About to plant tulips....SNAILS!

Hello, all: First of all, I'm a VERY amateur gardner having bought my first house about six weeks ago. Most of my gardening experience has been marigolds in an apartment balcony flower box. So I'm very grateful for any suggestions.
I have a plot about 6 feet by 4 feet at the front of my house. Covered with some sort of weeds that I dug up. I want to plant a nice tulip selection I bought. But there are snails in the soil. Can I just plant the bulbs tomorrow and ignore the snails? Sprinkle salt a la Gary Larsen's Far Side? Or beer?
I'm ready to plant, but am a bit nervous about the snails. I bow to everyone's expertise in these matters.
Thanks so much!
David in Toronto
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Make a habit of going out early in the morning and picking up all the snails you can find. Put them in a plasic bag and seal it shut in the garbage. If you do this for a week you will find that the snails almost disappear. An occasional patrol will keep them under control. Snails do not bite.
Dick

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Maybe I've been lucky, but I've never seen tulip bulbs damaged by snails. Foliage - who knows? But, that dies down by end of spring anyway, and it's pretty rugged while it's growing.
Other tips for a new gardener: If the madness begins to take over your entire life (which it will when seed catalogs arrive in January), remember that you can always shuffle garden expenses into other parts of the household budget. For instance, since gardening is good exercise and relaxing, some of the expenses can go under "Health care". If you plant shrubs to block the winter wind, the expense goes under "Utilities". If you plant things with thorns to block windows which might attract burglars, that goes under "Home Security or Repair". Any edible plants obviously fall into the food budget. If you do this right, you'll find you're spending next to nothing on gardening.
Also: Do yourself a favor right now and buy a book called "The Essential Earthman", by Henry Mitchell. It'll help a lot when things don't go right, like a frost in late May.

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"Doug Kanter" <> wrote in message

This is too funny! Did you get that from somewhere or did you make it up right here all on your own?
LauraJ
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It's based on 20 years of creatively lying to my ex-wife about where all the plants came from. :-) And the trays, pots, lights, tools, seeds.......
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Many thanks to Doug, Frogleg and everyone else for your advice. More than I asked for and much appreciated! I'll check out that book you mentioned, Doug.
I don't think I'll have to worry about the snails after all. After about 5 hours backbreaking work digging up the old soil and carting it off and replacing it with new, fresh soil the snails should be gone. It's amazing how one can underestimate things when it comes to gardening. It's just a small plot I'm talking about--maybe 4 by 6 feet. I thought "Oh, it'll only take an hour or so to dig the old soil and up replace it. And the 12 bags of new soil should be plenty. Well, five hours later the 12 bags only refilled about a third of the plot. So no tulip planting yet.
Back to the garden centre!
Once again, thanks to everyone. I only wish the people in the alt.animals.raccoons newsgroup had been as knowledgeable when it comes to advising me how to prevent the raccoons from digging up my new sod (chicken wire laid over the sod did the trick).
Happy Gardening!
David in Toronto
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David, if you haven't gone to the garden center for more soil yet, DON'T. Unless there was something terribly wrong with your soil OTHER THAN SNAILS, removing it is the worst thing you can do. Put back as much of your old soil as possible. Why?
1) You have snails not because your soil's bad, but because something else created an environment they liked. The most likely cause is also something positive: Mulch. They like to live under vegetation that covers the soil, like fallen leaves. This same mulch is good for most plants, because it helps retain moisture, keeps weeds down, and shelters other helpful soil organisms that you WANT TO HAVE AROUND. So you have to strike a balance you can live with. If you'd done the beer trick, you could've significantly lowered the snail population, at least for a season or two. Also helping with that goal would be removing excessive amounts of surface vegetation, but not necessarily all of it. Whatever you plant later may need mulch.
2) Soil isn't just SOIL. When undisturbed, there are definite layers of organic activity - bugs and microorganisms that are good to have around. This is why, when an experienced gardener sees/feels/smells that his garden has healthy soil, he doesn't "turn it over". Rather, if the soils a bit compressed from foot traffic or lack of use, he sticks a garden fork into the ground and simply twists or rocks the tool, just enough to loosen the soil. The various layers of the soil world need to remain intact, and I'm talking about a world which goes down between one and four feet, depending on the size of the things you're planting.
Unless you are very lucky, the soil you bought is pretty much dead. After a couple of years of treatment, you can get it back into shape. But, it would be better if you could put back 6-12" of your original soil.
Other thoughts: - The "treatment" I mentioned actually entails doing LESS work and buying LESS stuff to add to the soil. For instance, do you have a lawn? Does your lawnmower have a bagging option? Every so often, put 2-3" of lawn clippings on your garden. Sprinkle loosely - you don't want it to turn into that green slime you get if you put grass clippings into a plastic bag and forget about it for a couple of days. Keep the clipping a few inches from tiny seedlings, but it's otherwise beneficial. In a few days, it'll dry to brown and mat together nicely, which means it won't blow away.
- "Good soil": If you grab a handful, squeeze it, and then crumble it, it should break apart like a well-made chocolate cake. Not a brownie, not a cookie. A cake. When you reach this point, you're close to Nirvana. Buy yourself a 2"x10" wooden board maybe 4 or 6 feet long - whatever's convenient to move around the yard. It can be cheap wood - it doesn't matter. If you need to get into the middle of your garden, don't step or kneel all over it. That'll compress your soil. slide the board into place like a catwalk. If 2x10 is too wide for your planting, make it a 2x8. This is a less-than-$10 tool that you'll use for a long time.

