Tag Archives: getting rid of snails from garden

A New Day Yesterday – Part Twenty

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The proofed copy of my new book, Fifty Clever Bastards, came through one evening at midnight and I couldn’t resist the temptation to print the thing off there and then. Printers are wonderful things but at that time of the night you can well do without paper running out and ink cartridges needed replacing. Still, after about 45 minutes of fulminating, cursing modern technology and feeding the voracious jaws of my printer with paper and ink, I had my baby in my arms.

I decided not to read it at that late hour – a wise decision if there ever was one – and waited until the morning. What became apparent as I worked my way through the script was that whilst there were very few typos, grammatical errors or infelicities of language, it didn’t have a cohesive feel about it. So I set about, no doubt to the annoyance of my editor, standardising date formats, headers and layout.

I noted each change on a separate Word document, hoping that my intentions with each change were crystal clear and that the editor would have no difficulty in interpreting my intentions. A second proof came through and so the process was repeated. It is amazing that however carefully you think you have read something and no matter how many times you go through the document, errors pop up in place where you had not observed them before. It is as though the document had a life of its own. Anyway, I nailed most, if not all, of the latest batch of errors and signed the proof off.

The book was put into production in record time and I was filled with a sense of achievement when I got the email saying it was now on sale on Amazon. The receipt of the physical copies made it all seem real and, I’m pleased to say, early sales are promising. J K Rowling has nothing to worry about – at least at the moment. If you are interested, check the link in the Publications section of this blog.

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Rather like Lord Emsworth I derived a lot of pleasure contemplating the progress of my other pet hobby, my pumpkins. I shared the dismay he felt when the Empress started to lose weight when I noticed that my fruits had stopped growing. Worse still, they started to wrinkle and shrivel. Despite lots of water and supplements there were no sign of any improvement.

Readers may recall my attempts to control our garden snail population attracted the interest of no less an organ than the Wall Street Journal. Well, sad to relate, the snails have picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and wrought their revenge. Spotting a free meal they munched with gusto on my ailing pumpkins leaving me with no alternative but to cut them off and throw the fruits on the compost heap. When the don of British gardening, Monty of that ilk, announces on Gardeners’ World that it is a poor year for pumpkins I knew I was on a hiding to nothing.

But nature is if nothing resilient. More fruits have started to appear and the whole process of pollination is in train. I suspect they will be too late to be whoppers but after the setbacks and disappointments of this year, just to have one modest sized one to give BoJ1 would be a triumph. Surely, that is not too much to ask, is it?

Snail Wars

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I have mentioned it before but TOWT is a keen gardener. A perennial battle is the one she wages against snails who seem to take a particular delight in munching their way through her bedding plants.

I don’t know about you but having grown up as a child to the delights of Eric Thompson’s the Magic Roundabout, I always had a soft spot for Brian the snail. As a consequence I am keen to find a way of removing these gastropods – I have no affinity for slugs, however – as humanely as possible to preserve TOWT’s plants and her equilibrium.

As a consequence we have eschewed the usual methods adopted by gardeners – setting beer traps (what a waste of beer!), collecting them and keeping them in a jar until they die or using some of the (expensive) pellets and chemical concoctions your friendly garden centre is only too willing to sell you. No, the method of choice we adopt is to pick the mollusc and throw it as far as we can on the theory that they are not known for their speed of travel and so the problem will be transferred elsewhere – usually an unsuspecting neighbour’s garden.

Astonishingly, according to findings from research conducted by Queen Mary, the University of London and the University of Exeter and published in the ever popular Physica Scripta, this is precisely the right approach to adopt. However, and there is always a proviso I find in these matters, you need to throw them at least 20 metres from where you found them.

Following a series of tests conducted since 2001 – nothing connected with snails moves along very quickly, it seems – and using techniques as sophisticated as marking their shells with correcting fluid – the scientists have found that whilst snails have a homing instinct, a distance of at least 20 metres from their home patch will usually nullify the effect. For those concerned about gastropod cruelty it seems that provided they are thrown into the undergrowth rather than a hard surface they are unharmed from their experience.

Regrettably, though, this is not the answer to complete elimination of the pests. Researchers have found that many more snails visit your garden regularly or irregularly than are present at any one time. So it is little more than a Sisyphean labour. Moreover, you run the risk of tit for tat action from your neighbours.

I have this wonderful image of a sunny Sunday afternoon in a leafy suburban neighbourhood. The picture is punctuated by the sight of the occasional mollusc being thrown back and forth over garden wall. Could become a spectator sport!

So now we know!