I have very fond memories of spending long summer afternoons with my brothers and cousins searching for snails in order to race them. Sadly I have yet to meet a snail that understands the concept of a race! Yet they are fascinating to watch. Our attempts to lure snails into athletic performances by dangling lettuce leaves before them might not have worked but it clearly kept us thoroughly entertained.
Why not make a snail farm instead? For your snail farm you are going to need a clear, plastic container. We used a large five litre water bottle turned on its side. Cut a flap into the top large enough for a hand to pass through so that you can carefully put the snails in without dropping them. You will also need to pierce or punch breathing holes in the bottle at regular intervals.
Your snails will need food also. This little snail picutred above is happily munching her way through a hosta leaf which is a real favourite with the snails in our garden. Lettuce leaves will also prove popular with these gastropods. You could experiment with a variety of leaves, make observations and find out what a snail’s idea of fine dining is. Make sure you have permission from the head gardener in your family before stripping the garden bare! Add a few stones from the garden also, French snail farmers give their snails chalk. Snails need the calcium carbonate to make strong shells.
Finally you need to find some snails. Small snails have quite delicate shells so leave them alone unless you can pick them up very carefully. Larger snails are more robust but do make sure Little Sparks understand the need to be gentle with them. The best time to look for snails is on damp evenings, look under leaves and flower pots. If your snails seem a little sleepy you may need to ‘activate’ them by misting them with water from a clean spray bottle. It is fine to keep your snail farm for three or four days, after that you should return the snails to where you found them.