Since starting my own allotment I have tried a 1001 slug prevention methods from coffee grounds and crushed eggshells sprinkled around plants to powders and potions. Being soft-hearted, I won't set out to actually kill any of the little blighters so slug pellets and midnight hunts with a torch are out for me. I have been interested in the abilities of copper bands around plants to repel slugs and snails but I found the price prohibitive for the amount I would need. So I thought these copper tape snail barriers looked like an interesting item to try.
This product consists of a sellotape-like roll of thin copper tape which you place in a circle encompassing a plant pot. This acts as a barrier to slugs and snails as when they attempt to slither over it they are submitted to a mild electric charge. This is in the form of static electricity so is ok to use around pets and children. It is not enough to kill the snails but enough to make them head off in another direction. Or so the theory goes. Because this is in the form of a tape, it obviously needs to be stuck to something which I think makes it less versatile than the solid copper bands which can be quickly used to circle plants growing directly in the ground. The pack suggests it can be used on greenhouse staging, raised beds and coldframes as well as containers but I have not tried this yet. I did manage to use it to protect some ground growing seedlings, by wrapping it around a home made circle of plastic lawn edging which wasn't suggested on the pack but worked reasonably well. [See below]
I brought a 4 metre roll from Wilkinsons for £3.99 and it is on sale from my local garden centre at the same price. I have however also seen it for as much as £4.99 so it is certainly worth shopping around. I also purchased a 2 metre pack for 99p in the 99p store but sadly this seems to have been a one off! I found using it simple, as it came easily away from it's backing without getting all tangled up. I found I could tear the tape without needing to find my scissors which is useful. One word of warning though, I caught my finger on the edge of the copper and it gave me a nasty cut. It is surprisingly sharp but once smoothed on the pot it is fine. I bravely ran my finger along the edge to check!
I thought the instructions for use seemed pretty comprehensive. You are instructed to apply the copper to a clean dry pot at the time of planting, in a unbroken circle. It is self adhesive. I found I had no trouble with getting it to adhere to plastic, terracotta or clay pots. Then you are advised to trim back any overhanging branches or leaves that the pests could use as a bridge to avoid the copper. This means that you have to consider the habit of the plants you want to protect. If any of them had been a "weeping" type plant, I would have found it difficult to position the tape effectively. I found slug trails leading up from a bush in the ground along a overhanging leaf and down on to my neighbouring and "protected" container. So it's worth bearing in mind that they can only protect from slugs accessing your pots from the ground or staging rather than dropping in from above or the side. Once I had repositioned the tubs, things improved.
So did it really work? Being a sceptic by nature, last year I used the tape on some containers but not on others so I could compare the results. There is no question that the protected ones suffered significantly less damage than the others. Less damage doesn't mean none though. The best results came with the recommended application at the time of planting. The bands I added to existing pots were less effective, probably because there was an odd slug hiding in the pots already. And as mentioned above some slugs got in from above. I also wonder whether some of the largest snails could arch over the width which is around 2.5cm. As for my experiment at using them in the ground around a home-made barrier, I would say that the protected plants suffered around a quarter less nibbled leaves. I think that ground dwelling slugs that pop up within the barrier was probably responsible for the barrier being less effective in this circumstance. I have used the tape again this year on all of my pots and with many less losses than before. In fact in this years soggy spring/summer, a copper and lawn edging ring popped around young runner bean, pumpkin and squash seedlings was undoubtedly the difference between survival and otherwise. [The ones that were not protected were ravaged!]
One advantage I really feel this has is that you only need to apply it once. I have used barriers before in the form of granules that are gone as soon as it rains. There is none of that problem with these. I reused the same pots with bands attached this year as last and for the most part they worked just as well in their second year as the first. I say mostly, because you are supposed to wipe the band periodically to keep it clean to ensure it keeps discharging static electricity. I remembered to do this every so often but the odd ones I missed were the ones that worked less efficiently in year 2 so it is worth taking the trouble to do in my opinion. I tried to peel off the bands to transfer to other pots and I couldn't do it so although they are usable for a second season at least, it has to be on the same pot. I think this still makes them brilliant value and more than makes up for the occasional effort of wiping them with a cloth.
As for how they look on the pots, personally I think they look stylish enough. Copper in the band form was used by the victorians as pest control so they have some heritage. The tape looks bright when first applied but this tones down as they get weathered. They are rather obvious when new so if you aren't sure you will like the look of them it would probably be best to try it on just the one container first.
In conclusion, I would recommend these to anyone that grows in pots and wants to cut down on slug damage without killing the pests or using chemicals. They are obviously of paticular interest to organic gardeners.
[This review also appears on Ciao and it has been updated for Dooyoo.]