Snails are pesky garden visitors that wreak havoc on garden plants. They are best known for having voracious appetites and making large, jagged holes on leaves as they feed. Salt is known to be one of the best ways to get rid of them, but is it really effective and safe to use in the garden?
Salt keeps snails away because it kills them through dehydration, but it adversely affects plants. The best way to use salt is to draw the snails away from plants first before killing them. However, there are more humane ways of eliminating snails, wherein death won’t be as painful and slow.
We will talk about why salt is effective in keeping snails away from your plants and how you should use it to minimize risks to your soil and plants. We will also discuss other methods for eliminating snails, especially if you find the salt method a bit too cruel, even for these pesky crawlers. Let’s start!
Things To Know Before Using Salt To Drive Snails Away From Plants
Salt is effective in keeping snails away from your plants. However, there are some things you need to consider before going down this road. It has plenty of adverse effects, so it would be best to be informed about these before exposing your plants to such risks.
Here are some crucial facts to consider:
1. Do Not Sprinkle Salt Near Your Plants
Salt kills snails by drawing out moisture from their bodies, effectively dehydrating them. This eventually leads to death. Snails may have a hard shell to protect them from various elements, but their soft, thin undersides are entirely exposed.
When they get into contact with salt, their defense mechanism kicks in, and they produce more mucus to try to wash off the salt. The more mucus they produce, the more the salt is able to work in drawing out their fluids. Soon, they completely dry out and die.
Salt has a similar effect on soil and plants. As it absorbs deep into the ground, it will begin to draw out moisture from a plant’s roots. The plant will slowly dry, become dehydrated, and may eventually die.
Here are some of the adverse effects of salt on soil and plants:
- Salt binds tightly with water in the soil, preventing plants’ roots from absorbing moisture.
- Salt can create drought-like conditions for plants by pulling water from them, causing them to become dehydrated.
- Salt can prevent plants from absorbing vital nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and potassium from the soil.
Here are some symptoms you may expect when plants are exposed to salt:
- Leaves will begin to crisp, especially along the edges.
- Leaves will start dropping.
- Growth is stunted.
- Discoloration of leaves occur.
- You will notice distorted leaves.
- Stems will wilt.
- Buds will stop growing.
- The plant will have smaller than normal flowers and fruits.
2. Some Plants Can Handle Salt Well
Salt-tolerant plants will be able to handle a sprinkling of salt around them. Do this to create a barrier that prevents snails from approaching the plants. Snails are soft-bodied creatures. They will shy away from anything rough or jagged that will hurt their soft and thin undersides while they’re slithering over your garden soil.
Here are some salt-tolerant plants you may have in your yard:
- Butterfly Weed
- Indian Blanket Plant
- Bee Balm
- English Ivy
- Prickly Pear Cactus
3. Draw Snails Away From Plants Before Salting Them
Instead of sprinkling salt around your plants to create a barrier against snails, it would be best to gather these slimy pests in one location, away from your plants, before salting them. This way, your soil and plants won’t suffer from any of the adverse effects of salt. This method also ensures that snails are almost entirely eliminated from your garden.
This is how to do it:
- Choose a patch of bare soil. This should preferably be far from your plants.
- Water the soil in the late afternoon. This is to ensure that the ground is still moist at night, so snails will be attracted to the area.
- Cover the area with a plank of wood or cardboard. Place it on top of a brick, so there is just enough space underneath for snails to crawl through for shelter.
- Collect snails the following day. You’ll find them hiding underneath because they need shelter from the sun.
- Take the snails elsewhere, away from your plants. Sprinkle salt over them. Remember that snails produce lots of extra mucus when they get into contact with salt. Take them to an area you won’t mind getting messy with all the slime. Collect dead snails and discard them properly.
4. Handpick Snails Before Salting Them
You can also just go ahead and pick snails off your plants. Wear protective gloves, or you can use tongs to pluck them out. You can bring the collected snails elsewhere to salt them, or you can bring along a bucket of salty water so you can just drop them in directly.