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Many thanks once again, Doug, for sharing your expertise. You obviously know more about soil in one little finger than I know in my entire body.
I think that I'll be okay, though. The soil I've bought for many years is very good (for Canadians, it's President's Choice Black Earth soil). Everything grows well in it and it's not too heavy (a la brownies). Much more "cakey." The soil that I removed (and threw down into a ravine behind my new house) was quite sandy and rocky. Not good soil. At least to my amateur's eye.
Anyway, Doug (and everyone) many thanks for your time and trouble. I bow to your experience. I wish I could repay you for your helpful advice. If you like art, then I invite you to visit my website, with the complete works and letter of Vincent van Gogh, at www.vangoghgallery.com.
All the best!
David _________________________________________________________

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replying to WPB, Deb Weyrich-Cody wrote: David, if something is digging up your soil, it's probably because there's something there to be eaten.. Squirrels love tulip bulbs/ skunks love grubs(like June bug larvae). If you don't want to feed the squirrels your expensive bulbs, just plant daffodil/narcissi instead (and better the skunks eat your grubs than the grubs eat your lawn ; ). Beer in a lidded container will get rid of your snail &/or earwig problem (loads of info online). Please don't throw your soil away; amending it with well-rotted compost (veggie peels/leaves/grass clippings) from your own recycled organics or from the garden centre will do the most for the soil in your garden... Lol, was just reading what Doug Kanter said - great advice all of it (but all the way back in December of 2004, really?!) I'm guessing that by this point you're either a real Pro in the garden or have already given it up years ago... Hopefully the former; )
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Snails IN the soil? You mean buried in the dirt? I'm no expert on the lifestyle of snails, but they're usually creeping around on the surface. There are different sorts of grubs that may be found in the soil, but I've never heard of buried snails.
And no. *Don't* sprinkle salt around. You'll just poison the ground. Salt is sprinkled directly on snails and slugs to catastrophically dehydrate them. Beer is used in a shallow container to trap and drown snails and slugs. Neither is a deterrent in or on the ground.
Snails won't bother tulip bulbs. If they are still there when the tulips are growing, they may eat some foliage.
If you've removed the weeds the snails were living amongst, they probably won't be living there next year. Just gather up all the ones you see and squish 'em now.
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