Justin Newcombe uses his soft side to come up with humane ways to get rid of munching molluscs.
If you believe in the Christian tradition then you'll be aware that the kauri snail walked all the way from Iran, where Noah parked his ark, to Dargaville. I often think about this fact when I'm faced with those pesky snails in my garden, but putting logic aside for a moment, I can't help but feel a little tinge of sadness at the imminent death of the humble critters.
These amazing little creatures have evolved into garbage disposal experts chomping and munching through tonnes of garden waste. However they don't seem to be too concerned if they pave a trail of destruction through the vege garden too, especially when the plants are young.
Although it pains me to say so, death is one of those necessary evils we gardeners face every day. I cannot avoid the simple fact, it's them or me (well, my garden at least). Slugs and snails must die; now it's just a matter of how. I personally have a bit of a problem with foaming them to death a-la slug pellets. This seems a little barbaric, long-winded and unnecessary. So here are a few techniques I've used and developed that are just as effective and give you the opportunity to remove your snail problem humanely.
Once you've caught all these slugs and snails you'll want to get rid of them. We give ours to the chooks who peck them to death. Some people throw them over the fence and other people throw them back, some take them for a drive into the countryside a-la tag and release. And some people farm them in cages as some sort of weird culinary experiment (not naming anyone in particular).
Number 1: Slug trap
As deaths go, this seems like a pretty good way to go really - the snail falls into a pool of beer and drinks itself to death. Place a shallow dish in the garden so the brim is level with the soil's surface. Sprinkle granulated yeast around the dish as a little teaser then fill the dish with beer. I also have a little roof over this one to keep the rain off - this means the beer will last longer. Take a piece of plastic, roofing iron or other covering and attach it to the ground. I used a piece of miniature corrugated iron and drilled a hole in each corner. I threaded split bamboo through the holes then pegged the ends of the bamboo into the ground to secure the roof. Just make sure you leave good access for your prey.
Number 2: Slug tarp
This is a great method to put in place before you plant. Place a tarp or polythene sheet near or over a snail infestation at night. The slugs and snails will hibernate under the sheet and you can go collect them in the morning. After about a week of this even the most infested gardens will become plant friendly once again.
Number 3: Bucket
Have you ever noticed slugs and snails hide under rocks during the day? If you keep a few upturned buckets near your freshly planted seedlings you will attract a lot of problem slugs and snails overnight and just like the slug tarp, you can collect them in the morning. This is a good preventive method as you can have upturned buckets and pots around and check them regularly.
Number 4: Bird netting
My wife introduced me to this one, so of course I'll tell you it works well. We use it for protecting young seedlings. Simply wrap a ring of scrunched up bird netting around your young plants. Make sure there is no break in the netting, and it will tangle the little critters before they can get near your newest additions.