Here’s how to do it:
- Water your plants in the late afternoon. Snails will love the moisture and will surely come out when it gets dark to feast and play.
- Prepare a saltwater solution. Mix 7 parts water with 1 part salt in a disposable plastic container. Make sure the container has a lid.
- Go outside to your garden at night. You’ll see snails feasting on your plants’ leaves.
- Pluck them out one by one and drop each into the saltwater solution. Check the undersides of leaves because they usually love hiding there.
- Cover the plastic container and leave the snails inside for at least 2 days. This is to ensure that none have survived.
- Throw away the container with the dead snails. Keep the lid closed because snails are known to harbor diseases.
5. Snails Dying From Salt Sprinkling Is Hard To Watch
When you sprinkle salt over snails, they will instantly start writhing and producing more mucus in an attempt to rinse their bodies of salt. However, the more mucus they make, the faster they become dehydrated.
Soon, the writhing will stop, and you will see, before your very eyes, the snail slowly dehydrating and dying. Truth be told, this isn’t a very humane way of dealing with these garden pests.
Thankfully, there are many other ways to keep pesky snails away from your plants. These methods are less painful ways of eliminating them, while some merely shoo them away. Consider these options if the salt methods are far too cruel for you.
Here are some tried and tested ways of dealing with snails:
You can also try feeding snails with bran. They generally like it and are oblivious to how dangerous it could be for them. Bran makes snails swell up, making it hard for them to move around. They will then become easy targets for predators. Their arch enemies include:
All you have to do is sprinkle bran around the plants frequented by snails. This creates a barrier that distracts them from feasting on your plants’ leaves and stems. They will instead consume the bran and will still be killed in the process, but they will become prey to other animals – a healthy way to support a balanced ecosystem.
Salt Barriers for Potted Plants
This method applies only to potted plants. Salt will be utilized, but it won’t come in direct contact with the soil or your plants. It will merely create a salt barrier that stops snails from climbing into the pots.
Here’s how to do it:
- Get some double-sided tape and stick it around the perimeter of your potted plants.
- Dab salt onto the tape, making sure it is thoroughly coated.
- Wait for snails to approach. You will see that the sharp, ragged terrain will instantly deter them.
Placing barriers, other than salt, around your garden plants is a great way to keep snails away. Crushed egg shells are great options, but make sure to clean them and get rid of the inner membrane first before scattering them around your plants so as not to attract other pests. You can also use coffee grounds, lava rocks, and sandpaper.
Snails detest copper because it sends little electric shocks throughout their bodies upon contact. You can purchase copper strips from your local garden supply stores and install these around your plants. You can also use copper coins by sticking them into the soil around your plants to create a barrier against snails.
Snails are attracted to the yeast in beer. They couldn’t resist it and would almost always come closer to investigate and take a sip. You can take advantage of this apparent weakness by creating a beer bath for them – a deadly one at that.
Here’s how to do it:
- Fill a deep bowl with beer.
- Bury it in your yard, but make sure about an inch is jutting out from the surface.
- Wait for the snails to arrive.
When these pesky crawlers come out to look for food at night, they will be attracted to the fermented smell of beer. They will approach the bowl to investigate and will most probably want to take a sip. They will fall in and drown. Collect the snails the next morning. Make sure to replenish the beer every few days to keep it fresh.
Nematodes are beneficial microscopic creatures capable of infecting pests with bacteria that eventually kill them. Purchase nematodes from your local gardening supply store and follow the instructions on the packaging. They usually need to be mixed with water and applied to the soil. Snails will feed on them, get infected, and will eventually die.
Salt does not seem to belong to the garden. It is reliable in keeping snails away, but the damage incurred by your soil and plants is much too heavy to be ignored.
Additionally, death by salt is prolonged and painful for our slimy, pesky garden foes. It would be best to consider other methods of keeping snails away from your plants. Choose a method that works best for you and is effective in deterring snails yet entirely safe for your treasured plants.
You can read my other article on how to stop slugs from eating strawberries that also covers ways to deter slugs from plants: Does Straw Stop Slugs From Eating Strawberries?