Protecting your Plants from Slugs and Snails

Protecting your plants from Slugs and Snails

For many gardeners, the slug and snail population seemed to explode last year, with many fraught and distressed gardeners asking for my advice on the best way to protect their plants from slugs and snails.  I am strongly opposed to slug pellets.  I wouldn’t wish to kill any of the slugs or snails in my garden, as I believe a healthy eco system is important.

Snail shells are very beautiful. I don’t kill any of the slugs or snails in my garden.

I decided to trial a number of natural remedies, none of which would kill the slugs or snails they encountered, but instead would hopefully deter the molluscs from eating the plant they were protecting.  I ran my trial for a number of weeks at a time, repeating the same trial every few weeks throughout the spring and summer.  I trialled the following natural remedies: ash, garlic granules, garlic wash, eggshells, human hair, sawdust, sharp grit, sand, and soot, with lettuces as my trial plant.  I also included a ‘control’ plant in each trial, which received no protection whatsoever from slugs or snails.

A slug happily eating one of the lettuces during my 2016 Slug and Snail Trial.

The remedies were used as a barrier around the plant they were protecting; I sprinkled a circular band of each remedy onto the soil around each plant, except in the case of the garlic wash, which was watered onto the lettuces it was protecting.

Here are the results from my 2016 Slug and Snail Trial.

Three of my slug and snail deterrents provided a 100% secure plant protection, with not one plant grown within their barrier receiving as much as a nibble throughout the spring and summer, these fantastic slug and snail deterrents were ash, sawdust, and soot.

A brown garden snail.

In second place, were the barriers created with human hair and sand, where 75% of the lettuce plants survived intact.  Eggshells were slightly less effective with 67% of the lettuce plants surviving.  Garlic granules were in fourth place, protecting 58% of their lettuce plants.  In fifth place, was the ‘control’ lettuce, which received no protection, 50% of these lettuces survived.  In sixth place were sharp grit and garlic wash, 42% of the lettuce plants they were protecting survived.

Here is another pretty white-lipped snail, it’s scientific name is Cepaea hortensis.

I hope these results will help you to protect any special plants or seedlings from slugs and snails this year.  I simply sprinkled a barrier of the ash, sawdust, and soot onto the soil around each of my plants.  Naturally the barrier will need to be reapplied every week or two, or more frequently in adverse weather conditions, but happily I can report that the ash, sawdust and soot lasted the longest before a repeat application was required, as well as being the most effective plant protectors in my trial.

A slug happily eating one of my lettuces during my 2016 Slug and Snail Trial.

This is a pretty white-lipped snail, it’s scientific name is Cepaea hortensis.

Nematodes are a natural predator of snails and slugs.  To find out more about using nematodes as a biological control, a natural method for controlling slugs and snails, please click here.

March gardening ideas

Here are some ideas of what you could do in the garden during March:

If you’ve got an old, and maybe rather neglected, Buddleja davidii specimen, then start to rejuvenate your plant now by removing any old dead wood and cutting it back hard.  If you don’t prune, your Buddleja will still flower, but the plant will be much taller and it will look rather tatty too.  So get your loppers out and maybe a saw as well!

Ornamental grasses and roses also need pruning this month.  Remove any old dead leaves still attached to your rose plants, as well as any rose leaves that are lurking around in the soil.  Then feed your roses with a specially designed rose feed, and mulch with compost or well-rotted manure.

Prune group three clematis now: these clematis flower in late summer on this season’s growth. Cut back the old stems to the lowest healthy pair of buds about 15-30cm (6in-1ft) above soil level.

This article was first published in the March 2017 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

You might be interested to read this article I wrote about using nematodes to control slugs and snails.

Further Trials

You may be interested in some of the other trials I have conducted.

Compost Trial Reports

To see all of my Compost Trials, please click here.

To read advice on planting up containers, please click here.

Scented Daffodil Trial Reports

To see the results of my 2018 Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2018 Scented Daffodil Container Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2017 Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

Sweet Pea Trial Reports

To read the results of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2016 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2015 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

Terrarium, Vivarium, and Orchidarium Trials

To see how my Orchidarium was created, please click here.

