Plant Clinic

Snails just love herbs in the garden

Q. I’m growing my own herbs and I’m having a problem keeping snails from eating the plants. I need to know of a non-toxic chemical or some way to keep the snails from eating my herbs.

T.T., via email

Use a snail bait with the active ingredient iron phosphate, which is available at garden centers. It’s much safer than other baits. Or you can make your own traps to attract snails, which make collecting and discarding them easier. But traps are generally only effective for short distances, so they need to be located where you are finding snails.

For example, elevating a board on the ground near damaged plants at night makes an attractive shelter for the snails. The snails can then be collected in the morning. Avoid touching snails with bare hands. Wear plastic or rubber gloves to avoid parasites they may carry.

Using attractive substances such as beer or decaying fruit will draw out the snails. Take a shallow saucer and sink it into the soil so the edge is level with the ground. Place beer or a few slices of banana in the saucer and form a roof over your trap to keep out water. The snails will crawl in for a taste, but can’t crawl back out.

Or you can make barriers using copper roof flashing, copper strips or bands of copper wire to keep snails out of planting beds and containers. To be effective, this needs to be done before you have an infestation.

For more information on protecting plants from snail damage and from other pests see this website:

Adrian Hunsberger is an entomologist/horticulturist with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension office. Write to Plant Clinic, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead, FL 33030; e-mail

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