Snails are hard-shelled members of the Mollusca phylum, and they are virtually identical to slugs aside from the protective home they carry around. These cute but destructive pests leave slime trails, but they also gnaw at the foliage of your plants and can cause a lot of damage if left unchecked.
Snails will make themselves known in two primary ways.
Of course, you can also spot them by sight—they’re long, slimy gastropods with protruding eyes and round shells on their backs. To actually catch a glimpse of them, you’ll have to poke around during their primary feeding time: from sunset to before sunrise.
Snails are not nearly as tricky to prevent as many other pests, but it’s still best to employ multiple methods for the best chance at total prevention.
Before your plants go in the ground, give the soil a thorough toss by raking, tilling, or sorting through it by hand to remove any existent snails (or eggs).
Snails like cool, wet environments. And they definitely don’t like the sun. Make your garden inhospitable to snails by planting in as sunny a spot as your plants will tolerate.
Copper tape and sheeting has a nasty effect on snails’ skin that will (usually) cause them to turn back from your plants. Border your garden plot with these products to keep snails (and slugs) at bay.
Snails love, love, love moisture. Try to use your hose reel only when necessary (as opposed to keeping the soil wet at all times) if your plants will tolerate this. To further deter snails, use a ground irrigation system or point your hose at the ground so the leaves of the plant don’t get too wet.
Watering in the morning, after the snails’ primary feeding time has passed, can also help minimize moisture issues.
Snails don’t like many particularly odorous plants, such as lavender and rosemary. Place these plants around the borders of your garden or interspersed with snail-susceptible plants to deter the pests. You can also try to keep them away from your primary plants with other plants they like feasting on, such as marigolds.
There are very effective organic and non-organic ways to combat snails in your garden and save your plants. Luckily, the pesticide-free options are usually effective enough in combination that pesticides aren’t necessary.
Of course, if all else fails or you don’t have the time to invest in more natural methods, pesticide solutions for snails are available. Baits, including metaldehyde pellets, can be spread around your garden after a good rain. They are poisonous to the snails once consumed.
There are also an array of powders and sprays available that can be used at various times in the growing process. However, once plants are established, the snail population will likely be well enough controlled that you can safely stop pesticide treatments.