Snails: know your enemy

45, 46, 47…..48. Not bad for a night’s haul. Just returned from a moonlit sortie in the garden, protecting my poor helpless vegetables from the slimy bogeymen that would otherwise have them for dinner.

Slugs and snails are the biggest problem I have outdoors. Don’t be fooled by the pretty patterns on his shell or the twinkle in his eye, this little bugger and all his ilk are nothing but trouble.

Ever since I started veggie gardening slugs and snails have caused havoc, munching their way through tender seedlings and generally destroying everything. Not only that, but for the committed organic gardener the options for tackling them are pretty poor.

I’ve tried most things, all with minimal success. Beer traps? Messy and not too practical when you’ve got three small boys thundering round the garden. Eggshells? Pointless. Copper tape? Haven’t noticed any effect. Everyone seems to rave about nematodes, little microbes that attack slugs from the inside. Apparently they are staggeringly effective, but unfortunately I’m just too lazy and disorganised to apply them in just the right quantities at just the right times.

My raised beds have made a bit of a difference – perhaps the local slugs are just too lazy to crawl up and have a look at what’s growing. I surrounded them with woodchip, on the basis that it would be unpleasant to slither over. Thought it was working nicely until I found a whole family of slugs sleeping soundly just under the surface.

So that leaves the only thing that works: hunting them down with a torch at night. Catch them unawares, chase them down and…ahem…dispose of them. I won’t go into the details – hey, you might be eating – but trust me, it’s quick and painless.  It’s a bit gross sometimes, I admit, but it gets easier when you realise it’s them or you. Well, your salad leaves.

Damp nights are best, and if you pop out for a few nights in a row then you’ll soon notice the number of slugs and snails decreasing. Victory shall be ours!

Of course, it can get a bit messy, and it’s not for the squeamish. I was returning from a mission at the bottom of the garden last night when I heard a squishy crunch underfoot. Mixed feelings about that, I must confess: on the one hand I could consider another foe vanquished. On the other hand I was barefoot at the time.

On the ipod while cleaning between my toes: Squeeze / Pulling mussels from the shell. Sounds a bit hardcore but it might just work.