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5 Top chemical-free ways to manage snails and slugs


A garden snail in top of a whole green cabbage in the garden that has signs that the sanil has been eating it.
Garden snails love their veggies too!

By Kristy Plumridge from Green Hills Farm


Late spring and early summer herald the joys of a thriving seedling-filled garden. The bursting-out-all-over season also brings invading hordes of hungry snails and slugs keen to chomp your fresh-from-the-greenhouse seedlings. While it might be tempting to resort to chemical solutions, there are eco-friendly alternatives to protect your garden and keep your bounty chemical-free without compromising the environment.


At Green Hills Farm, we combine a multi-pronged approach with extra springtime vigilance as we plant out our sweet young seedlings from the greenhouse.


Here are our five pesticide-free ways to protect your edible garden from slugs and snails. Bar those few cheeky buggers who run the gauntlet and make it through!


1. Embrace natural predators

Invite frogs, birds, and beetles into your garden. They make excellent allies in keeping slimy pests in check. Create habitats such as small ponds, bird feeders and baths. Plant flowers to encourage these beautiful bug munchers to visit your garden. Maintaining a diverse, balanced garden ecosystem not only controls snail and slug populations, it also contributes to the overall health of your green space.


GHF TIP: We plant plenty of edible flowers in our veggie beds and install bird and bee baths.


2. Create some natural barriers

Slugs and snails react badly to copper, so consider placing copper tape around your plant beds. Eggshells, diatomaceous earth, or coffee grounds sprinkled around your plants are abrasive on delicate bug underbellies and deter snails and slugs from crossing.


GHF TIP: I'm always on the hunt for second-hand laundry copper pots to use as planters. They're great for growing bulbs, mixed lettuce or anything else you don't want snails to snack on. I've yet to meet a slug game enough to try to slime its way up the side of a copper pot!


3. Set a beer trap (no, that's not a typo)

The beer trap is a renowned organic gardening solution for stopping invading snail armies in their tracks. Place shallow beer-filled containers around newly planted seedlings to attract and drown these pests. Remember to refill your traps after rain.


You can go for a homemade option. But we recently invested in some sturdy, locally-made traps by SMOAT designed to make a protective moat around the plant. SMOAT will be at Creative Harvest in 2024 in Jessie's Garden, where you can check out and buy their traps.


GHF TIP: Snails and slugs are a cheap shout. There's no need to treat them to a pricey beer because it's the yeasty smell, not the flavour, that they love. I recently mixed sourdough starter with water, which also worked.


If you're keen to explore more enticing edible uses for sourdough starter, sign up for our Rise and Shine Sourdough Workshop.



4. S CAR GO

The French have been eating escargot (snails) smothered in garlic butter since they were served to a visiting Russian Tsar at a diplomatic dinner party in 1821.

While the common brown or garden Australian snail (cornu aspersum) doesn't feature in French cuisine, it shares the same nutritious mineral-rich, low-fat, high-protein profile as its European cousins - the garden snail (Helix aspersa), the land snail (helix lucorum) and the prized Bourgogne snail (helix pomatia). The smaller edible snail is commercially raised in Australia and exported to countries where it is eaten as 'escargot' apparently has a similar taste to the French species.


I tried these garlicky buttery protein bombs in a Parisian bistro a decade ago. As far as I can remember, they were delicious.


So, if you're up for a culinary adventure, PIP magazine has a recipe that includes instructions on how to purge your snails and then kill them humanely.


GHF TIP: If you'd prefer your escargot served with top-notch, locally grown, organic garlic, our next crop of Green Hills Farm garlic will be sold on subscription in February. Join our subscriber list



5. Go for the big 'pellet' guns – sometimes they're the right solution for the job


Organic pellets use elemental iron, unlike traditional slug pellets, which contain scheduled poisons such as Metaldehyde or Methiocarb. Elemental iron gives snails a fatal stomach ache (brutal but true) before it's absorbed back into the soil. It's not harmful to pets unless they eat bucket loads, so store it safely. Nor is it detrimental to wildlife such as birds, frogs and mammals who most likely won't eat the pellets because they're busy eating the snails. There are several brands on the market, but we use Mineral Snail and Slug Killer pellets as we can buy them in bulk, which is cheaper.


GHF TIP: You can use an organic pellet throughout the growing cycle. Unlike traditional pellets, whose ingredients confine their use to the seedling stage.


 


A wooden fence entrance into a vegetable garden with raised garden beds
The organic garden at Green Hills Farm

About Green Hills Farm


The garden at Green Hills Farm has featured in four consecutive Creative Harvests. We're taking a break in 2024, but we'll be back in 2025.


The farm's organic garden and orchard supplies Hogget Kitchen, Messmate Dining, Baw Baw Food Hub, Pellegrino Pizza, Violet & Ivy and family and friends with organic fruit, veg, garlic, herbs, and edible flowers.


Green Hills Farm's Kristy Plumridge is the 2024 Chair of Creative Harvest.


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