14 Reasons Why Your Garden Has So Many Snails

Snails are the most common pests in a garden and can therefore be a major nuisance. Just when you’re excited about new plant growth, snails show up — and before long, you’ll have hole-riddled leaves, damaged seedlings, and slimy trails. 

Here are 14 reasons why your garden has many snails.

  1. Gardens are watered regularly.
  2. The garden has plenty of food for snails.
  3. Snails use calcium from the soil to make their shells.
  4. Gardens have lots of hiding spots for snails.
  5. You use overhead irrigation.
  6. Plant leaves provide shade for the snails. 
  7. The garden experiences minimal disturbance. 
  8. Snails lay eggs in wet soil.
  9. Snails get food and water from the same spot.
  10. They have easy access to other snails. 
  11. Snails climb plants to get away from the hot ground.
  12. Garden soil has beneficial bacteria and fungi.
  13. Your garden is free of the snail’s natural predators. 
  14. Undisturbed soil provides protection during winter.

Let’s dig deeper into what attracts snails to your garden. Once you identify the cause of the snail infestation in your garden, you’ll have an easier time keeping the snails under control and protecting your plants from extensive damage. 

1. Gardens Are Watered Regularly

Garden snails don’t live in water, but they do need a moist environment to keep their bodies from drying out. Their wet bodies also help them take in more oxygen. That’s why your garden is a perfect spot for snails: You water it regularly (not that I’m suggesting you shouldn’t water it at all!). 

So, snails get all the water they need to keep their bodies moist. They also have enough water to drink. 

Snails also need water to move around. Their trail may appear to be all mucous, but it’s 90% water. Your watered garden provides snails with all the moisture they need to survive. 

2. The Garden Has Plenty of Food for Snails

Snails have interesting feeding habits. Garden snails are omnivorous scavengers, meaning they feed on flowers, vegetables, leaves, worms, fungus, and even other snails. That’s why you find snails in all kinds of gardens, including vegetable and flower gardens

Even if you don’t see them munching, snails eat a lot. They prefer nutrient-rich foods, such as spinach, because those have lots of vitamins like manganese, B2, iron, and more. 

The greener the leafy vegetables, the better. For example, between lettuce and spinach, snails will always go for the spinach first. 

Other foods that snails enjoy include:

  • Cabbage
  • Marigolds
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Cucumbers
  • Strawberries
  • Dahlia
  • Beans
  • Delphinium
  • Herbs with tender leaves, like basil

Since they get everything they need to eat in your garden, it’s no wonder many snails choose to make your garden their home. 

3. Snails Use Calcium From the Soil To Make Their Shells

Snails find their way into your garden because they have easy access to calcium, an essential ingredient to make their protective shells. Some of the items you add to your garden — such as eggshells, bone meal, wood ash, gypsum, and lime — increase calcium levels in the soil. 

Snails need their shells to help them tolerate dry conditions. The shells also help them retain body moisture, which allows them to move around your garden easily. If your soil has no calcium, you’ll see fewer garden snails with shells

On the other hand, slugs (which don’t have shells) don’t need calcium. But they’ll be present if your garden has enough moisture to keep them hydrated. 

Unfortunately, a lack of calcium will also affect your plants. When you don’t water your garden evenly, it results in calcium deficiency in the soil, even in calcium-rich soils. Your plants need water to absorb calcium from the soil. 

So, your garden is the perfect habitat for snails because it facilitates better calcium absorption. The snails will have easy access to the calcium they need to build their protective shells. At the same time, they have a moist environment to thrive. 

4. Gardens Have Lots of Hiding Spots for Snails

Snails and slugs find shelter in your garden on sunny days and during the peak of the summer months. Without a cool, protective cover, the heat will dry them out. Your garden has a dense ground cover, leaf debris, unattended weeds, or even discarded boards that snails use to shield themselves from the sun. 