To see the design of my Rainforest Terrarium, please click here.

To read the first part of my White Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To see a planting list of ferns, orchids, and other plants that are perfectly suited to growing inside terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.

To read about the general care I give to my orchids and terrarium plants, and the general maintenance I give to my BiOrbAir terrariums, please click here.

To read how I track the temperature, humidity, and light conditions inside my terrariums, please click here.

Tomato Trials

To read about my Trial of New Tomato Varieties, please click here.

Vegetable Trials

To see all of my Vegetable Trials, please click here.

Other articles that may interest you…………..

To read about daffodils, please click here.

For information about how you can help hedgehogs, please click here.

For information about using daffodils as cut flowers, please click here.

To read about winter flowering plants, please click here.

To find out about the top twenty shortlisted plants, including the finalists and winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year Competition, please click here.

To find out about the Festival of Roses at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, and see the winner of the Rose of the Year Competition, please click here.

For information on how you can save money gardening, please click here.

Other articles you might like:

One thought on “Protecting your Plants from Slugs and Snails

  1. Sinan

    April 18, 2020 at 8:16am

    Great work against snails! One question though: Will not a mixture of ash, soot and sawdust become ineffective as soon as it rains? How did you manage this solution with the rain factor?

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      April 18, 2020 at 10:17am

      Hello Sinan

      I find that the garlic wash becomes ineffective once it rains – it’s washed off by even the smallest of rain showers. But I found the ash and soot lasted incredibly well, even through periods of rain and inclement weather. This was quite an exhaustive Trial – I started my Slug and Snail Trial in early spring and I continued repeating the Trial over and over throughout the spring and summer, adding new plants at regular intervals.

      I hope this answers your question and I hope this message finds you safe and well.

      Best wishes
      Beth

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Sue King

    July 12, 2020 at 10:21am

    Hello Beth

    I’m very excited to have read your report just now and am dying to give your advice a try in my garden!

    I’ve just mentioned the stuff you recommended to my husband. He says I can go and help myself to sawdust from his workshop floor any time I like, but, regarding ash, he asks whether it matters whether it is wood ash or ash from anthracite. (Sadly, environmentally speaking, for practical reasons specific to the circumstances of one stove here, we have to burn anthracite on it.) We sometimes have wood ash and will have more when we have installed a new wood burner stove, but we have a steady supply of anthracite ash.

    But I’ll have a go with sawdust today!

    Thanks so much for taking the considerable trouble of doing a carefully controlled trial!

    Sue

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      July 12, 2020 at 10:34am

      Hello Sue

      Thank you for your message – you’ve made my day – I’m so glad that you’re giving my recommendations I try. I wouldn’t recommend using anthracite ash – I only recommend wood ash.

      I hope you’ll find a new and effective way to protect your young seedlings from slugs and snails. I run Indoor Trials and Outdoor Trials – I have a new Compost Trial publishing in the next few weeks – I’m just gathering the final set of results.

      Best wishes
      Beth

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  3. Sue King

    July 12, 2020 at 11:15am

    Thank you so much for getting back to me quickly.

    I’m not surprised by what you say about anthracite ash – it’s always good to KNOW things!

    I’m really looking forward to hearing about your compost trials too.

    Best wishes

    Sue

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  4. Cecelia John

    July 12, 2020 at 12:54pm

    Hello Beth, have you tried, or would you consider trying, coffee grounds? Waitrose lets you have its waste coffee grounds for free (when the free coffee station isn’t closed because of COVID-19, gaaaaaah) and we always have a pot’s worth every day here at home…haven’t tried it myself yet but it would be interesting to see a proper trialler giving it a go!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      July 13, 2020 at 6:58pm

      Hello Cecelia

      Thank you for your lovely suggestion. I’ve heard mixed reviews on how effective coffee grounds are but I’ve not trialled them in a long-term slug and snail trial, as yet. I’m in the midst of some Compost Trials at the moment but I will be doing more Slug and Snail Trials in future – although the ideas in this Slug and Snail Trial were so effective.

      I hope you have a great summer!

      Best wishes
      Beth

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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