Snails and slugs are considered by many to be a pest, although the truth is that snails play a vital role in our ecosystem. Snails are relatively hardy creatures that reproduce fairly fast, and once they get into our garden they tend to cause a lot of problems. Having a serious snail infestation is going to be a nightmare for anybody who is relying on growing their own food, especially if you grow plants that snails love to eat.
The benefits of snails in the garden are that snails are excellent at recycling decaying plant matter. Without the snails eating the dead plant matter the bacteria would have to decompose them which takes a relatively long time. In addition to this, snails are excellent at aerating the soil, eating bug eggs, other snails and they are even a good source of calcium for your plants once they have decomposed.
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You will oftentimes see people who use a monoculture system struggle with snails, especially in hot and humid environments. On the other hand, if you are using permaculture and you are diversifying the types of plants you are growing the snails will become less of a problem. The biggest threat is to seedlings, which oftentimes are targeted by slugs, once they lose their first leaves they will not be able to recover.
Although there are a lot of benefits of snails in the garden, but that doesn’t mean that you should encourage them to stay in your garden, as snails tend to reproduce relatively fast, and sooner or later they could become a serious pest. If you also have a problem in your garden with slugs then you are most likely growing something they are attracted to, for more information check out my recent article What Attracts Slugs ( Top 10 Things ).
Snails Recycle Dead Plant Material In The Garden
One of the main benefits of snails in the garden is that they are basically the cleanup crew of the garden. Snails love eating decaying plant matter, and once they have digested it and pooped it out their poop will become an excellent fertilizer for the plants. If you would get rid of all the snails in your garden then you will break up the cycle of regeneration in your garden, dead plant matter will still decay, although a lot slower than if it would be eaten by the snails. One of the best ways of protecting your plants from snails is with plastic bottles, for more information check out my recent article Protecting Young Plants With Plastic Bottles ( Slug & Snail Proof ).
Snails Aerate The Soil In the Garden
One overlooked aspect of snails in the garden is that they are excellent at aerating the soil, although slugs are even better at it. Snails and slugs will oftentimes hide underground from the heat, only to emerge once it has rained. While they are hiding below the ground they will make small chambers that allow air to flow through. On the other hand, there are definitely better ways of aerating your soil than with slugs.
Some Snails Eat Snails And Slugs In The Garden
There are a couple of snails and slugs that eat other slugs and snails. Snails are extremely opportunistic, and they will have no problem eating one of their close relatives if they are injured or dead. The bad news is that it doesn’t tend to happen that often, in times of plenty snails will rather eat seedlings or decaying plant matter.
Snails Eat Bug Eggs In The Garden
Snails can be an excellent pest control as they will not shy away from eating the eggs of bugs or even other snails. The bad news is that they tend to eat the eggs of both the beneficial and the harmful bugs as well. For the most part, if you have a serious snail infestation then it is highly unlikely that other pests are also bothering you, but once the snail population declines the number of bugs in your garden will definitely increase.
Snails Attract Their Natural Predators To Your Garden
Frogs, hedgehogs, snakes, and some birds love eating snails, and the more snails in the garden are the sooner these predators will show up. If you have a serious snail infestation and you rarely see one of these predators then there is an imbalance in your local ecosystem. Usually, this tends to happen if you are using slug pellets which are harmful to their predators as well, so make sure to use slug pellets that do not harm their predators and they will show up sooner or later. If you are using organic mulch then one of its drawbacks is that it tends to attract slugs and snails, for more information check out my recent article Mulching Disadvantages ( Top 9 Cons ).
Snails Eat Weak Plants In The Garden
Snails and slugs will often target plants that are stressed and relatively weak, although most people view this as being a negative but the truth is that it really depends on the type of plant. If your tomato plant is being eaten by the snails then consider it as natural selection, odds are that the tomato plant was stressed out and wouldn’t really produce as many tomatoes as a healthy plant would. Although a hungry snail will go for healthy plants as well, and the more snails you have in your garden the more likely it is that they will eat everything.
Snails Are Excellent At Putting Calcium Into The Ground
Snails need a lot of calcium in order to develop, they get this calcium from the decaying plant matter or from the plants that they eat. The good news is that once they die the calcium will slowly be absorbed into the topsoil and feeding your plants. The shell of the snail contains most of the calcium, but the problem is that snail shells decompose relatively slowly. If you find snail shells in your garden then mince them up to a fine powder and place them around your plants, this way they do decompose a lot faster.
As you can see there are some benefits of having snails in your garden, although this mostly depends on how problematic the snails in your area are. For the most part, if you are not growing plants that they love to eat then you should be fine, on the other hand, if you grow a lot of leafy vegetables then the bad news is that this is one of their favorite foods.