Natural Garden Snail Elimination without Chemicals or Traps Review — Does it Work?

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves

The Garden Snail is a common pest in many parts of the world.  It can cause great destruction to flower and vegetable gardens, much to the dismay of gardeners everywhere.  There are plenty of poisons available, but many are not safe to use around kids, or pets, or on edible plants.  Is it possible to eliminate garden snails naturally, without chemicals or traps?  Can it be done by manual extraction alone?

The Good

  • Better for the earth – less nasty pesticides being introduced to the environment
  • Better for you – chemical free elimination is safe for you, kids, and pets
  • Saves money – snails can be eliminated with what you have at home – no expensive pesticide purchase or other special equipment is necessary
  • Saves time long-term – with one, or two rounds of this elimination strategy, you can have a snail free garden for up to a year
  • So easy even a child can do it – my three year old has been a willing snail extractor

The Bad

  • Takes upfront time – but a few hours work now is worth a snail free growing season
  • You must be willing to touch snails to eliminate them naturally

My Experience
Last spring we moved out of our Los Angeles apartment and into a sweet little single family home.  Our house has lots of beds for planting flowers and vegetables.  I was very excited about all the new things I could teach my toddler while working out in the yard, planting and weeding.  There were many new things to show him that we never saw on our walks at the apartment complex.  One of the first new things we ran into was a cute little garden snail crossing our sidewalk one morning.  My son and I examined it with great interest and set it gently into the grass to make sure it safely got where it was going.

This little cutie didn't mention his hundreds of friends.

Soon I noticed that there always seemed to be a garden snail crossing the sidewalk in the morning.  Then after planting all the beds with new little flowers, I noticed the leaves were getting very chewed up at night.  The slime paths across my sidewalk multiplied.  It wasn’t long before I caught a snail in the act.  Annoyed, I tossed it away from the garden, but the slime trails the next morning told me that he had lots of friends.
Early one morning, as I was leaving for work, I paused to look at the yard.  It was a cool wet morning, about half an hour after sunrise.  The grass was wet with dew, and… moving?  A closer look revealed literally hundreds of garden snails sliming their way across the yard to hide in the decorative plants under the trees.    A close look under the trees revealed rows and rows of snails tucking in for the day.  It was rather disturbing!  I had a snail problem.

Little snails sleeping the day away

After doing some internet research, I determined that manual removal of the snails was the strategy I most preferred.  I didn’t want to use any chemicals around the kids, and I also didn’t want to have to collect up a ginormous pile of dead snails.  The copper barrier trick sounded effective, but also expensive, and complicated to execute on so many different plants.  Building beer traps also seemed too much trouble.  So I got a big bucket, and the two and a half year old and went out at dusk.
As the sun set, all the snails were waking and leaving their nests to chow down on some yummy garden plants.  They were pretty easy to spot, and easy to catch.  My little guy ran around pointing them out to me and I scooped them up and collected them in my bucket.  I stopped counting after I snagged 200 of the slimy pests.  I found I could pick them up faster by using rubber gloves to get past the “ick-I’m-touching-a-snail” feeling.  After we plucked all the snails we could find, I filled the bucket with water, covered it with a plate (so no one could escape) and left it out overnight.  In the morning, I dumped the now expired snails into the gutter, and the local crows feasted.

This is the stuff nightmares are made of (or dreams if you like escargot!)

We went out again the next night, and found only a handful.  The snails were gone and we didn’t see any more for the rest of the year!  No chemicals, no traps, and no more work!  This spring we found we had a re-infestation, likely due to eggs laid by last year’s crew.  The number of snails was not nearly as large, and we took care of them in less than an hour one afternoon.  My son (now three and a half) happily plucked them from their hiding spots and piled them up for me to care for.  I simply tossed them into the street when they were run over by cars and eaten by the birds.  By evening there was no evidence of snails, except for some wet spots on the pavement.  All taken care of for this year!

Overall, manual removal of snails was a great success.  Capturing snails is easy as they are easily spotted and very slow-moving,  They can’t swim in a bucket of water, and the neighborhood birds are happy to help clean up the mess.  A full sweep of the yard will remove all snails for the whole season.  Manual snail extraction works!

Have you been successful with any natural garden pest elimination strategies?  I’d love to hear what works for you!

Shared at Sunday SchoolMonday Mania, Homestead Barnhop, Better Mom Mondays, Teach Me Tuesday, Titus 2sday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Women Living Well, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Simples Lives Thursday, Your Green Resource, Rural Thursday, Farmgirl Friday, Frugal Friday
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28 Responses to Natural Garden Snail Elimination without Chemicals or Traps Review — Does it Work?

