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HOMEGROWN – Clearing the garden of snails and slugs

Suzanne Griffith

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One of the most common questions that I am asked in regard to dealing with pests in the garden is “What is the best, and safest, way to deal with the slugs and snails that are ravaging my plants?” In a balanced ecosystem, land snails and slugs are dues-paying members of the food chain. They feed upon decaying matter and are in turn a food source for amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals. An ecosystem entirely devoid of these creatures, as with any other member of the food chain, is likely not in balance. Unfortunately, as most Barbadians are aware, the balance has been tipped; with land snails and slugs preying upon leafy crops, such as lettuce, rapidly wreaking significant damage. For the kitchen gardener it is in no uncertain terms feasible to utilise snail or slug bait in or around areas planted with herbs or vegetables. These baits, in addition to eradicating the unwanted mollusks, are also poisonous to domestic pets, people, and beneficial insects in your garden, such as earthworms. Perhaps most importantly, if bait is used near edible plantings its chemicals will leech into the soil, and be absorbed by the roots of the plant, rendering the plant laden with toxins and certainly inedible.Here are some alternative strategies for dealing with these creatures in the kitchen garden:Collection is the natural first line of defence, snails and slugs are most active at night. There are many strategies, as well local resources, for responsibly disposing of the slugs and especially the snails.  Intercrop or companion plant naturally repellant plants; snails and slugs don’t particularly like pungent herbs with leathery leaves, such as broad leaf thyme, sage or rosemary. They thrive in moist, damp areas; to that end water in a focused manner in the mornings leaving the top most layer of soil dry throughout the day. “Draw a line in the sand.” With their soft bodies snails and slugs don’t like to traverse rough materials. Create a border around their favourite plants with sand, eggshells, gravel, shredded bark, leaves, or thorny branches. Refrain from using salt as it can do more harm than good especially to delicate plant roots.Set a trap. In the evening place a banana peel in the garden, snails and slugs will be attracted to the sugar. In the morning collect the peel and responsibly dispose of those [email protected]