Snails in Your Edible Garden? Bring Out the Copper

Snail and copper strip barrier
Snail versus copper – copper wins!

I refuse to use pesticides in my garden- it’s not worth the damage to the environment. But at this time of year when I’m planting the tender, defenseless seedlings that I carefully nurtured from precious seeds, I get desperate. Snails will mow down seedlings in the blink of an eye.

I’ve used Sluggo, which helps but is variable in effectiveness. The active ingredient is iron phosphate, safe for use around pets and wildlife and sanctioned for organic gardening, but using too much may cause phosphate build up in the soil. So I turned to my secret weapon: copper foil.

I’ve used small copper foil strips to protect young plants that I’m trying to establish in my garden until they have a chance to mature and can stand on their own against snails. It’s 100% effective in my experience.

But I hadn’t thought of wrapping my planting beds in the stuff – until I saw it in a slide show by Maureen Decombe of Green Willow Gardens.

Planting bed with copper strip
My planting bed wrapped with copper foil

My organic garden supply store has copper strips for sale to use as snail barriers – they are worth every penny! I bought 40 feet and immediately wrapped two of my front yard beds.

According to a University of California Integrated Pest Management (IPM) web page:

“It is believed that copper barriers are effective because the copper reacts with the slime that snails and slugs secrete, causing a disruption in their nervous system similar to an electric shock.”

The copper barrier is supposed to be effective for several years, and can be refreshed with vinegar if it tarnishes. My copper, show in the photos, is 4 inches wide which is a good width for a snail barrier. I’ll still go out and handpick them to keep them from eating the rest of my garden, but I’m enjoying this small victory!

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke


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3 thoughts on “Snails in Your Edible Garden? Bring Out the Copper”

    1. Thanks Rhonda,
      Interesting! No I haven’t tried. You have to make a physical barrier, so using lots of pennies maybe?! Yesterday I watched a humungous snail go up to the barrier and recoil in horror. He/she tried really hard to find a way around it. I just smiled…

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