Many gardeners who have community garden plots or home gardens on the ground floor would have encountered slugs and snails gnawing at their plants, or worse, denuding them. The presence of these gastropods is a recurring event in my garden and I’ve looked at different ways on how to get rid of slugs and snails from my property in Singapore. The snails I usually find are the African Land Snail, Luminescent Land Snail, Humphrey’s Land Snail and Allopeas Snail but we do have a diverse number of snails in Singapore.
My former flock of chickens would eat the smaller snails and slugs but my current resident flock turn their beaks up at them. So I’ve had to explore other ways of dealing with them that don’t involve slug or snail pellets, something which I’m not terribly fond of because I don’t like the use of poisons in my garden or the likelihood of making my chickens or any wildlife sick.
So which is the best way to get rid of slugs and snails?
Aside from pellets, other tactics that gardeners swear by include copper tape, beer traps/pub, wool pellets, diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, brambles, and using a plank as a lure, where they can be found and dealt with later. This is a good time to mention that crushed egg shells are not as effective as once thought, because gardeners have found that snails and slugs just crawl over it.
There are however, non-chemical, humane strategies that you can consider, either through preventing or by baiting/trapping, and then relocating. They may come across as the enemy but they are ecologically beneficial. Their diet consists of fungi and rotting leaves and other vegetation, and as detritivores and some say decomposers, they help in breaking down plant waste, cycling nutrients back to the soil. While they are not particularly welcome to our vegetable garden especially, we don’t need to use a take no prisoners approach.
Shopping for plants in Singapore but wondering which ones are toxic for your cat and/or dog? I speak with veterinarian and plantswoman, Gloria Lee, who highlights edible and ornamental plants poisonous to cats and dogs and explains what pet owners should do if their pet is poisoned.
1. Are most plants safe for cats/dogs? Is there a rule of thumb when it comes to choosing safe plants? Most plants are in general not systemically toxic to cats/dogs. The more commonly available plants in Singapore which happen to be toxic to cats/dogs, are generally locally irritating to the mucosa or lining of the gut, thereby causing unpleasant gastric signs of drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. In general, plants with sap can be considered not edible. To be safe, all plants should be considered potentially toxic, unless otherwise proven. This is especially so if you have puppies which have no safety valve when it comes to chewable things. Puppies are more likely to ingest large amounts of inappropriate materials, causing more serious problems
2. Which edible and ornamental plants should cat/dog owners completely avoid having around the home? I cannot think of an edible plant which should be avoided around the home, unless you are referring to something like brinjals and tomatoes where the green unripe fruits are toxic. There are some highly, highly toxic plants which can kill outright e.g. oleander, all bulbs belonging to the Lily family, Rangoon Creeper (Quisqualis indica), Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Datura etc. Flowers in bouquets are sometimes more attractive to cats and dogs and also need to be considered, not just the plants themselves. Bouquets often involve exotic flowers not grown in Singapore or the tropics, and hence, do not ping the radar when investigating a potential source of toxicity.
The common plants found which cause gastric signs are often ‘house plants’ or corridor plants e.g. Dieffenbachia (dumb cane), Money plant, ZZ plant (Zamioculcas), Peace Lily, Mother in law’s plant, philodendrons- these only cause issues if ingested in sufficient quantities- which then depends on the size/weight of the pet.
There are many benefits to growing green manure crops, mainly to improve soil conditions for growing your next crop of healthy vegetables. These benefits include higher nitrogen availability, additional organic matter, increased beneficial micro organisms, improved soil structure and water retention, breaking up hard soil, and in some cases soil fumigation and weed suppression. I would highly recommend growing green manure plants as part of a crop rotation strategy – don’t have one? I’ll show you how 🙂
What is green manure?
Green manure consists of leguminous plants such as those in the peas, beans and grass family which have nitrogen fixing capabilities. Liberally distribute or broadcast seeds in your pots or garden plot, and after around 6 weeks, “chop and drop” these plants and dig it into the soil and leave to break down for 1-2 weeks to add nutrients back into the soil. Don’t wait till it begins to flower or fruit or you will lose these nutrients.
For our tropical climate in Singapore, I would suggest the following:
Green bean / Mung bean
If you happen to forget to chop and drop your plant in time, at least you can eat the pods of pea and bean plants, or use mustard seeds, leaves and flowers in your cooking. If you are looking to purchase some of these seeds, I have cowpea and lablab available here. I will eventually update this post to include links where you can buy these seeds.
During my recent visit to Melbourne, I was kindly invited by Anthony of AusPots Permaculture to pay a visit to his permaculture mentor’s farm and nursery in Monbulk – Telopea Mountain Permaculture & Nursery, a 15 acre property. Formerly a cut-flower farm, it has been transformed into a biodynamic, permaculture farm and nursery by Peter and Silvia, who primarily run the space, and occasionally they have some helping hands for much needed assistance.
Peter manages the plants, while Silvia is in charge of animal husbandry. Telopea Mountain Permaculture & Nursery houses more than 1000 heritage fruit varieties, and has the largest private collection of apple varieties in Australia, they also sell rootstock and scion wood from organic and biodynamic fruit trees. They own rare breeds of animals, including poultry, which I got to admire from a distance. In addition, they conduct permaculture courses, cheese making classes, as well as heritage fruit tree classes, among others.
The nursery is open on Fridays but an appointment is necessary if you would like a farm tour. Anthony shared that he likes to drop by on this day to see Peter and Silvia and also to see which other permies are around for a chat.