Snails and slugs are both from the mollusc family that once belonged in an aquatic environment. Although they have evolved into the annoying land-crawling creatures they are today, it gives us some clues as to which conditions they prefer.

For a snail or slug to move, it needs to produce a slime that it can then drag its disgusting slimy self over. This leaves behind a silky slime trail, which many moons ago we’d wake up to in our sharehouse living room. Other than sharehouse rugs, snails and slugs prefer the young, tender growth of your seedlings and are most active when conditions are damp. These night feeders tend to be gregarious and return to the same resting place. While snails have a protective shell, meaning they feel a little safer out in the open (as opposed to under my lowering boot), slugs don’t enjoy the same protection and will burrow into the soil for shelter.

In our experience it’s usually the slugs that do the most damage, in particular to our strawberry patch. They seem to have developed a sixth sense about when a strawberry is on the cusp of readiness.

Optimal Conditions

Damp, congested garden, particularly after rainfall


Slimy trail, or small clean holes on your fruits.


Keeping a hygienic garden and depriving the mollusc of potential resting spots. They find it tougher to move over rougher ground, such as one that has recently been mulched. Nasturtium is a great decoy crop, providing a canopy that they will find a great shelter. You can then pick them out and throw them over your neighbour’s fence. OK, not your neighbour’s fence, but you know what we mean.

MORNING REFRESHMENT Watering in the morning is a great starting point for avoiding all pests, as it means that there will be very little moisture left on the surface at nightfall. Snails are most active at night and are drawn to moisture, so when we water in the evening it creates an ideal environment for their nefarious activities.


THE PERFECT FOIL Copper tape and aluminium foil are like an electric fence for snails and slugs. When they come into contact with the metal, their mucus membranes have a bad chemical reaction that sends them in the opposite direction. It’s a great technique for pots, to which the copper tape is easily attached and the mollusc will have to pass over to enter.

A VERY HAPPY ENDING Snails are drawn to the sweet, yeasty scent of beer as surely as gap year students to an open bar. Use traps or a glass that is partially filled with beer and some vegemite – for extra yeastiness! – and partially bury in the garden with the lip of the glass at ground level. When a slug or snail comes in for a taste, it will be their last drink.


WE’RE GOING ON A SNAIL HUNT Hunt and pick method is a garden treasure hunt. During the day, snails will hide in dark corners of the patch, but they can still be found. Under the foliage of low canopy plants – such as a nasturtium – is an ideal hiding place. Perhaps enlist some enthusiastic young kids by offering a prize for most collected.

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