Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nip It In The Bud: early season slug & snail control

I try to avoid using pesticides in our garden, even organic pesticides (they are often chemicals after all). However when I decide that a problem warrants the use of a chemical control, I want it to be as effective as possible in the smallest dose. Using garden pesticides frugally is not only better for the environment, it is better for the pocketbook.

The biggest pest in our garden is snails; I have been battling them for the twelve years I've tended my Milwaukie garden. I've learned to not be squeamish about squishing them with my garden shoes, and have worked to keep the ground around the more susceptible plants, like hosta, free of fallen leaves and other slug and snail hiding places. According to the University of California's Integrated Pest Management Online website:

"All land slugs and snails are hermaphrodites, so all have the potential to lay eggs. Adult brown garden snails lay an average of 80 spherical, pearly white eggs at a time into a hole in the soil. They can lay eggs up to 6 times a year, and it takes about 2 years for snails to mature."

Yikes! That is why I need to use slug bait in addition to my squishing! The bait I prefer to use is one based on Iron Phosphate, it is reasonably safe for pets, and can be used in vegetable gardens. If you choose to use a Metaldehyde based bait use extreme caution, it is poisonous to dogs and children; and baits containing carbaryl can kill earthworms and other beneficial organisms. Whatever bait you choose to use, read the package thoroughly and follow the directions! Proper timing of the application is important, baiting in the late winter and early spring will kill off a lot of slugs and snails before they have a chance to reproduce! I start spreading bait as soon as the first spring bulbs bloom and continue baiting every two weeks until late May; after that I only apply bait if I see fresh damage. Read more about slug control here:

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