Snails in the vegetable patch are really annoying: they sometimes damage the crop so badly that it can no longer be used. With ten tricks you can quickly get rid of the pests.

The biggest pests among the more than 300 snail species in Germany are the common snail, the netted field snail and, above all, the Spanish snail. This pest is responsible for almost 90 percent of damage to plants and beds. Because of its high mucus content, the Spanish variant also has hardly any natural enemies.

Slugs in particular can often cause tremendous damage to the garden in just one night. They attack entire vegetable beds and young flower plants mercilessly, leaving behind not only slimy traces but also serious damage.

When it comes to garden pest control, no one method has proven to be the best. Households achieve the best result by combining several measures.

Natural control agents are preferably used, such as collecting the snails from the vegetable patch yourself. It’s best to lay out damp lettuce or rhubarb leaves as traps in the evening.

It is best to place lettuce leaves under a wet bag as snail traps. Alternatively, wet boards have also proven to be effective as bait traps. At night, the snails seek shelter in cool, damp places and gather at the traps laid out. In the morning you can collect up to 30 snails from the leaf traps or boards.

Other popular hiding places for snails include piles of leaves, grass clippings, dead wood, damp and dark places under pots and other objects. After collecting the snails, it is best to dispose of them in a remote park or forest.

Normally, slugs are also a food source for animals such as hedgehogs, toads, slowworms and birds. However, the Spanish slug’s high mucus content can cause these animals to suffocate. Only the tiger slug from the snail family eats the eggs of the Spanish slug and can be considered a natural enemy.

Another remedy against snail damage: the right selection of garden plants. Because there are plants that even snails avoid. Savory (picture) or chamomile form a natural protection around flower beds as edge plants. Also unpopular: the hard leaves of the fat hen as well as bitter and prickly plants such as geranium, peony or monkshood.

Garlic, onions and Mediterranean herbs also have an unappetizing effect on snails. Lavender, rosemary, nasturtium and thyme have proven to be ideal snail repellents. The intensely fragrant thyme in particular can be planted around the vegetable patch and works very well against snails. Basil, on the other hand, tastes particularly good to pests.

The location is also particularly important. An open and sunny place for vegetable beds not only helps plants thrive, but also protects against snails. These should be planted far away from compost and tall grass. The soil around the plants should also be kept finely crumbly and dry to make access more difficult for slimy snails.

To keep the soil around the beds dry, a wide strip of quicklime, sawdust, stone dust or ash can also help. Due to their dehumidifying effect, these substances act as natural inhibitors against snails.

Crushed eggshells and coffee grounds are also natural and effective means of repelling snails very well. Coffee grounds in particular are an ideal means of defense because caffeine acts like a neurotoxin on snails and is even fatal in high concentrations. Coffee should be sprinkled over large areas for effective benefit. Plus point: the powder also acts as a very good fertilizer for plants. Coffee beans can also be sprayed on the leaves as a tincture against snail infestation.

Professional snail fences made of plastic or copper sheet are also available, which are placed around beds or individual garden plants. The plastic fences are bent at a certain angle to act as an insurmountable barrier for snails. The protective fences made of copper, however, work for a different reason:

Fences, chains and wires made of copper are poisonous to snails. The snail slime reacts toxically with the metal and automatically repels the animals when it comes into contact with it. When installing fences, regardless of the material, the depth is very important. The fences must be at least ten centimeters deep in the ground so that snails cannot crawl underneath.

Another protection: copper tape. Self-adhesive copper tape can be attached around pots or on raised beds as an additional barrier for snails. Pots and planters can also be coated with a special protective coating (“Schnexagon”). Because snails cannot stay on the smooth, vertical surface with the paint.

Another ecological defense: wood or sheep’s wool as a protective border around garden beds. The natural material absorbs the snails’ slime and prevents the snails from reaching the plants at all. It’s best to collect the slugs the next morning and release them in other open areas.

Many gardeners use beer traps to combat snail infestations. To do this, fill coasters or other deep containers with beer and distribute them around the garden. The snails are attracted to the smell of beer and drown in the trap. But this method has a catch: unfortunately, it often not only attracts snails from your own garden, but also more pests from neighboring gardens.

As a precautionary measure, you can prevent snail infestation next summer by destroying snail eggs in the fall. In late summer, each snail lays up to 400 eggs in popular places: under the rain barrel, plant pots or in cracks in the ground. It is important to comb these places in autumn and destroy the eggs in order to prevent the plague in summer.

With a large garden you can also keep ducks and chickens as natural snail killers. Of course, species-appropriate accommodation is required. Above all, these animals’ keen sense of smell helps them to locate slugs in their hiding places. They are then washed in water before consumption, otherwise young animals in particular could choke on the mucus.

Nematodes are expensive and time-consuming. These nematodes destroy snails with toxic bacteria. But the effect has not been fully proven for the Spanish slug. The spray water containing nematodes must not get on edible plant parts and washing your hands thoroughly after use is a must, especially for people with a weak immune system.

Last resort: slug pellets as a chemical agent against slugs. However, you should definitely check the ingredients beforehand. Only products based on iron phosphate are permitted in organic farming and are harmless to other animals such as hedgehogs, birds and cats. The grain is scattered over a large area and kills snails after just a few days.

The original for this article “How to protect your garden from the snail plague” comes from Teleschau.