Get off my lettuce! Three quick ways to deter snails without poison

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Zap them with copper

Anyone who has ever had a tree get in the way of a breathtaking view or pending development approval will know the consequence of a copper coin – come on, we’re all aware of this nasty poisoning tactic! But did you know that copper can be used to kill other stuff too, like pesky snails and slugs?

The copper zaps the skin of the mollusc to disrupt the normal functioning of cells and enzymes. It will usually die within days.

Copper tape around your garden bed or individual plants is a good physical barrier because slugs and snails travel slowly over the tape, giving it enough time to work.

That’s not to say that copper tape is the only answer, but it makes up part of the cumulative effort to keep snails and slugs out of the patch.

Zapping snails with copper tape. Photograph: 1-Minute Gardener

Spray them with coffee

You are either a coffee lover or you are the sort of person who gets wired and nervous at the scent of caffeine. Two guys who go haywire at the thought of coffee are snails and slugs. As if we needed any more reasons to love the stuff.

Coffee to a snail is what red cordial is to a children’s birthday party – a really bad idea. The caffeine is something that does not agree with the snail’s make-up and one strong hit is enough to poison it.

Although the idea of using perfectly good coffee in the garden does not sit comfortably, in the rare event some is left lying about, this is the next best use for it.

Coffee-spray your snails away. Photograph: 1-Minute Gardener

Trap them with beer

Beer, poured into a glass, is not just your reward after a tough day on the tools, it is also a sneaky, dirty trap that helps to curb snail numbers in the patch. Those who believe coffee is a wasted commodity used on the veggie patch will be even more vehemently opposed when it comes to using beer. But if you want to protect your crops from pest damage some beer may have to be sacrificed.

You see, snails, like people, are attracted to the smell of yeast, and also find it irresistible. Beer traps placed strategically at their favourite hangout will have that part of the patch abuzz with activity – the queues will be longer than outside the local on a balmy Saturday night! But for the snails, this is one happy hour too good to be true.

Trapping snails with beer. Photograph: 1-Minute Gardener
  • This is an edited extract from 1-Minute Gardener by Mat Pember and Fabian Capomolla, published by Plum, available from 31 August. RRP $26.99, Photography by John Laurie

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