Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Several years ago I lucked into a 6’ in diameter tub from the recycling center. It’s about 30” tall and already had a hole in the bottom so it was the perfect bed to grow all different kinds of greens. Since it was to be a food source, I would be able to really monitor what went into the soil.
I began adding compost, wood chips, potting soil and every food scrap from my kitchen (no dairy or meat). This is the third year and I now have a foot of soil growing all types of spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce and collards. Mid-summer I noticed a vine trying to take over the bed. It was full of blooms so I let it grow.
Sure enough, it is some type of melon growing from food scraps. While trying to figure out what kind it is, I picked it up and the underneath was covered in snails who were eating into the melon.
So what to do about slugs and snails. There are commercial products on the market but since we will be eating the produce, I’m looking for another way. Here are some of the options I found.
*Pick them off. Yuk. Wear latex gloves and go to your garden an hour or two after the sun goes down or very early in the morning. Bring a flashlight. Check in any shady area – they like the dark. While you are there, check for eggs as well. They appear in clusters, are colorless and about the size of a BB. You can also make a vinegar solution (equal parts vinegar and water) and spray directly on the snail or slug.
*Pour cornmeal and in small piles around your garden. They eat it, it expands in their stomach and kills them. Another option is to put cornmeal in a jar and lay it on its side. They will crawl in and have their last meal.
*Diatomaceous Earth is a natural product that has find edges that the snails and slugs don’t like. If it rains, you will need to reapply. It is less effective when wet.
*Coffee grounds. They don’t like the smell and will stay away from it. It doesn’t kill them though and they may revisit. Bonus: Coffee grounds are good for your garden.
*Copper surfaces. They don’t like copper. Several sources said that it gives them a mild electric shock. If you don’t have copper pieces laying around your house, try throwing in some pennies.
It is important to take care of snails or slugs as soon as you see them. They are hermaphrodites (female and male) and lay eggs up to six times a year.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.