Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Look out below! Escargot!


On mornings when I get to work early, I like to step outside and check on my tiny garden. Lately, it has been damp, and the whole place is crawling with snails.

Although I'm an animal-lover, I just can't bring myself to love the snails. They really are pests, and at this point, all the plants in my garden have been selected because the snails won't mow them down to the ground. I've spent a lot of money on California native plants that were completely devoured by snails in less than a day.

I don't use any chemicals in my garden, and I think that stomping snails is disgusting. My method of snail control involves a one-way trip over the corrugated metal garden wall. Last Thursday, I sent sixty snails sailing over the wall, and this morning I chucked another fifty-five. Giving snails sky-diving lessons makes me an Official Crazy Lady.

I was chatting with one of my co-workers about the garden. I told her about the snail problem I've been having, and that I always imagine inadvertently pelting my co-workers with snails. She and I were laughing about this. We laughed even harder when one of the other carpenters said that he had been been walking to work that very morning, talking to his girlfriend on the phone, and was caught in the rain of snails. He was new to the shop, didn't know that there was a garden, or that he was working with a crazy snail-tosser. He had no idea what was going on.

I think I giggled about this all day long, mostly because I've been envisioning this scenario for something like two years. Robb's imagined version is even sillier: it involves a convertible.


Kristen said...

It's stories like that that remind me why I'm not a gardener. I don't have the strength of extra-personal awareness to defend plants against predators (or probably even water them.) Snails, squirrels, aphids, weeds...I hear of these things and their destructive tendencies, but whenever I encounter a snail I'm more inclined to play with it or and stick it to things than move it away from my mom's hostas. I've drowned a cactus and left a violet to blanch in the sun. I'm glad there's people like you out there who not only know how to take care of plants, but are willing and able to do so.

Anonymous said...

In NH we had a slug problem; and a we solved it by planting dishes of beer in the garden--the little slimeys drowned in the beer--not such a bad way to go. Even the cheapest beer will work. Also, scattering diotomaceous earth around your tender plants may ward off the beasties by irritating their single, slimey foot.


Sue KuKu said...

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have lots of slugs and beer works for them, too. Really, snails are just slugs with shells, which is why I will never willingly eat escargot! Blech!

What I have heard works is to take a plastic container, like a margarine tub, and cut slots right near the top big enough for the slugs. Bury the tub so the slots are ground level, pour in beer and put the lid on. This prevents other creatures from drinking the beer and the slugs will crawl along the ground, smell the beer and crawl right in.

I don't know if something similar would work for snails but it sure beats putting out poison and is cheap (and you can drink what won't fit in the tub!)


Gina said...

My grandmother used to pay us a nickel to remove the snails from her plants outside in the San Antonio sun. I remember the neighbor next door yeling at my sister and me for chucking the things over the chain link fence into his yard! We share a skill!

I DO also remember my father trying the beer trick with them, and, as I remember, it was wildly successful. He just set a deep set ceramic saucer slightly into the ground -- I think the maintenance of drowned snail dumping got to be too much for my grandpa, though, and besides, it was the waste of a good beer!

Personally, I can not imagine a more horrific experience than being pelted with flying snails and slugs. Ahhhh! Kind of like my own individual hell. If it had been me on the cellphone, you would have known immediately! Your co-worker is a brave, brave man.You never heard him scream?

I DID end up accidentally tossing a spent banana peel into an open semi window from the back of my grandfather's truck when I was eleven, though. That was fun. Until the truck driver got really mad and gesticulated wildly and got us in BIIIIGGGG trouble.

Anonymous said...

I am laughing... it must have been like walking into a locust swarm...but with flying snails! Have you tried the old salt trick? Rim your garden with a thick barrier of salt... salt causes the water content of snails and slugs to seep out and they shrivel up! Nothing ventured...


Anonymous said...

Maybe a convertable and lots of screaming?

I know that if you put little trays of cheap beer the snails will fall into it and drown in a drunken bliss. Its a nicer method that putting down the various materials that will poison/slash/mutilate the little creepy crawly buggers.

You will get dozens, perhaps even hundreds of them overnight! Installing a small birdhouse on a stake in the middle of your garden will also help with slug control, I believe.

Glad to hear your garden is growing well- I am planning on expanding more of our garden here this year and supplying the local food bank with all the spinach I so bravely planted this year. I mention "brave plantings" because the seeds were planted, they were old, and it snowed. At least if the stuff doesnt come up soon, I have time to plant later on this spring to get a usable crop.

By the way, if you get good dirt, put it in a big old clean plastic buckets, drain holes included ( I know you must have them at your work place) and put in a few tomato plants/etc, set then in your garden and they will grow well and also get polinated by all the bugs who show up to enjoy your local flower garden. If you buy the dirt, it will be safer to eat out of the the curious "mystery dirt" you have there. If you continuously plant sunflowers for 3 years in a row, (It will remove up to half of the poisons in the soil) it will remove enough of the heavy metals in the soil that you can indeed grow stuff safely in it. The only thing is you have to remove every root of the sunflowers every year and bundle them into the trash, dont compost them. After 3 years of this- go to town with your "studio garden" and pick your own salad for lunch!

I would not recommend eating the snails, but in the 1800's gardeners used to be paid to collect them and they would sell them to book binders who used them as glue for book spines.


boodely said...

Do you think this tossing technique would work for my deer?

Anonymous said...

Icky, icky, gross! That is so hilarious!

I've a friend that grows tomatoes but is so terrified of tomato horn worms that she makes her neighbor pick the tomatoes for her. When the neighbor encounters a hornworm, the entire branch is cut off the plant and placed in the street, whereas my friend runs it over multiple times in (what else) her convertible vw bug. Very scary!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.... Perhaps of the first batch of snails you tossed, only 5 did not come back; and the remaining 55 did. At that ratio, you may eliminate your snail problem in many years.

There are organic snail control methods - I think diatomecious earth is effective.


ellen said...

Coffee grounds spread on the ground around your plants will kill the snails and slugs and not hurt anything else - since you are apparently getting coffee grounds for your garden anyway that will work out well for you. I never had a plague of snails, but the slugs had it in for me for a while.

Gabrielle said...

wait wait what about eating them??
i'm pretty sure the snails we have out here in California are the edible variety. Snail casserole with rabbit! Butter-garlic fried snails! YUM!!

Kelly said...

I read somewhere that snails can climb over a fence in 2 hours, which makes tossing them an ineffective solution. (They can also regrow a cracked shell.)

Me, I go out at night with a headlamp and chopsticks, and pick off the little slugs and snails into a jar of soapy water.

Also, there's a bait product called "Sluggo" that is non-toxic to most other creatures and breaks down into a form of fertilizer.


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