How to Keep Snails and Slugs Out of a Square Foot Garden

How to Keep Snails and Slugs Out of a Square Foot Garden

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  1. I lived in Humboldt County, California, for ten years. Upon my arrival, many of my new friends told me about the famous and marvelous banana slugs that graced what the locals called the “Emerald Triangle” (the name had something to do with neighboring Del Norte and Mendocino counties and alluded to some variety of gardening upon which the local sheriff’s departments frowned, I believe). The way they spoke of the enormous mollusks, I was led to believe that they possessed magical powers, could fly through the air and would make my bed for me every morning without being asked. It didn’t take long for me to come across the banana slugs, and their size did impress me. At that time, I saw them as a wonder of nature.

    Then I planted a garden, and my glowing opinion of the disgusting creatures changed overnight.

    I grew a lovely row of iceberg lettuce heads, nurtured them, fed and watered them, made sure they had enough fertilizer and sunshine and they came in beautifully. While packing my gardening supplies one evening, I decided to harvest them in the morning.

    Guess who beat me to the punch. When I returned to the garden, I found that a single slug had eaten its way through every single head.

    That was when I declared war. I also discovered that the slugs could fly… sort of. One memorable evening after dark, I was walking down a wooded path when something my flashlight had missed smacked me in the cheek. Imagine my disgust when I realized that it was a slug—one of dozens—that, after climbing into the trees for the day, was lowering itself on a strand of mucus to begin its nightly feast… in my garden, of course.


     After repeated bouts of dry heaves, I decided to try some local solutions to the slug problem. I placed bowls of beer in my garden every night because—so I was told—the garden pests would get drunk, fall into the bowls and drown. Instead, every morning I found several empty bowls in my garden. The drunk slugs seemed to enjoy destroying my crops even more than the sober ones.



    Next, I tried salt. Everyone knows that snails and slugs do not respond well to salt (as far as they are concerned; as for me, I did enjoy watching them froth to death). However, I soon discovered that my plants didn’t like the salt any more than the slugs did.

    As a last resort, I decided to try to teach the slugs a lesson and used a technique once employed by the infamous Vlad the Impaler: I went out every evening and drove a sharp stick through every slug I could find and left them in my garden, foolishly thinking that other slugs coming across their fallen brethren would flee in fear.

    It never occurred to me that several varieties of grass were smarter than slugs.

    I finally broke down (literally; my neighbors still have video footage of my incessant tantrums) and decided to build several square foot gardens to protect my crops, providing them with a raised bed for safety. Then it was a simple matter of laying snail poison along the top edge of the boards composing the enclosure. I tried coffee grounds, which didn’t work at all, then used Ortho powder, but even a gentle wind blew it away with ease. Then I discovered Ortho liquid snail poison and my life changed for the better. I simply squirted the viscous fluid around the top of the entire enclosure without any breaks and let it dry. Once dry, it was safe for pets and wild animals—other than snails and slugs, that is. After that, every morning I found satisfying ooze trails left behind by the hemorrhaging snails unlucky enough to try to invade my garden, and I didn’t lose a single plant to slugs again.

    The deer was another matter entirely. Fortunately, I love venison.

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