I think my experiments can be summed up in a phrase: It’s a good thing I live two blocks from Smith’s.
While I didn’t expect my garden to fill all my produce needs for the summer, I did expect it to add some nice salads by now. Out of two rows of lettuce I planted, I have grown two lettuce plants, one of which bolted yesterday while I was at work. (Well, quickly.) I don’t know if my seeds were bad, if the last month of cold had something to do with it, or if the snails ate both rows as soon as they came up out of the ground.
I’m thinking it was the snails, because after they ate my lettuces, they discovered my beans. The beans had come up easily, almost with a cartoon-y “SPROING!!”, and they were doing really well…for a day.
Obviously, poisoning the snails wasn’t an option, so I looked into natural deterrents. I tried some copper tape around the rows–the snails laughed*. I tried some coffee grounds around the beans–the snails laughed and ate some more.
Last weekend my mother offered me iron phosphate snail bait (named, fabulously, Escar-Go!). Iron phosphate is non-toxic and naturally occurring; snails eat it and then their hunger mechanism shuts down and they starve to death. Don’t laugh, but the thought of snails starving over three to six days seemed too sad for me, so I tried a beer trap as a last resort:
The snails got drunk, had a party, ate some beans, and laughed.
All my snail compassion disappeared. Monday night I re-planted the lettuce rows with beans and filled in the holes in the existing bean rows, and I Escar-Go!’d my garden within an inch of its life.
So I think I’ve won the snail battle but my beans will be three weeks behind schedule. At least radishes grow safely underground, far away from snails:
*I think the issue with copper tape on the beans was I couldn’t make good border around the whole row. I have copper rings around the base of the tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplants and they’re happy and un-eaten.