  1. Haha! I enjoyed this post! This happened to us a a couple of years ago. They destroyed all of our plants! Every last one down to a twig. We used beer to get rid of the snails. We placed low lying foil pie dishes, the ones you can by in the baking section at the store, in the dirt around the plants. Poured the beer into them at night and waited till morning. They were full!! of snails! The snails love yeast so they go right to it in droves! Then they crawl in, drink up, and drown. It is a very natural way of ridding your garden and takes much less time. We placed like nine little dishes around the garden. Also, we had logs in our garden to naturally mark a path way for the kids to keep them from stepping on the seedlings. Well, this provided a safe place for the snails to hide during the day away from the scorching sun. So I would remove potential hiding place too. Hope that helps!!

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks for the idea! Our snails are all taken care of, but we have some very hungry slugs in our vegetable garden. I think I’ll try the beer trick there.

  2. Ewwwwww! I don’t have snails, but I do have lots of slugs!!! I only wish they had a shell so that I wouldn’t mind picking them up so much! I have found that 1) I cannot plant geraniums because they completely kill them; 2) as long as I keep my bean plants up off the ground, the slugs are not such a problem. Reducing the shady areas in the garden was the biggest help. I have tried newspapers and beer, but never had much luck with those strategies. I have used a slug bait (yes, I know, chemicals, but I was desperate!), and that does work, but it seems to be only a temporary fix. I found your post at the Better Mom link-up! I’m going to keep your advice in mind! THANKS

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Michelle! I’ve got a ton of slugs too that are currently winning the war. I’ve also tried the “safe” slug bait in my garden, but it doesn’t seem to keep them away for long.

  3. Whoa, that is A LOT of snails!

  4. Michaele says:

    I find this fascinating. I haven’t seen that many snails since we lived in New Mexico. I had forgotten how they can be a problem.

  5. Nancy says:

    I’ve never seen a snail where I live in Nebraska. Great tips if I ever move to snail country.

    • Victoria says:

      I never saw them when I lived in Ohio, but they are EVERYWHERE in Southern California! I read somewhere that they were introduced out here as a potential food source and quickly got out of hand.

  6. heyBJK says:

    What a fantastic close up of the snail! That’s awesome!

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks! My husband is a professional photographer and takes almost all of the photos for the blog.

  7. We have found crushed egg shells laid heavily around the perimeter of the garden or planting area really help. The shells are sharp and cut the undersides of the slugs and snails. We have major problems with both, too much area to treat with chemicals (which I avoid anyway) and small children and lots of eggs! Dry the eggs in the oven after you’ve collected a batch of them, crush them up and lay around your edges… 🙂 It’s really helped save my lettuce so far! (knock on wood!) 🙂

    • Victoria says:

      This is a great idea! I’ll probably try them around the perimeter of the plants I want to protect because I suspect that my slugs live IN the garden, under the strawberry plants.

  8. Kathy says:

    Wow, that’s way too many snails. Sort of creepy. Maybe we have that many too and I haven’t noticed. I see them occasionally, mostly empty shells. But 200+?

    • Victoria says:

      Yes, it was pretty gross! I don’t know why the previous tenants didn’t do anything about them.

  9. Pingback: Using Eggshells as a Slug and Snail Barrier Review — Does it Work? | Green Idea Reviews

  10. Beth says:

    Not sure about snails..havent seen any around here but slugs….yes! I read that used coffee grounds around your plants add nutrients and slugs (And i think it said snails) can’t cross it because it does something to their skin/slime and kills em…and i read starbucks saves their coffee grounds to give to any gardeners/farmers free for the asking…i have put some in my strawberry garden…not sure if it works but i havent seen any slugs either! i had heard about the beer thing…hate to waste good beer though!! haha i would tho if i needed to!!

    • Victoria says:

      Great tip about coffee grounds. I think I’ll definitely get some for my strawberry patch where I have the biggest problem with slugs.

  11. Corinne Drew says:

    I too pick up snails by hand each foggy morning and put them in a bucket. However my bucket contains amonia and water. It kills them instantly and the solution lasts for a couple of weeks if covered. Then I dump out the 3 or 4 thousand snails after the amonia strength has subsided. I usually am able to fill a 20 oz. paper coffee cup, 3 to 4 times daily with this process. Their number slowly decreases over time and leaves only little babies that are hard to see. The plants respond and flourish rapidy when snails are removed in this manner.

