Although they are very small, they have a big appetite: slugs attack fruit and vegetable plants all year round. There are many helpful methods to combat them – but which one is the most effective?
Whether in lettuce, on cabbage, in strawberries or on ornamental plants: snails can be found wherever it blooms and thrives – much to the annoyance of many garden owners who were looking forward to a rich harvest. Once the slimy pests have made themselves comfortable in the vegetable patch, the feeding damage increases rapidly. Especially when it rains a lot in summer, slugs quickly become a real nuisance. But there are also plenty of other species in the garden. What many do not know: Not every snail causes damage, quite the opposite! “They eat decaying parts of plants and dead animals and are therefore a useful part of the community. They also decompose plant remains and thus help with the formation of humus,” explains the Naturschutzbund Deutschland e. V. Therefore, you should not fight all snails.
These snails are (not) welcome in the garden
On average, a snail can eat up to 200 square centimeters of leaves each night. To be more precise, it rasps the plants over a large area so that the next morning only their puncture marks and a shiny trail of slime indicate the attack – but not which snail did the damage. Therefore, you should not automatically hunt in all species, but only fight the animals that are targeting your fruit and vegetable patches.
So that you can better distinguish the snails from each other, only the species that are seen particularly frequently in German gardens are listed below:
As you can see from the list, there are primarily only two species of snails that will destroy your garden: the Spanish slug and the slug. In addition, the former is increasingly crowding out the native snails – and also has no real predators. “Because of its strong secretion of mucus, it is usually spurned even by hedgehogs or toads and is also comparatively less sensitive to drought,” the nature conservation association points out. Therefore, you should only fight the snails that harm your plants. And not those that feed on dead plant matter or can even help drive out the unwanted species.
Fighting snails: You should pay attention to this
1. Slug pellets So-called molluscicides, i.e. chemical pesticides, are a tried and tested remedy against snails. The pressed granules usually contain one of the two active ingredients: iron(III) phosphate or metaldehyde. The blue grains are scattered and eaten by the snails, causing them to die. However, environmentalists are not very enthusiastic about this control method, since the poisoned snails are also said to endanger other animals such as hedgehogs and birds. Whereby slug pellets with iron(III) phosphate have been approved as biological pesticides: After ingestion, the slugs crawl into their hiding places and die. And if the granulate is not touched for a certain period of time, it breaks down into its components.
2. Snail fence The snail fence does not require any chemicals at all. This is a simple metal fence that – according to TÜV – should be fixed at least 15 centimeters deep in the ground and at least ten centimeters high. The highlight of the fence, however, is its angled profile, which should not be able to be overcome by the snails. However, it is important that you manually collect all pests inside the fence so that they cannot attack the plants. For the same reason, the fencing must not come into contact with the beds. As an alternative to the snail fence, chains, wires or copper bands should be able to drive away snails.
3. Protection ring
According to the Nature Conservation Union, drought is the biggest enemy of snails: “An effective way is to spread a wide layer of sawdust and lime around the beds. Snails avoid rough surfaces and the lime burns their soles”. These protective rings are particularly suitable for highly endangered plants. However, the chips only work as long as it is not raining. And lime is not a permanent solution either, as it can negatively affect the pH value in the soil. Coarse sand, on the other hand, would be another way to keep the snails away from the plants.
The best home remedies for fighting snails
Beer: In fact, not only do many people like beer, but also snails. They are almost magically drawn to the barley juice, but then drown in the trap. It is important to know that no rainwater should get into the trap so that the liquid is not diluted. In addition, beer also attracts snails from the neighboring garden, so the trap must be set up at the border of the garden and not in the immediate vicinity of the next fruit or vegetable patch.
Coffee: The caffeinated powder is said to have a deadly effect on snails. It is simply scattered over the ground and can therefore also be used as a fertilizer. However, unlike other home remedies, coffee is not as promising a remedy for fighting snails. The scent only lasts for a short time and disappears at the latest with the next rain. It’s definitely worth a try, but you shouldn’t expect too much from it.
Salt: This home remedy is only listed for the sake of completeness, but should not necessarily be used as a first choice. Since salt draws moisture from the snails, the animals die slowly and painfully if they come into contact with it. For this reason, this rather outdated method is certainly not the best – from a moral point of view – and should only be used in extreme emergencies. But not better at all.
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