Monday, April 19, 2010

snails and slugs, part 1

It's strange that I've written so many words about weeds but not mentioned any of the mollusk invaders other than in passing under the head of (or maybe in the mouth of) legless lizards, who are working so hard to protect our  plants.

This morning, Google led me to a wonderful British article, Why snails love city gardens best. and I just had to try their solution -- Weetabix as bait. I rushed to our local Indian grocery store, which carries a large number of British products, and invested in a box of 24 biscuits. A bit crumblier than the Ruskets I remember from childhood but similarly flavored. Cardboard with overtones of sawdust. BTW Ruskets Flakes are still being manufactured and sold by Loma Linda, but the original biscuit is history.

I'll paraphrase the article but hope you'll read it in its tabloid-on-line source,
The Independent. There one is  
instructed to go out at dusk and crumble a Weetabix onto one's garden path about six inches from the herbaceous border so dearly beloved by snails, slugs, and city gardeners. Next, one should visit the crumb sites around midnight with a torch (or 'flashlight' as we Yanks call it), a brush, a dustpan, and a container with a lid. You're supposed to sweep up the snails, store them under cover (presumably with some of the swept-up Weetabix crumbs to tide them over) amd "when convenient release on wasteland at least 40 metres* from your garden." I don't think this would endear you to gardeners who live less than 40 metres from the wasteland.** Forty metres is the range of a mature snail, so I guess the idea is that they won't come back.

All this I followed to the letter (up to a point, as you'll see), and when I went out during the wee hours with my torch there was a congregation of small slugs munching on the Weetabix. Here I diverged from the recommended procedure and smashed the creatures to smithereens. And since I was up most of the night working on a project, I made two trips, the second time with a fork for easier smashing. On the first trip, I had used a chopstick. Not as efficient or as satisfying as the metal tines.

The trap-and-release method I eschewed was reminiscent of Kay's way to dispose pf snails and slugs. She would gently deposit them in a milk carton along with a lifetime supply of tasty green stuff, and place them in with her household trash.

OK I'm not as nonviolent as Kay was, but I'm not inhumane. Why should a land mollusk live out its last hours in a dark, stuffy milk carton or wandering on barren land? Mine, well fed to the last, die quickly and with dignity in their own homes.

There's more to be said about snails and slugs, but I'll save it for later in this "cruel month," along with more about T.S. Eliot.
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*Why six inches and 40 metres in the same article? Where are our standards? Are we supposed to learn the metric system or not?

**I never encountered the concept of wasteland, except in T.S. Eliot's poem of that name, until we started getting tax bills for our Idaho property, which includes a couple of acres of wasteland lying along the bank of the irrigation ditch. Here in the L.A. area, the nearest wasteland is probably the dry, weedy bank of a concrete creek that leads storm-drain water and effluvia into the ocean. Allowing anything (even rainwater) to go into the storm-drain system here is ecologically irresponsible and politically incorrect. I must admit, though, that when I smash snails in the gutter their dried remains are ultimately scattered at sea.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License