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All You Ever Wanted to Know About Snails and Slugs But

Were Afraid to Ask
by Jean Gallagher
by Jean Gallagher

Jean is a mother, grandmother, dog lover and the Publisher of a resource for the avid gardener who owns, or is in the market for a home greenhouse.

She also studied all forms of botany at Syracuse University in the dark ages.

Having owned her own greenhouses in climates both temperate and extreme, Jean's goal is to help other gardeners analyze their gardening needs before they buy.

June 12, 2011



Snails run rampant in many parts of the country. They like moisture, so beware if you live in a moisture laden area of the country. Even in relatively dry areas like southern California, snails and slugs abound, venturing out with the morning dew.

Have you ever planted basil and watched it thrive, only to suddenly find the delicate and tasty leaves have turned into Swiss cheese? Those little fat crawlers come out when your back is turned. That trail of shiny slime left behind is not just ugly - it is a sign for every other snail in the neighborhood to follow to the feast.

When you attempt to track them down, they have already returned to their little hideaways to make thousands of babies. To make matters worse, this happens several times a year! These babies hatch in 10-20 days, and come out starving! Voracious eaters, they can be full grown and making their own babies within 6 weeks.

If you see their eggs – they look like clusters, little piles of whitish jelly-filled BB sized balls. Grab your salt shaker immediately and give them a good shake. It will destroy them before they hatch.

Snails and slugs can live for several years, and each year they grow larger. As they eat, they grow, so the faster you destroy them, the better.

Gardening in greenhouse structures of any type will definitely cut down on these slimy visitors. In a vegetable greenhouse they are especially abhorrent. Sneaking in when you're  not looking, they will lay their eggs inside. If you see that shiny trail, go on the hunt! Be merciless. Look under leaves, under pots, anywhere moisture collects. Of course in greenhouses there is usually moisture everywhere.

There are several weapons you can use.

  • Broken eggshells. The sharp edges will kill the slugs and the calcium is good for your plants.
  • Oat bran will kill them when they eat it.
  • The old beer in a bowl still works like a charm. Slugs are beer drinkers, but they are not too bright and will drown.
  • Certain herbs repel snails and slugs. If used in abundance in your greenhouse, the slugs will head outside. Rosemary, lemon balm, mint, lavender and thyme will send them on their way.

You can use commercial slug killers but they are poisonous. If you keep on top of the problem, you will never have to resort to poisons. In the confines of a greenhouse, herbs will usually do the trick. If you get a serious infestation and need drastic measures, use the eggshells, oat bran and beer in conjunction with the herbs. If you come at them with all the non-toxic ammunition at your disposal, you can avoid ever using poison.

I personally like to stomp on them, but that's too disgusting for some.

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