I haven’t always been out to get snails – but I did start out naive and inexperienced… When I first grew seedlings (a few years ago) I was delighted as they germinated and grew before my eyes in the safety of the indoors. Once large enough, excited with the thought of future vegetables to harvest – I planted out some zucchini, bean and sunflower seedlings, picturing the start of what was to come. The next morning I passed through the garden on my way to work and smiled down at my seedlings, – only to find…. nothing. They were gone. All of them. At first I thought I’d simply forgotten where I’d planted them (foolish hope), but then the realisation sunk in and I began to understand all the stories I’d heard about the “gardening war”. A short search revealed all that was left was the stems/roots of the seedling under the ground. All my weeks of work and care had been destroyed in one night.

A collection after an afternoon shower (not even night yet) – what chance do my seedlings have?!

At first I tried relocating the snails onto the nature strip and further down the street. They all came back though, and brought my neighbours’ snails with them (I probably deserved that). I tried egg shells, coffee grounds, beer and orange juice traps – all which seemed useless. I then got ruthless. Frustration and desire to have a vegetable garden set in – the number of snails that have ended up under my shoe or in our numerous skips as the renovations progress would amaze you. Spotlighting at night would find 20-40 snails every dry night and 100-150 on wet nights. Every night. The saying should be changed to “breeding like snails” rather than rabbits.

Copper tape has given me a bit of relief, and I do feel I can leave the garden alone at night now. But I still lose seedlings from time to time as snails have managed to find their way under a container, or over the top with the help of nearby plants and grass. They never seem to give me a break – I have even seen snails start moving towards seedlings while I’m still planting them!

Comparison of copper tape protecting a seedling vs one without

So you tell me, what is the point of snails? What good are they to me and my garden? I actually searched for this online and the main answer I found was “food for frogs”. I have no frogs, but I am now thinking about acquiring some. The second most common answer was to consume dead plant material – however the snails never seem to do this, preferring my seedlings over anything else.  Another reason I found was “to keep gardeners humble”. Well you can see how well that went down!

Unfortunately for now the war will continue, which means I will continue to be a snail killer purely as my love for gardening is obviously much higher than my humanity for snails. But when people think I’m mean, insensitive and ask why I’m cruel to snails – I offer to help them start a vegetable garden…

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