• December 29, 2014

Snails feast on calcium-rich foods to grow shells

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Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 12:00 pm

Regarded as cute by some, gross by others and despised by many, snails were among the first inhabitants of the Earth. Texas snail fauna consists of 165 terrestrial species. These members of the mollusk family have a radula in their mouth for grinding food. Active at night and during cloudy, wet days, they eat plants and even can gnaw through limestone rock to get the calcium their shells require. The average lifespan of a snail is 15 years, some live 25 years. Snails hibernate during cold weather and times of drought.

They can be very destructive in the vegetable garden and destroy newly planted seedlings. They usually eat calcium-rich foods like broccoli, kale, soybeans, turnip greens, spinach, peas and okra to help grow their shells. They also like basil, beans, cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, algae, lichen, and decaying plants and fruits. They also will damage ornamental plants such as hosta, marigolds and Rudbeckia maxima.

If you don't want to feed the snails, use resistant plants to surround vulnerable ones. Snail-resistant plants include lavender, rosemary, fuchsia, geranium, impatiens, lantana, California poppy, sages and begonias.

Frogs, toads, snakes, birds, ducks, geese, beetles and caterpillars are natural enemies of snails. To help control snails, remove objects where they may hide during daytime hours. Use drip irrigation rather than overhead watering to reduce wet areas. Snails can be handpicked and relocated or destroyed.

Other control methods are beer traps, copper foil barriers and/or baits. To make beer traps, bury a plastic cup in the soil up to the lip and fill it with beer. Snails will crawl into the cup and drown in the beer. Copper barriers will deter snails by providing a mild shock when they touch they. If you choose to use bait, purchase only baits containing iron phosphate. Iron phosphate baits are safe to use around pets, children and wildlife. Sprinkle baits sparingly in the evening when the snails are most active.

Have any questions about gardening in Central Texas? Email ask.bcmga@gmail.com.

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