A guest post from POWer Plants Community Nursery, check out their new blog here
One of the trickiest things we’ve had to learn to manage since we started the nursery is bugs. Nasty bugs!
There is nothing more devastating than watching a tray load of seedlings popping up only to have a caterpillar or snail cruise through and take out the lot.
Here at POWer Plants we have a completely organic approach so nuking them with toxic chemicals ain’t going to happen. So this means getting to know our bugs. Each bug needs a different strategy. In this series of posts I’m going to talk about some of them and how we keep them under control.
Evil buggers. One thing snails are very good at is breaking down waste and turning it into a fertiliser (read: poo). Sadly we haven’t figured out how to harness this power. So for now, snails are great in forests, terrible in vege patches.
One of the best ways to control snails is chickens. They’re very good at keeping the population down. So long as you keep your vege beds well fenced off or your chickens well supervised, a good few hours a week free ranging the chooks around your garden will keep the snails down. Snails are very good for chickens. They’re high in protein and calcium so they’re a good supplement for healthy eggs.
Of course there’s always one or two that sneak through. An established patch will handle the odd visitor but new seedlings will not, so it’s important to keep them safe. A great tip is to cut the bottom of an empty soft drink bottle and put it on top of your new seedlings. Not only does this keep your seedlings safe but the bottle will act as a mini greenhouse. Win! Once your seedling is getting a bit squished in there it’s time to take the bottle off. Your seedlings should be strong enough to survive a bit of a munch.
But the really effective strategy is getting out there at night and catching them!
I always say that Buddhism has a snail clause. There is something quite satisfying about the sound of a snail shell crunching under your gumboots! While you’re out there try and identify where they’re coming from. They will have a spot (or ten) where they sleep during the day so it’s always good to find those spots.
When we first started gardening we had a pretty serious snail problem but between us and the chickens and the kids they’re quite manageable.
The other great advantage of night hunting is getting to know your garden at night. They are quite different places when it’s dark and I find it useful to get a complete idea about the special joys my garden has to offer. And of course snails aren’t the only night critters. There’s other bugs that’ll get into your patch and do damage so it’s good to get to know what’s happening out there night and day, summer and winter.
There’s also a number of traps and repellents you can use. Snails like beer! So you can make beer traps for them. Although you then need to dispose of them which I find a bit smelly. You can keep them away with salt and chilli powder in your garden. Although this might not work very well if you live somewhere with a high rainfall. Be careful not to use too much.
Hopefully that answers some snail questions you might have. If you have any other snail taming tips to share please leave a comment below.