Controlling snails in the garden



Are you tossing snails over the fence into the neighbour’s garden? Bad news for you as they will be returning at a snail’s pace! Alan Titchmarsh, the gardener and television presenter, has claimed that snails ‘have a homing instinct’ and retired teacher Ruth Brooks appeared to prove the point in a 2010 study which resulted in her being named Britain’s best amateur scientist.  Her study discovered that snails had a strong homing instinct over a distance of 10 meters, and that some returned from as far as 100 meters.

How to deter snails:

Snails are among the more pesky creatures in your garden because they can be difficult to control. They can cause extensive damage to strawberries, tomatoes, marigolds, hosta, lettuce, cabbage, dahlia and delphinium. Snails chew holes in foliage and feed on fruits and vegetables, leaving them inedible. Members of the mollusk family, snails thrive in moist soil with decaying organic matter and damp places, such as under mulch and low-growing plants. You will know they are present by the telltale silvery slime trail they leave behind. The key to deterring snails with ground cover is to choose barriers that will cause damage to the soft body of the snails, which will either discourage them from returning or destroy them.

Sharp-edged Deterrents

Snails’ soft bodies are susceptible to damage if they come into contact with something sharp or rough. Diatomaceous earth is made from finely powdered rocks and is a common ground cover that can effectively deter snails from coming into your garden. Look for pure diatomaceous earth at garden supply stores. Keep the diatomaceous earth dry for it to be the most effective; it loses its sharp edges when it gets wet. Egg shells, wood ashes, cedar wood chips and cinders are additional ground cover options that have sharp edges and can turn snails away from your garden. Apply any sharp-edged deterrent in bands that are 2cm high and 8cm  wide. Replenish sharp-edged deterrents as necessary because they can lose their effectiveness over time.


Copper is among the easiest ground cover options for deterring snails from your garden. When the slime that snails excrete from their bodies comes into contact with copper, it causes a jolt to their nervous system much like an electric shock. Place copper tubing or strips of copper flashing, available from scrap dealers, on the ground in your garden to deter the pests from returning.

Beer traps

Beer in a flat container will attract snails, dispose of them the next morning – the culling operation is your choice!

Additional Ground Covers

Iron phosphate powder or pellets can help you get rid of snails because it causes snails to stop feeding, so they starve to death. Surround susceptible plants with coffee grounds, which can be somewhat sharp, but also deter snails from feeding on and returning to certain plants. Spray the ground around vulnerable plants with white vinegar, which is toxic to snails. Don’t use vinegar around your herbs, however, because it will kill them. Removing ground cover is an additional option. Snails favour areas that are unkempt and filled with debris. Clear debris, such as dead leaves, foliage and old mulch, and keep your garden  tidy to help deter snails.