How does Your Garden Grow?

Cornu asperum: California brown garden snail

Cornu asperum: California brown garden snail

Louise Grabell

The tail of two snails: It was the best of times, out in the garden preparing the soil for spring planting.

To my great surprise, a pretty little snail was crawling along the soil surface and I thought: isn’t that curious? This is the desert. It’s hot and dry here. Where on Earth did a snail find its way into my garden? So cute! I gently put my new pet back down on the soil and he (she?) went merrily along his way. Little did I know it was to be the worst of times! A few days later I discovered his cousin, his wife, his—whatever; a bit smaller but just as cute. Now I was the proud owner of two snails. Some people have a desert tortoise in their yard, but I had snails!

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve lived in the moister, cooler climate back east so, for a brief moment, I forgot that snails are close relatives to slugs and slugs can decimate a flower garden.

By the time that light bulb went on, I couldn’t find my two snails. Well, they probably knew I would shortly come to my senses and found a hideout that was secure.

I blissfully planted my zinnias and marigolds and watched my perennials growing so beautifully until I noticed that my marigolds were stripped to their stems and then other plants began to show similar damage. Damn those snails! But how could two snails do all this damage in two different flower beds? Determined to find my now unwanted cute pets, I looked under every rock and in every cranny—no snails. Next I did the beer in the cup trick—no snails. The damage continued unabated until, one day, I found more snails. Seems the first two invited their relatives! I found communities of snails under rocks and thick foliage. Now I was angry. Where did they come from and how was I to get rid of them? I manually removed and murdered 342 snails! My goodness, they know how to procreate! I found their favorite daytime hiding places and removed them, one by one. Escargot, anyone?

Why do I tell you this tale? Because now I know from whence they came. I subsequently found snails hiding on the foliage of plants purchased at my favorite nursery (no name, please). I told the owner he had a problem and he suggested it was my problem and I should buy some snail/slug bait ($15 plus tax). Moral of the story: Check your garden beauties before you bring them home. Baby snails are very small! Put on your reading glasses and look under the leaves. Look on the stems. Be vigilant so you will be free of snails!

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Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.