How to Control Snails

snail in grass

Snails will eat almost any plant, but they are especially fond of the tender foliage of young plants and leafy crops such as lettuce. Their presence is indicated by missing seedlings or large, irregularly shaped holes on leaves or fruits. They may also leave shiny slime trails across leaf surfaces. In general, snails dislike plants with leaves that are glossy, waxy, or hairy. They also seem to avoid plants with strong-smelling foliage, such as rosemary, marigolds, and lavender.

Snails are pests of moist, temperate climates, and their hard calcium shell provides protection. Like slugs, snails overwinter in the soil and emerge in spring to lay hundreds of eggs near the soil surface. Young snails begin feeding immediately; they are most active at night and in wet weather. Populations fluctuate depending on the weather. Snails are found throughout North America.

Prevention and Control

  • Keep plant foliage relatively dry to deter snail feeding. Leave space between plants for good air circulation. Thin out crowded plants and remove potential hiding places such as boards or buckets. Water in the morning, so plants can dry before evening.
  • Pull back mulch around vulnerable plants. If snails are rampant in your garden remove and avoid using organic mulches such as straw and leaves.
  • Protect vulnerable plants by surrounding them with a barrier of diatomaceous earth, Slug Magic, or crushed eggshells. Renew the barriers as needed.
  • Make your garden a haven for natural snail predators such as birds, frogs, toads, and ground beetles.
  • Handpick and destroy snails by dropping them in a jar of soapy water. You'll capture more if you go "hunting" at night. Use a slug trap or fill shallow containers with beer and sink them into the soil to trap slugs and snails.
  • In the evening, set out food traps such as cabbage leaves and pieces of potato. In the morning, destroy the snails that have gathered in the traps.

Last updated: 01/12/2023