As I strolled through the garden this evening I spotted a snail on the path and stamped on it thinking, as I always do, “That’s another of those pesky creatures out of the way”. Of course, my random act of violence won’t make the slightest difference. This was proved 134 years ago by a resident of Bristol, who shared his experiences with the readers of The Garden magazine in July 1878. He wrote that 20 years previously his house had looked onto open farmland with only 3 neighbours and the bird population had kept down the snails. Now, speculative building had given him 3,000 neighbours and the absence of birds meant that if he planted tender seedlings they would inevitably be devoured by slugs. Consequently, he embarked on a determined campaign of extermination, starting in the autumn, with the aim that, by the spring, his garden would be slug free. He went out after dark every night armed with a home made lantern and greased cabbage leaves. His campaign was hugely successful. In the first week he killed 1,750 slugs, in the second 1,480. By the fourth week, the casualties had fallen to 690 and he felt that he was winning. At this rate there would be none left by Christmas.
But what the poor chap hadn’t reckoned on was reinforcements arriving from the surrounding gardens. In the fifth week the casualties had risen to a record 1,997, and these numbers continued until the arrival of winter, when a truce ensued. The campaign began again in February and by June he had caught a total of 17,700 slugs (including some snails).
From this description you’d have thought that the garden in question must have been huge. But in fact it was only 90 feet long and 30 feet wide. I dread to think how many my garden, which is 4 1/2 acres, will hold. It must be millions.