Valentine’s Day Massacre … in the garden

My thought’s have turned poisonous.

Greek and Roman mythology abounds with tales of dastardly deeds, of poisoning lovers and rivals, with marvellously complicated plots and a large cast. It is likely that Cleopatra committed suicide by poison, with Claudius reputed to have been poisoned by his lover, the list goes on. And as the calender ticks round to February 14th, my mind pings off on a tangent and makes the connection with the Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago, not a case of poisoning, but murder nonetheless.

Image from google

But why am I thinking about massacres and poisoning on a day for love? Admittedly I don’t really DO Valentines, in fact we can say I don’t do it.


In case you are wondering , no I don’t want to poison my lover!


But it is at this time of year I start thinking murderess thoughts.

This is my Valentine ode to gardeners who do or don’t do Valentines.

I read a while back about a woman who started in on slug and snail control every year on Valentine’s day. She grew Hostas and as anyone knows who has grown these beautiful plants will know how tempting they are to slugs and snails. I’ve seen plants completely decimated by them.

But why Valentine’s day? As the ground warms up and the days are getting longer the slug and snail population starts stirring at the same time as our precious plants start growing again. Plus let’s face it, it is a very easy date to remember! And me being me I liked the idea of starting in on your garden pests on such an inappropriate day.

The options open to gardeners for “managing” their slimy pests range from acceptance to all out chemical warfare, with a few stops in between.

  • Acceptance that you will lose a few plants every year, that your cabbages will be nibbled, but there is something left for you to eat. Besides they got here first, before us humans, so why not let them be?
  • Homemade refers to using dried and crushed egg shells around precious plants, coffee grounds are also said to deter. But you do need to eat a lot of eggs or drink a lot of coffee to get that to work.
  • You could set traps for them with trays of beer or grapefruit halves, this necessitates the joy of disposing of the carcasses.
  • You could physically remove them from your garden, I know of two great stories here, 1 involved a friend throwing the snails into the road for the seagulls or traffic to deal with, the 2nd involved a friends partner taking the snails in a bag and leaving them in the local park to set up a new home life.
  • Encouraging wildlife into your garden, particularly creatures like Hedgehogs and Toads who love nothing better than a munch on a mollusc.
  • You could try using copper wire and tape around your beds and pots to stop slugs and snails climbing up into the plant and soil and settling in nicely for the duration.
  • There are grounds and granules that you scatter around plants, like gravel or sheep wool, it can get pricey for the vegetable gardener, and in truth they don’t always work.

  • Then there are the dreaded pellets, Slug pellets to be precise. And this is where I get confused. Look at the wording on the bottle. They can be used for organic gardening. It doesn’t state the pellets are organic. But apparently it’s ok to use these if you are organic. As to what is and what isn’t organic is my friends another debate for another day. The pellets do work, but in moderation, you don’t have to drown your plants in a sea of blue.

  • The non-organic methods involve sprays and even stronger slug pellets. Loaded with chemicals. This is the chemical warfare option.
  • Lastly nematodes, Gardening-Naturally describes them as “microscopic transparent worms which feed and multiply inside the slug, and are not visible to the eye”. They are amazing and they do work over time, but expensive and can’t be used until the soil warms up thoroughly, i.e. not in February.
Image from google

So what will be your poison this Valentine’s Day?


  • Am chuckling at this! Poison and murder indeed! We have used the slug pellets suitable for organic gardening, but mostly I resort to just picking them off and chucking them to the chickens. I also accept that they will eat the outside of my chard leaves and leave the lovely inside ones for us….it´s a tricky one though to decide how to handle.

  • What a perfect post for this Valentine’s Day, murder and mayhem!! Those darn slugs were and are the bane of my mother’s existence! An avid gardner, she would go on and on about those slugs and how she was out to seek and destroy them! Good luck!!

    • It made me giggle when I wrote it! I know of people who go out at night with a torch and pick them off the plants, somehow my life is too short for that, but I understand the frustration.

  • They are so abundant here in Houston….the organic baits seem to work well but I can never seem to eliminate them all….I will tolerate some sharing of my garden…they love my strawberries!!!! and pick and toss those that are lingering when I walk by, with love of course!

  • As for me and my garden, well, I’m getting runner ducks this year. They eat snails and slugs and are graceful enough to pad through the garden without trampling everything in their path! I will let you know how it all works out…
    ~ Lynda

    • I’d love ducks, I think they are such characters, but I know I’d spend all my time watching and playing with them though! Looking forward to reading all about them 🙂

  • I remember the massacre well. I was in the midst of a slug invasion and I was desperate to get the upper hand. I resorted to chemical warfare. The pellets works beautifully — too beautifully. I could not keep up with the dead on the battlefield, and was then faced with a plague of flies. Never again.

  • A “touchy” subject indeed! Our climate is so damp and foggy here, the snails rule our gardens. We have learned what we can plant that will not be munched into shreds. My favorite delicate herbs are in large planters with a ring of copper around the top to keep the snails away. I will admit to using snail bait twice a year and on foggy damp mornings I can be seen pluckling the slimy creatures and disposing of them in the yard wate bin. I do find it a bit creepy, but so is seeing an invasion of hundreds of snails on the move on a wet, foggy morning.

    • I know what you mean about creepy, I watch them crawl around the deck and the walls when it’s raining at night (I can switch lights on in the garden) and to see them moving, slowly and stealthily is definitely creepy.

  • All of the bird feeders are near the vegetable garden. The birds get used to eating in that spot, and help with slug and beetle control all summer…we have toads, too, but no hedgehogs.
    I did accidentally kick a hedgehog once, while strolling through a hotel garden in France. It was after dark, so I couldn’t see what I’d just hit with my foot – my first thought was, “Why would someone have left a scrub brush on the path?”
    Then it moved… 🙂

    • Marie, you kicked a hedgehog! Who was more surpirsed?
      That’s a good tip about the bird feeder, I keep meaning to get one for our garden, but it needs to be carefully placed as there are a lot of cats in our neighbourhood….

  • I don’t see many, if any, slugs in my garden and I’ve never found a snail. Perhaps Mother Nature gives us Chicagoans a break given the sordid acts that will forever link my fair city to to St. Valentine’s Day, or, maybe they’ve all gone to the garden co-op at the end of the block, where the menu is much more varied and plentiful.

  • Well you’ve added another view of this heart day!! Funny, I don’t find or have any problems with slugs down here but I do remember them so well living up North. Beer was our trick!!

  • I’m about to move house so I’ll leave the slug and snail situ for the new residents to sort out. Who knows – they might just rip out the entire garden anyway.

  • I’ve wondered why we don’t have many snails and slugs in our Southern California garden. Many other local gardeners have commented similarly! This hasn’t always been true, so i don’t know what would have made the difference. But on occasion I find one and my granddaughters love them…so no massacre! I do like the home remedies you’ve mentioned. Our lack of snails and slugs may not be a permanent condition…but it is curious! Debra

  • I have to say, the slugs are starting to give us a problem with all the wet weather, but thankfully we have chooks to manage them. Although they don’t really like the slugs either. I remember a River Cottage episode where Hugh FW tried to cook the slugs – even he couldn’t eat them! 😉

    • Wet weather and slugs seem to go hand in hand.
      There are times I’m really pleased I don’t have a TV, the thought of watching HFW cooking and eating slugs could put me off TV for life!!

    • From what I understand hedgehogs, toads and newts all lie them, so the trick is to try and encourage them into the garden. I’m lucky to have toads in the garden and newts on my allotment. But there are times when I think I could do with many more than I have!

    • My garden is a walled garden so I have way too many “perfect” places for them to breed and hide, I think dealing with the resident slugs and snails could be an occupation in itself 🙂

  • My damp little courtyard garden in London was slug and snail paradise. I preferred to get them pissed rather than use chemical warfare. When I was feeling particularly evil, I got the salt out.

  • Funny Valentine Massacre! Valentines Day would be too early to start on the slugs around here (Oregon) because they’re not awake yet. But when they rise, I’ll shake out some pellets that are safe for birds and other wildlife (and our dogs) yet it does mean an early demise for the slimies. I don’t have acres and acres though. Have also used crushed hazelnut shells to border a bed, and they sure don’t like the feel of that on their tender bellies. Again, not an inexpensive remedy. And allowing them to drown in beer seems a bit too good for those pests!

    • I think the 14th os also a bit too early for us, besides it depends on what kind of winte rwe are having. I haven’t heard of using crushed hazelnut shells before but it makes a lot of sense, and I’m sure the shells look good in the garden too !

  • Too funny! We even have slugs and snails moving into our house – outside is not good enough for them – I often see slug trails on the carpet in our bedroom and snails on our walls.
    🙂 Mandy

  • Ohhhh, you’re speaking the language of this northwestern girl, who grew up in Banana Slug country, where there were plenty of big, slimy, slippery, grotesque rotten-yellowish monster slugs actually the size of large bananas and far more horrible to slip on!! I have plenty of hideous stories that excuse my venomous feelings about . . . oops, sorry, was I ranting there???

    • Uh oh the size of a “banana”, that gets put into the horror film-esque category! I think you would find me cowering in the corner, rabidly foaming at the mouth, shaking the blue pellets wildly about me!! Then I would bravely climb on my soap box and start a tirade (note not a rant) alongside you 🙂

  • Sometimes the local raccoons feast on snails, shucking them and leaving a great, empty pile of snails. I use copper tape to protect my tomatoes and basil and netting to protect pepper plants.

    • I guess as long as the recoons leave the plants alone that’s ok, I think the copper tape seems to work the best out of all the different barrier method.
      And I love the word Shuck!

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