The Dalai Lama once said that mosquitoes regularly upset him; he loses patience with the hum of mosquitoes at night. Because the Buddhist is not allowed to kill living beings, he tries to scare them away – mostly in vain. What kind of conditions would the monk be in if he had a garden that is attacked by nudibranchs?
I am neither a Buddhist nor a follower of any other religion. In view of the common slug and some of its relatives, however, I feel archaic impulses: what you do to my bluebells, hostas and lupins, I do to you too. No, I don’t eat them, don’t worry. But i’m killing them. (Unlike my colleague.) Yes, I admit.
Snails know what is good, they prefer the young shoots. This year the weather in Hamburg was initially not very favorable for the mollusks, cold and drought delayed the hatching of the brood. But then: heat, rain – snails in abundance. The bluebells planted in autumn had no chance at all, skeletons were all I saw of them. The lupine was already quite big when the apparently very hungry animals started their invasion. It was allowed to bloom, meanwhile all the leaves have been eaten away.
This year I grew arugula, carrots and zucchini in addition to my father’s tomato plants. The plants are raised from seeds, fertilized, thrive in large pots, bloom, let fruit bear. When I saw the first snail on a zucchini, I was beside myself. I also watched the attacks on my sun hat, which was still developing, with growing uneasiness. The young, new leaves had holes as soon as they were visible to me.
What to do with the voracious slimes?
Foto: beekeepx / iStockphoto / Getty Images
As in previous years, I used the chemical club to protect the flowers: slug pellets. Quite successful, the sun hat is slightly damaged, but flowers anyway. Despite all sorts of alleged anti-snail plants (ornamental sage did not work at all, but was also eaten), coffee grounds and collecting, I couldn’t beat the masses without chemical help.
Picking up is one of those things. What to do with the slimy parts? I’m doing what my grandma did. It’s not nice. The method involves gloves, an old jam jar with a lid, and saline solution. The cutting of the brown survivor is not much nicer either, but is considered acceptable and is practiced quite often, but be careful: the body parts attract more snails, which eat the remains.
Some nature lovers propagate that animals should freeze to death, this is the most natural way of death. But honestly: I don’t want them in my freezer. And an extra freezer just for snails at least seems strange to me. In addition, the critters can apparently survive a very long time in a frozen state, defrosted they want to crawl away again.
There is only one type of slug pellet that is reasonably defensible. It contains iron-III-phosphate, is officially approved in organic agriculture and is also used under the strict guidelines of the Demeter or Bioland associations. The snail stops eating, retreats into a hiding place and dies. It should not have any harmful effects on hedgehogs, storks, other potential snail eaters or other beneficial insects. Agents with the active ingredient metaldehyde, on the other hand, are to be avoided at all costs, as the consequences for dogs and cats are expressly warned.
Of course, the best thing would be for the voracious slimes not to come into the garden in the first place. Most tips boil down to keeping them out or making life (and eating) difficult for them. This should be achieved, for example, with barrier plantings of lavender around the vegetables or only selective irrigation, which must not take place in the evening, because the critters are primarily active at twilight. Mulch is considered a potential hiding place and should therefore not be used.
I would also prefer not to use poison, because iron phosphate slug pellets are of course not completely without side effects. It makes no difference between bad and good snails: Even those who die with their house, they tend not to eat fresh green, but rather plant remains or carrion. This is one of the reasons why I am very happy to have now learned that Indian runner ducks are not the only animals in the world that eat nudibranchs, as I thought for a long time.
Are tiger snails the salvation?
Photo: Wolfgang Weinhäupl / imagebroker / imago images
I haven’t seen a stork in our bed yet, but a hedgehog is at home. He looks quite well fed. Maybe he’ll bring a few more brothers and sisters to hunt snails next year, that would be great. And before I reach for the poison grain again, I could organize a couple of tiger snails. They are touted as beneficial insects, because the unpopular slugs and their clutches are said to be among the favorite foods of the tiger snail. Unfortunately they reproduce much more slowly than my enemies; a final drive out of the nasty eaters does not seem to be in sight.