We’ve spoken about ways to attract “friendly” bugs into your garden, but what about keeping pests at bay? Gardeners find slugs and snails are particularly pesky, as they can really chomp their way through beautiful flowers and delicious crops, destroying flower beds and foodscapes alike. So, let’s take a look at some of the natural ways to keep snails out of your garden.
Why Choose Natural Pest Control?
There are several reasons why you might prefer to use organic pesticides instead of chemicals. For many, it’s just about looking after the environment and not putting harmful substances into the earth. Maybe you’re also wary of putting pesticides on things you’re ultimately going to be eating. Natural bug control methods are also going to generally be safer to use around children or animals (of course, you should still teach them to stay away).
1. Use rosemary and thyme as companion plants
Companion planting is where you grow certain things near each other for a specific reason. For example, you might use companion planting to encourage cross-pollination, or to maximise the available space in a planter.
In this case, both rosemary and thyme act as natural ways to keep snails out of your garden. For some reason, snails (and slugs, and a number of other garden pests) don’t like the smell of these herbs. Mint will work too, but it’s quite invasive so you should grow in separate containers and sprinkle the leaves around the plants you want to protect.
2. Use a rough, gritty mulch
I love the way mulch makes a garden look much tidier, with uniform soil peeping out from beneath blooms and bushes. Using certain kinds of mulch is one of the natural ways to keep snails out of your garden and away from your plants.
Look for mulch (or make your own) that contains wood ash, bark, eggshells and crushed nut shells. Any ground-crawlers like snails and slugs will typically avoid slithering over rough soil, and the mixture will help keep the composition of your soil balanced.
3. Encourage more birds
Birds are wonderful pest control, and one of the best ways to keep snails out of your garden without having to deal with them yourself. You might even be surprised by how many varieties of feathered friends start visiting when you show them they’re welcome!
Start by investing in some bird feeders and keep them topped up. A bird bath (or shallow water feature) is also great in summer. You might even want to add some bird-boxes, and hang back on raking and tidying so that there’s plenty of nesting material available. Our posts about bird-friendly garden ideas and wildlife gardens will give you more ideas!
4. Get yourself some chickens
Are the wild birds not showing up quick enough? A short cut is to start rearing your own! Chickens and ducks are actually really fun to keep as pets, and will just devour any bugs they find roaming your garden. They’re the perfect addition to any homestead garden.
So, to clarify, just a handful of hens will lay eggs, provide a free way to keep snails off your plants (and other insects) AND result in endless hours of entertainment. It’s not often I offer you a win-win-win solution, but I think I’ve just done it here.
5. Use diatomaceous earth
Diatomite, or diatomaceous earth, is made from a naturally-occurring rock that is ground to a very fine white powder. It’s safe to ingest (it’s actually used as an abrasive in some toothpastes), but is microscopically sharp.
Sprinkle this flour-like substance around your plants, and any slugs or snails that cross it will get hundreds of tiny cuts that cause them to dehydrate and perish.
6. Get them drunk
Does shredding your garden pests make you feel squeamish? Well, what do you want to do, share a beer with them?! Actually, that’s a good idea too. Sink a shallow container (like a tuna tin) into your flower bed up so the rim is at ground-level. Half-fill it with beer and, voila, you’ve made a beer trap.
Slugs, snails and earwigs are totally tempted by this yeasty treat, and will crawl in, start drinking, and eventually drown. Okay, so that isn’t exactly less gruesome than the last method. If you have excess beer, can I recommend opening a garden pub as an alternative?
7. Container gardening
Container gardening is one of the simpler ways to keep snails out of your garden when you raise it up off the ground. Growing valuable plants in a planter or container makes it less of a target for any ground-crawling pests, both because they’re literally further away, and because it can be tricky for bugs to climb up the sides even if they try.
Plus, it’ll be easier to keep an eye on your plants, and pick off the garden pests that would usually lurk under leaves and sneak behind stems. There are lots of perks with container gardening – take a look at our container gardening tips!
What Are Your Organic Gardening Tips?
This season at Garden Patch, we’ll be looking at all the ways you can keep your garden happy while staying in tune with nature. Let us know how you look after your garden, and check out our posts about kitchen gardening, composting, and natural ways to keep other annoying bugs at bay (mosquitoes, we’re coming for you next!)