Slugs aren’t just snails without shells but are different types of animals that are closely related to each other. They are both mollusks and are found worldwide, and have earned quite a reputation for the damage that they can do to vegetable gardens.
Slugs and snails can damage a large amount of foliage overnight, leaving irregular-shaped holes in the leaves, and can even completely devour vegetable plant leaves. Older plants are usually able to recover from this damage but younger plants and seedlings can be severely affected.
Slugs and snails increase soil health
Despite the damage that they can do to vegetable gardens, slugs and snails are beneficial for soil health and participate in nutrient cycling. In addition, not all species of slugs and snails feed on living plants. Some only feed on fungi and decomposing organic matter, while others are predators of other snails.
Snails and slugs that feed on decomposing organic matter speed up decomposition by breaking down the matter into smaller bits, participating in nutrient cycling. All snails and slugs produce slime to help with their movement, and this slime can bind soil particles together. Snails and slugs can also increase air exchange with the soil and create tunnels for water and nutrients to flow through by moving inside the soil.
Keeping slugs and snails out of your vegetable garden
Both snails and slugs are very vulnerable to dry and warm conditions, so they are most active at night and when the garden is wet. This means that slugs and snails are more likely to become a problem after rains or if you live in a wetter part of the world.
Water your vegetable garden in the morning
Watering your vegetable plants in the evening can also help attract slugs and snails, so you should try to avoid this as much as possible. The best time to water your vegetable garden is early in the morning. Watering your garden early in the morning will help your plants make the best use of the water and protect your plants from other diseases and pests as well.
Avoid adding mulch
Mulching is very beneficial to a vegetable garden but it can also help attract snails and slugs to your vegetable garden. You may need to stop mulching your vegetable garden during the rainy season to control slugs and snails. In addition, you may also want to avoid adding mulch around shorter leafy vegetable plants, such as lettuce.
You may even need to completely stop mulching if you live in a wetter part of the world where snails and slugs are a big problem all year round. For example, Charles Dowding, who grows organic vegetables in the UK and is the creator of the ‘no-dig’ gardening method, in an interview with Joe Gardener, said that he doesn’t mulch other than during the first year of a garden due to slugs but instead amends his soil with compost every year.
Snails and slugs really don’t like to crawl over copper, which is thought to be due to a chemical reaction that happens if they do. This makes copper metal ideal material for creating snail-resistant covers for your vegetable garden. You can simply cut and make rings from copper foil and add them to the rim of your pots. You can add install copper foil and copper mesh around your vegetable garden beds so that snails and slugs won’t be able to come near your plants.
Garlic spray is a safe, non-toxic, and homemade form of pest control that can help keep snails and slugs out of the vegetable garden. Some say that garlic spray can kill snails and slugs, while others that they just temporarily deter them away. The outcome would surely depend on the type of slug or snail in question but since garlic would in no way harm your plants, it’s definitely worth a try. You can also try planting garlic around plants, such as leafy vegetables, that are more likely to be affected by snails and slugs.
Crushed eggshells or seashells
Crushed eggshells or seashells are also thought to repel snails and slugs because they don’t like crawling over them. This works in some gardeners but not all gardens. It is worth giving a try though because if it doesn’t work you’ll just be adding more calcium and other nutrients into your soil.
Getting rid of slugs and snails
If you find yourself with more snails and slugs in the garden than you can handle, you may want to get rid of at least some of them.
Avoid using anything harmful to you or your vegetable garden
Don’t use slug and snail pellets
Slug and snail pellets are readily available on the market but these aren’t suitable for your vegetable garden. These pellets contain poisons that can make pests and children very sick if they come into contact with them. Other beneficial wildlife, such as birds, frogs, and toads could also be poisoned if they eat slugs and snails that have already eaten the pellets.
In addition, vegetables that are grown near these pellets may have toxins on them, which would make growing your own vegetables to have access to chemical-free food quite useless. Some pellets are labeled as organic garden-friendly but these also contain harsh chemicals. The toxins that they have maybe less toxic but are still toxic and should be avoided.
Don’t use salt
Pouring salt on snails and slugs is a time-tested and effective method of killing them. This method may be useful in built-up areas but pouring salt all over your garden may do more damage than any mollusk ever could.
Don’t use vinegar
Vinegar has also been suggested to be able to kill snails and slugs, but vinegar is not suitable for use in a vegetable garden. Vinegar can burn your plants, making them more likely to be affected by other pests and diseases.
Use organic methods of getting rid of snails and slugs
Many gardeners have found beer traps to be an ideal and safe way of getting rid of slugs and snails. To create a beer trap, you can simply place a little bit of beer in a small container either at ground level or below ground level, near your vegetable plants. Apparently, snails and slugs like beer! They will be attracted to the beer and will eventually fall into it and drown.
Encourage natural predators
Another easy way of keeping snail and slug populations under control is to encourage animals that eat them into your garden. The best way to do this is to use only purely organic and natural ways of pest control and nutrients in your vegetable garden.
As you can see, slugs and snails are an important component of a healthy vegetable garden because they increase soil health and are food for larger beneficial animals. Despite this, they can easily become pests.
Keeping populations of snails and slugs under control and keeping them away from your vegetable plants as much as possible is the best way to enjoy the benefits that they provide while keeping your vegetable plants safe.
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