Slugs and Snails
Probably the most common pest problem is the slug and snail. They seem to hang out together as night buddies. I'll admit it here and now - I'm a killer to such pests. When I first encountered them, I thought they were somewhat cute and containable. Soon I was reaching devastation levels with my plant material and I could no longer tolerate their activities.
My first efforts were to use a flashlight and have evening of manual pickings. After all these guys were big. No problem to pick up. However, from big slugs and snails come the next generation.
Setting a bait dish of stale beer helped a little. But not entirely.
Next, I started some commercial products. Diatomaceous earth probably was my best solution. This material is made up of shells of diatoms and sadly gives the slugs and snails a gruesome death.
If you can obtain some, wood ashes work well. Or sharp sand. This is coarse construction sand which will irritate the slimy and slippery bodies of the pests keeping them at bay.
There are commercial snail baits.
Early products contained metaldehyde and sometimes worked.
Now, Sluggo and Garden Safe have developed slug and snail bait that contains iron phosphate. This is safe for homeowners with pets and works well.
I'm afraid these pests will be around for a long time to come.
Take note of conditions that snails and slugs enjoy. Eliminate shady areas, cool corners, wood piles, and wet areas.
Emily: Slugs don't like oyster shells?
Dear Emily: I had a beautiful crop of tomatoes a few years ago. The problem was that the slugs enjoyed the fruits of my labour more than I did. I talked to a pest guy and he said egg shells would work if I spread them around the plants. I would never eat that many eggs, however it did make me think of another product - crushed oyster shells, which is sold by the bag at feed stores here in southwestern Ontario. Apparently the sharp edges of the shells cut the slime that surrounds the slugs, and which they depend upon to live.
Anyway, my slug problem is gone. However, I also found that the cucumbers I planted in the same area did not do well, whether it was the oyster shell or not I do not know. I don't know if it changes the nutrients of the soil or not. I put the shell down 3 or 4 years ago and it is still there.