Whilst most people regard snails as being nothing but pests, they do actually provide a few different benefits to your garden. We’ll look at these benefits and see why, whilst you may want to deter them from eating your plants, you may not want to kill them as they can help.
Are Snails Classified as Pests or Helpers?
Snails are actually classified as garden pests due to the large amount of damage they can do to your garden in a short amount of time.
That being said, they can be helpful in certain ways so dismissing them as nothing but pests, is not always the best idea.
What Ways do Snails Benefit my Garden?
There are numerous ways in which snails can benefit your garden. They are listed below so you should try to remember these reasons before taking drastic actions against every snail you see.
Cleans Garden Debris
Snails don’t just eat living plants in your garden, they also eat dead and decaying plants. This is beneficial because it does help to keep your garden tidy. It also helps to speed up the process of natural decay and it can help new plants to grow quicker.
Eats Other Pests
Snails are largely omnivores, which means that as well as plants, they will sometimes eat animal matter. Some animal matter that they eat includes insects and their eggs.
Snails will consume a large number of eggs which means that you will have fewer pests to deal with than if you didn’t have the snails in your garden at all.
Attracts Garden Wildlife
Snails have a lot of predators and their presence in your garden may attract some interesting wildlife. They can attract birds and sometimes even rarer wildlife like hedgehogs.
This is great because it means that the snails stay in their place in the food chain and they can help more vulnerable animals, particularly British wildlife, to survive.
This seems like an odd benefit, and it arguably is, but some people love seeing the snail shells and the patterns that adorn them. Whilst your first thought upon seeing a snail may not be a nice one, take a bit of time to really look at them, you’ll find their appearance and nature rather fascinating.
Having too many or too few snails in your garden can disrupt the ecosystem, this may make it difficult for plants to grow thus limiting other animals’ food and habitats.
What Damage do Snails do to a Garden?
Now that we’ve looked at a few of the benefits of having snails in your garden, we’ll look at the negatives. There really is only one main negative of having snails in your garden, they eat your plants.
Snails can cause a lot of damage to your plants, including both flowers and crops.
However, this is not a reason for you to instantly kill them. As we’ve mentioned previously, snails do provide some benefits for your garden and some people may argue that their benefits outweigh the costs.
Snails do prefer to eat plant matter to decaying matter, but they do not cause as much damage as other pests in your garden, such as slugs or aphids. You may have the result of a few holey and wilting leaves if there are snails around, but their damage does not amount to much more than that.
How to Protect Both Plants AND Snails
One of the best things to do if you want your plants to be left alone but you want to keep the snails in your garden is to make a sacrificial flower bed. A sacrificial flower bed is a bed of flowers that you plant with the intention that they may be destroyed.
The best way to make one of these is to use flowers that work well at attracting pests so that the snails will go to them and then ignore the other plants in your garden that you wanted to keep safe.
Here is a short list of flowers that are good choices to use for a trap plant flower bed:
Marigolds give off a distinct odour that seems to work well at attracting pests. They are also easy to grow so you will not be putting lots of effort into flowers that will soon be eaten.
Some people dislike the smell of marigolds and therefore an unscented strain has been bred, be careful not to plant these as they will not work as well without their distinct odour.
Many people don’t like using crops as trap plants because they can be hard work to maintain, but you will probably not find anything that is much better than a cabbage for attracting snails. Any type of cabbage will do the trick.
Hollyhocks have lovely flowers, and they seem to be a favourite of snails. One other benefit is that they are quite hardy plants so can still grow if attacked by a couple of snails.
To summarise, whilst snails are classified as pests, they do provide some benefits to the garden. They help speed up natural decay by eating plant debris and they can also reduce the number of pests in your garden by eating pest eggs.
The main damage that is caused by the presence of snails is some wilting leaves and plant holes. Snails maintain a healthy ecosystem and to protect your plants and keep snails in your garden you can plant a sacrificial flower bed.
Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden