As a card-carrying Buddhist, I take the precept "do no harm" very seriously. Over the years this has meant a willingness to share my home with all sorts of insects and lowlifes, only removing ones who get too greedy for space. Even then, I help them get to their new homes with as much compassion as I can muster. Toward that end, for example, I once spent an entire pilgrimage perfecting the technique of catching flies in one hand so I could grab them and carry them out of meditation halls and bedrooms and bathrooms. I have a better than 90 percent success rate carrying spiders in handkerchiefs from one room to another, or outside. I know how to make a tiny sugar trail that will lead ants out of my kitchen and into the side yard where they can live in peace. I've even concocted a humane method for catching mice: You throw a handful of M&Ms into a paper grocery bag and then put the bag where mice can either jump or run into the bag. At the sound of the paper crunching, you just close the top of the bag (the mice are busy eating) and take it to a park that isn't across the street from where you live.
Then I moved to the land of snails and slugs. Before I moved to Seattle, friends here had whined about both, but I just wrote the whining off as some sort of non-Buddhist ritual. When I tried to grow my own pint-sized garden, it took a day to become a full-fledged whiner. First the bean seeds went missing. Then the peas. Three days later, nobody believed I had planted lettuce. Okay, I told myself. I can share. But then when slugs went after the expensive heirloom broccoli, the slug war was on.
I can't imagine that anyone reading this hasn't seen a slug, but just in case: They look like greasy, fleshy, splotched rubber hose parts. When they move along the ground, they leave silver slime trails in their wake. Snails are slugs with shells. The shells may look pretty, but inside every one of those adorable, silvery, pinkish, brown-hued homes lives what would be called an enemy if you weren't Buddhist.
To make matters worse, snails are hermaphrodites capable of laying hundreds (hundreds!) of eggs a year, each one only needing three weeks to hatch. These not-enemies thrive in the Northwest where our damp climate is a siren's call. If you don't think you have snails, you've only looked for them during the day. Like bats, they come out to play, have sex with their hermaphrodite pals, and eat your prized broccoli at night.
I have a family that needs vegetables. I had to do something. Pesticides weren't an option, and once I put the first slug in salt water I knew I'd never do it again. I can still hear the screams. Vinegar water worked, but the garden still smells like cat pee, and the slugs were back in a matter of days. Pouring ginger around the baby plants worked okay until the first time I sneezed and wiped my nose, learning that ginger burns for a long long time when it is inhaled.
That left beer. Nursery staff and other gardeners had suggested this method. The only problem was that people said "beer," not what kind of beer. I decided to do a test. I bought three beers: Pabst Blue Ribbon to represent a solid working woman's beer; Coors to represent a solid working woman's beer on pay day; and Samuel Adams Boston Lager, representing a birthday party beer. Then for three days and three nights I carefully put the beer in plastic containers just deep enough for a good slug swim. Day One: Nothing. Day Two: Tracks, but no signs of slugs or snails. Day Three: Nothing again.
When there was no sign of slugs or snails at the end of day three, I sat down next to the containers and finished off the Sam Adams.
Since then, no slugs. Since then, no snails.
Conclusion: If you want to get rid of slugs and/or snails in your garden, pour beer into three containers deep enough for a two- to three-inch slug to happily drown in. Partially submerge the container so the slugs can step into them. Then sit down next to the containers and drink a Sam Adams Boston Lager. This will get rid of your slugs and snails.
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