Snails love to eat leafy green plants including vegetables, herbs, perennial and annual flowers. They will attack new seedlings in spring and fall and love it when the weather is damp and wet. The first plants that snails will attack usually have soft leaves, are young and close to the ground.
This article will explore if snails eat leaves in your home garden and their 10 favorite plants that they will attack first. This will help you to identify and protect your young plants before they get eaten.
1. New seedlings
New seedlings planted out in garden beds at ground level are usually the first leaves that snails will attack. Snails live in leaf matter in the soil and will crawl up to eat the leaves overnight. New seedlings with delicate fresh leaves are a tasty treat for snails and they can devour a whole plant in one night.
Plant seedlings in new no-dig garden beds raised above ground level. This higher level will help to prevent them from climbing up and finding your new seedlings. This has worked incredibly well for me this season as I have planted my new pansies and violas.
Last year my pansies were eaten almost overnight, but this year they are out of the way of the travelling snails.
Soft spinach leaves are one of the first foods that snails will go for in your vegetable garden. They can crawl up the spinach stems and reach the leaves. They usually start to eat the leaves from the edges but can eat holes in the leaves as well.
Snails usually attack the plant at night so they can be difficult to spot. If you get up before the sun comes up in the morning and check your plants with a torch, you can sometimes catch them in the act.
Beer traps are one of the best ways to stop snails from attacking spinach in your vegetable garden. Fill a shallow tray or plate with any beer and the snails will be attracted and will crawl in. The snails will die off in the beer and won’t be able to attack your plants. This works for slugs too!
3. Broccoli and cauliflower
Broccoli and cauliflower leaves are a tasty treat for snails. My broccoli leaves were eaten slowly over the last winter by passing snails leaving holes in the larger leaves. They would attack at night and would disappear by the next morning.
It is up to you as to whether you deal with snails attacking broccoli and cauliflower plants or not. If more than ¼ of the leaf is being attacked and eaten then you can set beer traps. If only small amounts of the leaves are missing then the broccoli and cauliflower heads will continue to grow without being affected.
Snails rarely attack the heads of the brassicas and small holes in the leaves will not affect plant growth.
4. Beans and peas
New bean seedlings and pea shoots can be quickly eaten by snails. These juicy shoots are a great snack for snails overnight. They will eat the leaves as they sprout above the ground. They are easy for the snails to reach as they are at ground level and are soft.
Grow seedlings in a tray, egg carton or old piece of guttering until they reach 2-3 inches high. They can then be gently transplanted into your garden beds when they are larger. Overplanting or planting more seeds closer together will allow enough seedlings to grow and survive any minor snail attack.
5. Mondo grass
Mondo grass is a tough grass which is actually one of a snails favorite plants to crawl on to get out of the wet ground. Giant mondo grasses allow them to crawl up out of very wet areas of your garden.
Mondo grass is a tough and drought hardy and are not usually negatively affected by a few snail bites. To prevent snails from getting on your mondo keep the area dryer than usual so they are less likely to live in the area.
Lettuce is a favorite food of snails. New lettuce seedling and large advanced plants will both be a tasty treat for a passing snail. Lettuce is soft, juicy and full of nutrients that the snails love.
Raise lettuce seedlings in a greenhouse until they are 3 inches high before planting them out into your garden. You can also buy established seedlings from garden centers to make it easy and give them a good change to establish before snails cause damage.
Once lettuce plants larger they are less likely to be killed off completely by snails. I also like to plant excess lettuce so that there is plenty leftover even if a snail has a chew on one of the leaves.
Interplanting lettuce or surrounding them with sacrificial plants such as nasturtiums and interplanting them with herbs, flowers and vegetables will help to reduce damage by snails.
Basil is a soft delicious herb loved by snails. They will hide in the straw or bark mulch and crawl up the basil stems to chew on the leaves. Small basil plants can be eaten overnight by snails.
Eggshells crushed and placed around the basil plants is a great way to deter the snails. They hate crawling on the sharp edges of the egg shells and will avoid them where possible. Scatter a circle of egg shells around your basil to stop the snails from eating the leaves.
Mint can be eaten by snails very quickly. Mint has soft, delicious green leaves which are easy for the snails to reach and eat.
Coffee grounds scattered around the base of the mint plant will help to deter snails. The coffee grounds will work their way into the soil over time to add extra nitrogen. Snails hate crawling over the coffee grounds so create a barrier with the leftovers from your brew.
Is it good to have snails in your garden?
Snails are a natural part of the ecosystem. They are great in compost and will help with the breakdown of organic materials near the surface of the pile quickly. They are a great addition to your garden as long as their numbers remain under control.
Natural traps and deterrents work well but the best way is to create diversity in your garden to encourage natural predators to control their numbers. Fill your garden with different sized trees and shrubs to attract birds and encourage lizards to your garden by providing them with rocks to hide under.
Predatory creatures like lizards and birds are the best way to naturally control snail numbers in your yard.
Do Snails Eat Leaves? | Summary
Snails eat leaves from weeds, flowering plants, fruit and vegetables and herbs. They love soft, young leaves and often attack plants that are close to the ground. Protect young delicate seedlings by raising them in a greenhouse until they are 3-4 inches tall. Surround plants with crushed egg shells or coffee grounds to keep snails away.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.