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
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
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.
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.
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,
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).
David in Toronto
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.
- 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.
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
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!
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; )
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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