed and let them hunt away!

Dogs and slug/snail bait can be a bad combination, some slug baits are very poisonous to dogs and cats. Metaldehyde is the chemical to watch out for, it is very poisonous and dogs seem to really like the taste of the bait. Many of the newer formulations of Metaldehyde based baits have an added bittering agent to repel dogs...But I prefer to use a Iron Phosphate based bait like Sluggo . Sluggo is pet safe and it has another great feature: unlike the Metaldehyde based baits, slug that eat the Iron Phosphate baits go away and hide when they die, they don't crawl out and die on the patio. The University of California IPM on line site has lots of information on slug control.

I use the bait year round, but bait the heaviest in late winter and early spring when the cool wet weather makes the snails most active. I like to start baiting early in the year, hoping that I will get most of the snails & slugs before they start reproducing.

Hosta plantaginea

Hosta plants are a favorite of slugs and snails, however some Hosta are more susceptible to damage than others. There is one hosta in our front garden that looks like swiss cheese! I have given up on it, it will come out this fall. Hosta fortunei 'Francee' has done fairly well with only moderate damage. The best of all is Hosta plantaginea, it has no damage, is thriving in both sun and shade, and has huge fragrant white flowers; definitely a keeper!

1 comment:

Cory Wallis said...

Great information about the slug bait. I'm really careful when I put it out... and you right... they kill dogs.

Anyway, you bring up a good point about using iron phosurus rather than metaldehyde. I know more and more companies are adding a bittering agent. And now, you can even find a diy bittering agent kit. I don't know too much about it, but if it works, it would be pretty cool. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post the site, but you may know more about it. www.diybitterkit.blogspot.com

Thanks again for a really good article on snail bait. I think I'll stick with Sluggo too!

Cory