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meet the snails day


Learning about living things #crowdfunding

On Thursday we were invited in to Wickhambreaux primary school to the after school young gardeners club for a Meet the Snails event.

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We took a mini farm with some baby snails and some big ones too so the children could see how they grew. One of the girls ran her finger round the spiral shell and told me how the shell grows as the snail gets bigger.

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The excitement of the children is always infectious on these occasions and this was no exception. They were amazed at how hard the shell was when the babies first hatch and how fast they move when they can smell food. The children were mostly six or seven and they were very knowledgeable about snails already but did enjoy feeling the radula in the snail's mouth gently rasp their fingers. It is difficult to explain in words how the snail eats but when you can feel it with your fingers it all makes sense. We sprinkled some dry snail food onto the inside of the mini farm bell too so they could see the snail opening its mouth to show the black radula inside and scrape the food off the surface.

The children already knew that snails laid eggs but they didn't know how many one snail could lay so it was good to be able to show them a clutch that were laid the previous week.

It's their long antennae that always fascinate me - they way they wave about in all directions. Because our eyes both normally point the same way so we can focus on an object, it is difficult to imagine what it's like to have eyes that just rove about randomly!

All too soon it was time to go for the molluscs and me so we said goodbye and left them to tend their gardens.



Newsflash! Snails don't like garlic!

The most common question I get is ‘How do you stop the snails eating everything in your garden?’

‘If snails are a nuisance: eat them! That’s what they’re for.’ That’s my reply.

ImageYesterday I spent the hottest day of the year so far out in the sun at Slow Summer Snail Farm trying to persuade my snails to strut their stuff before their audience. They took the commonsense approach of opening one eye to see if there was any food around then going back to sleep – it was Sunday after all!

So I got on with some weeding. I had a local radio station on the phone one day last week asking me why slugs and snails only eat the plants we value and don’t eat weeds. I tried to explain that I didn’t think their assumption was true so they asked if there was an expert they could talk to instead of me. My answer was the wrong one and presumably they were only interested in hearing they were right. If it’s a small delicate newly formed leaf then it’s fair game – weed or not.

I find the best method of stopping slugs and snails from eating my vegetables is to go out at dusk with a jar of salty water and catch them at it. There are copper strips, beer traps and all sorts of clever devices on the market for keeping them off your lettuces and out of your pots. If you feel compelled to use those nasty blue pellets don’t spread them all over the place and especially not round the plants you are trying to protect because they are attractive to slugs and snails. Put just a few in the places where snails might congregate to sleep during the day – under flower pots or piles of bricks.

But I think garlic spray is worth a try. I heard you can just make up a solution of garlic and spray it onto your treasured plants and it will keep those little teeth away – they don’t like the smell of garlic. Rain would wash it off of course so you’d have to repeat the exercise until the leaves are tough enough to survive. I’m going to try it at home.

Let me know how you get on with it.