Question from Roger:
Pat, I don’t know if you are willing to help readers of your book but am hoping you do. We had a beautiful area of Blue Star growing on well drained soil among our natural stone patio.
This spring the blue-star started to blossom beautifully. In the last month we’ve noticed the blossoms are less and less and upon close examination there are virtually hundreds perhaps thousands of baby snails. All about 1/4 the size of a pinkie nail. We haven’t seen a single adult snail nor their trails….just these little tiny babies. We’ve tried both kinds of snail bait and some appear in the morning as in the process of dying but there remains hundreds of them to live on a another day.
Is there a product or method you might suggest to solve my problem. I’ve read your book “Southern California…” practically cover to cover and nothing is mentioned about this.
Answer from Pat:
Yes, I am currently spending a good deal of time keeping up with readers questions since i have a very active blog. Your query and my answer will be included in my blog. You don’t mention if you have the new or the old versions of my book, but if you have the latest all-organic edition you have undoubtedly read my suggestions for snail control on page 115 and other citations in the index on snails and slugs. So have you tried Sluggo® Snail and Slug Bait? If not try that!
Heavy rains this year have produced worse snail problems that in former years. When you speak of a proliferation of “tiny little babies” and no adults, I wonder if you have looked at them under a microscope? If the shells are pointed these are not baby edible snails or brown garden snail (Helix Aspersa) but more likely to be African decollate snail. If you live near a commercial orange grove, these are sometimes used to keep brown garden snails at bay, since they eat the young ones. But African decollate snails will also destroy small seedlings, which is why I have never released them in my garden. If you are not an organic gardener, and if you have no pets, you could apply Deadline to strips of cardboard and edge the planting with them. This will draw the snails and kill them, usually overnight, but it is not an organic solution. Deadline contains a poison so I have stopped using it myself and I used to use it only in a very controlled way, early in the year on the base of emerging clivia flowers and the base of every cymbidium spike. It took care of all my snail problems for the year.
But I believe in using organic methods and the best one for an infestation like this is chickens or ducks. Ducks are more voracious and crazy about slugs, but messier. Chickens are daintier and less messy, though both may peck at plants once they have eaten all the snails. If you are sitting there drinking a beer and watching them work, however, easy to move them to the next spot. They will usually go for the snails first. If you don’t want to raise chickens yourself, I would borrow some from friends along with a moveable wire structure for moving them around on your blue-star creeper. They will soon clear up your snail problem. So many people have gone ga-ga for chickens these days, I think some folks should be renting them out as natural insect and pest controllers. Do you know any Master Gardeners who might be willing to help you out with this project? I like this idea—”My Chickens-to-Go: Will Devour Your Snails and Slugs!”)
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