Thursday, May 3, 2012

Snails in Your Edibles - Bring Out the Copper

I refuse to use pesticides in my garden- it’s not worth the damage to the environment. But at this time of year when I’m planting the tender, defenseless seedlings that I carefully nurtured from precious seeds, I get desperate. Snails will mow down seedlings in the blink of an eye.

I’ve used Sluggo, which helps but is variable in effectiveness. The active ingredient is iron phosphate, safe for use around pets and wildlife and sanctioned for organic gardening, but using too much may cause phosphate build up in the soil. So I turned to my secret weapon: copper foil.

I’ve used small copper foil strips to protect young plants that I’m trying to establish in my garden until they have a chance to mature and can stand on their own against snails. It’s 100% effective in my experience.

But I hadn’t thought of wrapping my planting beds in the stuff - until I saw it in a slide show by Maureen Decombe of Green Willow Gardens.

My organic garden supply store, Common Ground in Palo Alto, has copper strips for sale to use as snail barriers - they are worth every penny! I bought 40 feet and immediately wrapped two of my front yard beds.

According to a University of California IntegratedPest Management (IPM) web page:

“It is believed that copper barriers are effective because the copper reacts with the slime that snails and slugs secrete, causing a disruption in their nervous system similar to an electric shock."

The copper barrier is supposed to be effective for several years, and can be refreshed with vinegar if it tarnishes. My copper, show in the photos, is 4 inches wide which is a good width for a snail barrier. 

I'll still go out and handpick them to keep them from eating the rest of my garden, but I'm enjoying this small victory!

This post was published on Eat Drink Better

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke


  1. These snails are mostly seen in the rainy days and its a great experience to watching them has there shell are different in structures and fabulous.

  2. I love to take them in hands,they just looks amazing.


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