5. You Use Overhead Irrigation

The irrigation method you use in your garden will also determine the number of snails in your garden. Overhead irrigation will attract more snails because it raises the humidity. Snails also get enough water dripping from the plants to moisten their bodies. They’ll also have enough to drink as they feed on wet leaves. 

Drip irrigation is one way to keep garden snails away because the water goes straight into the soil. The humidity levels in gardens that use drip irrigation will be too low for the snails to survive there. 

6. Plant Leaves Provide Shade for the Snails

Snails use the big plant leaves — such as kale, spinach, and other leafy vegetables — to shield them from the scorching sun. That’s why you see most snails in the garden, though you may also find one or two on your shaded patio walls. 

7. The Garden Experiences Minimal Disturbance

You probably go for days without inspecting your garden, especially when it’s well-maintained. Some people even have timed irrigation systems, so they hardly even go into their gardens. The absence of regular human activity in the garden gives snails the ideal environment to lay their eggs, live, and feed. 

8. Snails Lay Eggs in Wet Soil

The snail populations in your garden increase rapidly because snails and slugs lay eggs in loose, damp soil. Snails have a highly muscular body, which allows them to move using their powerful ventral foot to dig 1 to 1.5 inch (2.5 cm to 4 cm) holes. Then, they lay eggs under these holes, or hidden leaves, stones, and debris. 

Snails and slugs have unusual reproductive behavior. Although they mate with other snails or slugs, all individuals are hermaphrodites (i.e., have both male and female reproductive organs). That means when they mate, both members of the mating pair will lay eggs. 

Every year, snails can lay up to six batches of eggs — each batch containing 80 eggs. Some slug species can lay as many as 500 eggs within the same period. The eggs hatch after three to six months, and the cycle continues. 

Note that the numbers I shared above are for each snail or slug. That means that left unchecked, your garden’s snail population will grow exponentially each year. 

This YouTube video shows the lifecycle of garden snails, from mating to egg laying: 

9. Snails Get Food and Water From the Same Spot

Slimy snail trails and holes in leaves may be the first signs of snails in your gardens. You may even see snail trails on pathways. Once the snails find their way into your garden, most hardly move around because they have everything they need in the same location. They have food, water, and shelter — a perfect habitat.  

10. They Have Easy Access to Other Snails

Like other land snails, garden snails don’t have a seasonal mating pattern. Rather, they’re constantly seeking mating partners, and your garden is the perfect place because of the large snail population. As I explained earlier, snails multiply rapidly. 

Snails engage in a long mating ritual, where they crawl over each other, coil together, and lure interested snails. Your garden saves snails from having to move long distances to find mates. 

11. Snails Climb Plants To Get Away From the Hot Ground

Your garden plants are more than a source of food and shelter for snails. They also provide refuge to snails when the ground gets too hot. When the soil temperature goes over a tolerable level, snails lose moisture and dry out fast. 

Snails enjoy staying in your garden because they can hide under the plants when surrounding temperatures rise. Likewise, when the soil gets too hot, they’ll climb up the plants where it’s cooler. 

12. Garden Soil Has Beneficial Bacteria and Fungi

Your garden may have a lot of snails because of the probiotic bacteria in the soil. These beneficial bacteria and fungi help with the decomposition of organic matter. They also help snails digest dead leaves, woody plant stems, and decaying matter. 

Snails and slugs are drawn to healthy soil rich in organic matter. That’s why you often find snails in your compost. So, if you use compost to enrich your garden, you’ll undoubtedly have many snails. 

13. Your Garden Is Free of the Snail’s Natural Predators

Snail predators include mice, squirrels, turtles, salamanders, and birds. If you’ve taken measures to keep these predators away from your garden, you’ve inadvertently created the perfect haven for snails. Since they’re not at risk of being killed or eaten, the snails can thrive and reproduce comfortably. 

14. Undisturbed Soil Provides Protection During Winter

Snails and slugs can easily survive mild winters. On the other hand, they don’t do so well under heavy snow. If you leave your garden undisturbed during winter, snails can hibernate underneath the soil. Since the soil remains intact, it keeps snails safe from the cold.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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