published Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Try organic methods to rid plants of slugs, snails

Q Slugs and snails are appearing in my garden already. They are on my clay pots and heading for my annuals and hostas. What can I do?

ASpringtime usually has cool mornings, heavy dew and reasonable amounts of rainfall. Cool, moist weather is perfect for slugs and snails, and they can do substantial damage to plant leaves.

As with all infestations, check your conditions first. Clay pots hold moisture underneath and are great hiding places for slugs, snails and roly-polys. A saucer under each plant should help deter roly-polys and slugs. Wipe down your pots and then place in saucers with some water in the saucer. Half an inch of water is enough to keep your plants moist and drown the insects.

If your plants prefer dryer conditions, add pebbles to the saucer and add water only to the top of pebbles. Your pot should not rest in the water, for plants that like dry conditions, but the moist pebbles will add humidity.

Most annuals will do well with some water in the saucer. There is a crystalline, organic substance called diatomaceous earth that will get rid of slugs if you sprinkle it on the surface of the soil in the pots or on the surface of the soil around plants such as hostas. It will not harm pets and can't be absorbed by your skin, but do not inhale the product. It is made of ground-up diatoms and acts like broken glass for the soft-bodied insects that crawl. Ask for it at garden centers and through organic suppliers.

You also can try the old-fashioned organic trap of turning over an eaten grapefruit half in the garden. Slugs and snails will head for it, and you can dispose of the group in the garbage the next morning. You will need to dispose of the grapefruit shell every day.

Another easy nonchemical and organic removal method is to fill a saucer with flat beer and place it near slug trails. The snails and slugs are attracted and drown, perhaps happily.

Email Pat Lea at lea.pat@gmail.com.

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