    • Victoria says:

      Corinne! I think you win the snail prize! Have you considered starting an escargot restaurant? 😉

      • Corinne Drew says:

        Actually, not a restaurant, but in the 80’s, my Dad and I had barrels of cornmeal we would put them in to purge their impurities with the thought that we could sell them to a restaurant for escargo. We didn’t get any takers and were told by one group that they were the wrong kind of snails. We told them that with garlic and butter, anything tastes French. (They weren’t impressed!)

        • Donald Gudehus says:

          I tried that one time, many many years ago, but the flavor just didn’t hit the spot.

  12. I’ve tried going out at night and whacking the slugs and snails with a small garden tool. While this does do them in immediately, I have found that the remaining critters will feed on their dead brethren. So, in order to remove an attractive food source, I am switching to collecting them in a bucket as you have done.

  13. Ramona says:

    Can someone tell me what causes a snail infestation against the side of my house? My neighbor says its because of water run off from neighbors sprinklers but I dont buy that.

  14. Nicole says:

    I just bought a house, and we have snails everywhere! I’d rather not kill them, but read somewhere that they are able to find their way back to their “home” if taken & placed somewhere else. Has anyone else heard this, or had experience with it?

  15. erin says:

    Can i just plead and plead with people that no matter how terrible the slug and snail thing gets – never ever use baits (its a temporary fix and an AGONIZING death for a poisoned bird, cat or dog that eats the snail or pellet by mistake – and they do! I too have been looking for a solution coz my garden is moist so it can really be hell at times trying to grow things! But I heave learnt things along the way;
    1) just how important snails and slugs are to our ecosystem -not just bird food but breaking down and composting soil and making mulch.
    2) They are EASY to find – as mentioned above go out at dusk esp after rain and bingo -they ALL come out!! Pick them all up into a bucket for the birds the next morning.
    3) Or take them to the local park and throw them into the mulchy, woody, moist areas of the park (not in with the flowers obviously!)
    4) dont kill them with bleach or drown them in beer -its just wrong! The birds are fighting for ground, battling to find food in the tiny green spaces inbetween all our concrete – pathways and driveways and patios.
    5) I also learnt a lot by not planting what snails LOVE to eat -it seems they dont like hairy plants, spikey plants (like asparagus ferns) things that will be uncomfortable for them to slide along. They are scavengers really -they want the old dead leaf to digest and make yummy soil behind it, but they will also devour a young shoot!
    6) As a vegie grower -I nearly went MENTAL trying to grow vegies and save them from the slugs – but i discovered raised beds! Not just raised beds but raised beds on little legs! Just a tiny square of wood under each corner of the raised bed (yes ok so it doesnt go straight into the ground but you could bury a pot in there, also on feet, but with those big holes in the centre to allow any major root growth to shoot through into the ground. Snails etc want to above ground stuff, not the old roots.
    7) So while I discovered LEGS/FEET on my raised beds (these are tall raised beds -4 foot high and on short3 inch legs (ONLY a touch in each corner) -and rarely will a snail or slug find the right corner – and then make the trip – all the way to the top! You can then of course put some netting over your vegies and voila – safe from birds picking your shoots too!
    8) Lastly – my other wonderous discovery (i learnt it from the web!) was to put those little claw feet under all your patio pots – you know the ones, in terrecotta or plastic, -I swear – like the feet for the plant boxes – these are a revelation for keeping slugs n snails away! They really work!!! incredible!
    MY QUESTION to you all – how can I make a slug and snail container – that allows the birds to get them in the morning – but doesnt allow the slugs and snails to make a run for it again! There must be a solution – some clever tray with…….??? I dunno! Im at a loss! So while i can collect all my snails etc, some mornings when the cats have been lazing about to watch the birds – I take the lid off only to slowly see them all get away by lunchtime…arrghh! But friends – we are on a green website for a reason – lets do the right thing and appreciate snails and slugs as important critters -esp for our lovely birds -any dead slug will be eaten by something else -if it is poinsoned or drowned in beer….god only knows what may happen to the poor little thing that ate it. Answers appreciated!!

    • Maria says:

      You don’t say why you think drowning them in beer is wrong? It’s a method recommended by organic gardeners because the beer is non-toxic to birds. I live in a suburb of London, rainy England, and have to deal with hundreds of snails every summer. Constant vigilance and a bucket of cheap beer has become my preferred method.