Native Gardener’s Corner—Members’ Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on many things related to gardening with natives.Answers listed in order received.

Our question for this Newsletter is:

“How do you control snails and slugs in your garden (and other chewing, slurping critters) or do you find the need?”

Ed Kimball - “I use decomposed granite for mulch and snails seem to avoid it.”

Nancy Harris - “Don't need to control as I think an opossum lives under our front deck and cleans up every night. Love the critters. Ducks will also eat snails, but they can be very messy if you get what I'm saying!”

Ron Vanderhoff - “I haven’t seen a snail or slug in years. I’m a big believer that where these fellows are a problem the garden is almost always being overwatered. I have a theory that water conservation and snail/slug counts have an inverse relationship.”

Laura Camp - “No snails or slugs in my garden since I planted natives and stopped watering!”

Deanna Epley - “In the early evening I dampened the soil and sprinkled a very sparse line of snail bait as a perimeter around plants I valued. I tried to sprinkle it where other critters were unlikely to blunder into it. After awhile the snail numbers lessened. Then at a Saturday talk at Roger's Gardens I heard that snails live for several years, so if you diligently hand pick them there will soon be no more - but keep an eye out for newcomers. (We had a friend with a pet goose and conversely no snails.)

Brad Jenkins - “In 1996 the yard had plenty of turf grass, agapanthus, calla lilies, Australian flax, and strawberries; as well as snails living in the moist, edible, safe habitat. As native plants increasingly filled the landscape, the yard became dryer, plant "skins" were tougher, lizards and birds began ground patrols, and the snails disappeared.”

Christiane Shannon - “Many years ago, I purchased some decollate snails which eat brown snails and they are still around in my yard; if there is an explosion of snails, I go out a few times, early in the morning after watering the yard, and pick many by hand. The other chewing, slurping insects are controlled by the fence lizards, birds, and native praying mantises. My yard is well balanced and those critters are not much of a problem.”

Bob Allen - “I have very few snails & slugs my garden, since my yard is 100% Cal natives, kept on the dry side. But slugs & snails are totally destructive; the garden snail is non-native, as are most slugs you find. I hand pick and throw them into the air over the street; crows pick them up and eat them. I do not control any other critters in my yard; the spiders, insects, lizards, and birds do that! Note: Those bright orange oleander aphids are also non-native and destructive [see page 60 of Wildflowers of Orange County]. When they appear on my milkweeds, I sit down and remove them with q-tips soaked in rubbing alcohol, being very careful not to touch the eggs, larvae, or pupae of monarch or queen butterflies.”

Lou Murray - “We had snails in our yard when we moved to our present house in 1988. I converted the yard to drought-tolerant landscaping, bought some predatory decollate snails, and haven't been bothered since. I did go out every morning and collect one coffee can after another of the slimy nuisances the first couple of years. Mechanical plus biological control did the job. Our yard is too dry for snails now.”

Chuck Wright - “Well, the snails are eaten by our non-native rats, opossums and perhaps native raccoons but they do not eat the slugs. For protecting herbs like basil for cooking I ring the plant with a 3 inch strip of copper, which seems to work but if the problem gets really bad i will squish a few and then put a piece of wood like a 1X6 over them. When their buddies come to feast the next morning I squish some more. Aargh.”

John Gossett - “I have not had snail or slug problems for a couple decades since I stopped growing vegetables. I used pie tins with beer back then, and it worked well enough for my purposes. I have had a couple minor infestations of spittle-bugs in the last few years. I used a hose and my fingers to wash off the cottony clouds and they did not come back.”

Barbara Eisenstein - “I rarely do anything about "pests" in the garden, though snails and slugs have been a problem. I pick off and squish any I see. I now accept the fact that depending on the rainfall pattern, many of the wildflower seedlings will be food for these garden molluscs. I have tried to make peace with all of the garden critters.”

Dan Songster - “I do have snail-attracting vegetables in one section of my yard, so I have tried iron phosphate (like in sluggo plus) on the perimeter of the garden, to catch the snails as they pass on their way in from the neighbors, but with limited success. I am starting to think that some of the predation I attributed to slugs and snails is due to pillbugs and other chewers.”

Sarah Jayne - “I never see snails or slugs, but their silvery slimey trails betray their guilt in the disappearance of every single baby lupine I’ve put out in my garden.”

Our Question for the Next Newsletter is: “What is your favorite native geophyte (bulbs, corms, tubers, etc)? Oh, and where did you get it?” Email your responses to Dan Songster at . Please remember to keep replies brief so we can include most of the responses!

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