Gardeners and plant enthusiasts often find themselves battling against snails, as these slimy creatures can cause havoc by munching their way through cherished plants, flowers, and crops.
But have you ever wondered, what exactly snails eat?
Are they limited to devouring your favorite perennials, or do they have a more diverse diet that includes other crops, flowers, and even bugs?
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A Gourmet Feast: Snails’ Love for Plants
Snails are not known for their picky eating habits when it comes to plants. They consume various parts of plants, including leaves, stems, roots, bark, and even fruits. Remarkably, they show no preference for the health or condition of the plant, as they will happily munch on live and healthy ones, as well as dying and decaying ones.
Popular Plant Varieties that Attract Snails
Here are some of the popular plant varieties that act as magnets for snails:
Marigolds and Sunflowers: Snails find marigolds and sunflowers irresistibly attractive, to the point that they are often used as trap plants. Planting a row of marigolds nearby can keep snails distracted and away from your vegetable patch.
Delphiniums and Lupins: Snails have a particular fondness for the early, new growth of delphiniums and lupins. To protect these plants, it’s a good idea to shield the new growth with cloches or natural pellets.
Hostas: Hostas are notoriously loved by pesky snails who will voraciously feed on them until they become withered and die.
Dahlias: Snails won’t limit themselves to leaves and flowers but will also munch through tubers on plants such as dahlias.
Munching Through Your Crops: Snails’ Love for Edibles
Unfortunately, snails aren’t content with just ruining your flower beds. They are equally enthusiastic about working through various vegetable, fruit, and herb crops, leaving a trail of damage in their wake.
Favored Crops for Snails
The list of crops that snails will eat is extensive, and if you grow vegetables in your garden, you’re almost guaranteed to have to deal with snails. Here are some of their favored crops:
Green Leafed Vegetables: Snails adore green-leafed vegetables and have a particular affinity for almost all types of cabbages and lettuces.
Strawberries: While the leaves and flowers of strawberries might not suffer much damage, the fruits themselves are not safe from snails’ appetites.
Pumpkins: Snails find pumpkins very attractive, but they typically focus on consuming the plant leaves, which can stunt the growth. However, the actual fruit remains untouched.
An Omnivorous Feast: Snails’ Varied Diet
There are numerous species of snails, and their diets can vary significantly. While some snails are strictly herbivorous or carnivorous, most appear to be omnivorous, meaning they consume both plant and animal matter.
Main Components of an Omnivorous Snail’s Diet
Let’s take a closer look at some of the main foods that form the diet of omnivorous snails:
Soil: Growing snails consume soil and sand to obtain essential calcium for building strong and healthy shells. Adult snails with fully grown shells require less calcium and are less likely to consume soil or sand.
Fungi: Many land snail species are happy to munch on various fungi and mushrooms, although they are less likely to be found eating fungi in gardens compared to their crop-consuming tendencies.
Algae: While not a staple food for most snails, certain species of freshwater snails heavily rely on algae for their nutrition.
Vegetable Peelings: Snails are often found in compost piles, where they feast on vegetable and fruit peelings.
Weeds: Snails enjoy feeding on weeds like dandelions, making them one of the few beneficial aspects of having snails around.
Seeds: Snails also have a fondness for seeds, including sunflower, pumpkin, and hemp seeds, which they can find on the ground or in the soil.
The Hunt for Animal Matter: Worms and Spiders
When it comes to animal matter, worms seem to be the main source of protein for many omnivorous and carnivorous snails. Earthworms are a popular choice for snail delicacies, although some larger carnivorous snails may opt for larger worm species. As for spiders, snails do not eat them, and both coexist without disrupting each other’s lives.
Protecting Your Precious Plants from Snail Devastation
Given the diverse and voracious appetites of snails, it is crucial to protect your garden from their destructive tendencies. While there are no plants that snails outright avoid eating, there are a few varieties that can serve as deterrents:
Lavender: Snails dislike the smell of lavender, making it an excellent plant to grow to repel these pests while attracting beneficial creatures like butterflies.
Geraniums: With their hairy stems and unappetizing appearance, geraniums are not appealing to snails. Interspersing these flowers throughout your garden can deter snails from crossing their path.
Rosemary: This fragrant and hardy herb not only adds beauty to your garden but also deters snails and slugs with its scent.
While these plants may discourage snails to some extent, combining various methods is the best approach to keep snails out of your garden effectively.
In conclusion, snails are anything but picky eaters. With numerous species exhibiting omnivorous and carnivorous tendencies, they feast on a wide range of plant and animal matter. From flowers and crops to soil and worms, snails seem to enjoy every delicacy they can find in their surroundings. While their appetites can be a menace for gardeners, adopting proactive measures and planting certain deterrents can help protect your beloved plants from these slimy invaders.
So, if you’re looking to safeguard your garden from snail devastation, consider incorporating plants like lavender, geraniums, and rosemary. By combining these deterrents with other protective strategies, you can create a haven for your plants and outsmart these persistent garden invaders.