Snails and slugs are pretty much everywhere but left unchecked they can become more than just a slimy nuisance, especially in the garden.

I grew up in a dry climate and had very little trouble with slugs and snails but everything changed when I moved to Seattle. The Pacific NW is a very wet place indeed; it's lush, green and very beautiful but it also means that all kinds of squishy things live there in particular loads of snails and slugs. Not all of them are little either! Have you ever seen a leopard slug? They have black spots and can grow to be anywhere from 4-8 inches (10-20cm) long and up to 1 inch (2.54cm) in diameter. Yikes!

One evening while out walking, I became mildly disgusted at the sight of a couple of big shiny dog turds in the middle of the sidewalk. I thought “How lazy are the dog owners around here?” That's when they started to move - ewww! Apparently I surprised them. Their little antenna popped out and they took off (as fast as a slug can "take off"). These were big 5 inch (12.7cm) "black slugs" and they left a slimy trail all the way to the lawn. Under the right conditions they can be huge - up to 6 inches (15.24cm) in length.

Not only that, but there are trillions of little snails everywhere. I got 7 tiny snails in my hair once just by brushing past ivy growing on my house...nice.

ANYway, I had a couple of little petunia and pansy gardens in my backyard as well as raspberries in a container planter. As it turns out, slugs and snails just love petunias, pansies and raspberry leaves. Overnight they feasted on my flowers and I was left with nothing but stems the next morning. Something had to be done!

Snail on My Container Bowl. Photo: JetCity Designs

Because I had two cats and two dogs that played in that yard, I only wanted a natural solution – no poisons or chemicals - not with little feet wandering about. I checked with some of the local garden centers to find something natural and safe to use. Instead of being sold a product, this wonderful clerk gave me a super simple tip for umm, redirecting them as it were.

Here’s what you do:

  • Fill shallow tins (like tuna or cat food tins) with cheap beer ($1.49 a quart) and place them in your gardens where they are grazing on your prize whatever’s.
  • Place the tins at twilight or after dark in your garden near the flowers or vegetables that you’re having snail problems with. I do this at those specific times because I noticed that slugs and snails mostly have the evening and pre-dawn munchies. During the day they are usually hiding under a rock or some other place cool and out of the sun.
  • Pick the tins up in the morning (to keep your pets out of the toxic slug beer) and empty in the toilet to keep pets from digging it up and eating it.
  • What happens: Apparently, slugs and snails are attracted more to the hops in the beer than they are to the flowers. They climb into the tin, get drunk, pass out, and drown. I know it is kind of sad, but it’s better than torturing them with salt or poisons. And at least they get to party a little bit before the end.

IF YOU HAVE PETS, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep pets inside overnight when you put the tins out because they like beer too. I found that if the slugs and snails didn’t get to the beer tins first then my cats always ended up drinking it and getting drunk. Which was fun for the cats I guess but didn’t promote my cause at all!
  • You must empty the dead snail-filled tins every morning as there is the chance that your pets will drink what’s left of the beer and potentially eat the dead snails, which are toxic.
  • Accompany your pets outside to make sure they don’t get into the beer.

And there you have it, a natural and fairly simple solution to a slimy garden problem no matter where you live. Good luck and let me know how it works out for you.

Here's to keeping your yard and garden being slug free (and poison free) with beer - Cheers!

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