Posted by: cassymuronaka | May 10, 2009

Turf war

My neighborhood is at war and it’s one I personally plan to win. The people across the street are in an armed standoff with squirrels, and the man next door is battling bees. But for me, it’s snails.

My backyard once was enfolded in a groundcover of yellow flowers and gray-green leaves so boring in appearance that I never learned its name. In addition to lack of visual appeal, the groundcover harbored an exploding and increasingly hungry snail population.

A couple of years after I moved to my San Gabriel Valley abode, I began to rip out the snail shelter. In its place, I planted fruit trees and vegetables. After that, the trails of slime began feathering out nightly from beneath what few yellow flowers remained.

Who knew snails could climb tangerine trees? Or that they adore the taste of barely budding fruit?

This year I have planted a large victory garden, and the only way that it will achieve any kind of victory is if I completely and utterly vanquish the mollusks hiding in the struggling spinach.


The obvious weapon of choice is “That’s IT!,” a granulated pesticide designed to be sprinkled around vulnerable plants. But a one can of this stuff runs about $40 a pop. And while the recommended dose is every two weeks to control the average snail population, the number of snails living in my backyard is by no means “average.” I could feed a hearty appetizer to all of France on the escargot happily mutiplying just outside my kitchen door.

Supplementing my politically incorrect use of snail pesticide will have to be more environmentally acceptable organic methods. Most satisfying of these is merely turning the water on full blast and hosing the suckers off the planet. This is the way I handle the artichoke plant, where the snails cling tenaciously in the hundreds on the giant leaves.

The online “Journal of Pesticide Reform” recommends putting out dishes of beer as a snail lure, “by placing a plastic container with a lid (such as a margarine container) into the ground, leaving 3/4 to 1 inch above ground. Cut entry holes into the container above ground level.”

More appealing is the Journal’s recommendation that I make my own bait by mixing water, sugar and yeast together and simply, “save the beer for yourself.”



  1. I can never remove from my brain this somewhat horrible piece of information, which I got from god-knows-where and don’t even know if it’s accurate:

    Common American garden snails can be made deliciously edible by capturing them and feeding them on straight cornmeal for some prescribed amount of time. It clears the dirt & grit from their little tiny systems, apparently.

    I will admit that I like escargot, and we both know how pseudo-cannibalistic of me that is. Shall we try it when Manny and I stop by for a night on our way to Carpinteria (assuming it hasn’t gone up in flames)?

  2. p.s. my neighborhood creature wars are creepier than your neighborhood creature wars (unless of course we count Chris)!

  3. I guess I ought to start planting garlic and parsley now, if we’re going to try that.

    And yes, I doubt that our battles will reach the same heights you achieved as a 6th grader using a combination of cherry bombs and aluminum pie plates as a snail deterrent.

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