Slugs will eat tomato plants at night and can quickly destroy a small plant. Slugs live in the organic matter on top of your soil and hide away during the daylight hours. When the night comes they will crawl up the stems of tomato plants to eat the leaves, stems and tomatoes themselves.
Slugs will eat tomato leaves and stems quickly on new and soft plants. As the tomato plant gets older it is less likely to be killed by the slugs but will
Slugs will to attack tomatoes that are riper or starting to rot. If there are a lot of slugs around they will start to eat the fresher fruit as well.
This article will explore more about slugs and tomato plants including what they eat and how you can keep them off of your precious plants.
Slugs will eat tomato plants, fruit and leaves
Slugs will eat all parts of the tomato plant including the fruit, stems and leaves. They usually like to eat fresh, new shoots on new seedlings or tomatoes that have started to ripen. They will usually attach the ripest fruit first but can eat orange or even green tomatoes.
Slugs will feed on organic matter helping it to break down which is great when they are eating your mulch or compost. They will hide in the mulch or top layers of the soil and come out at night to eat. They can crawl up the stems of tomato plants with their sticky slime which contains water, mucus and salts.
This slime helps them stick to the stems and leaves as they crawl. They will leave a shiny trail as they travel over your tomato leaves so it is easier to tell that they have been.
Slugs will head back down into the organic matter in the soil when it becomes light. If you head outside in the early hours of the morning before the sun, you can sometimes catch them chewing on your tomato plant.
How to stop slugs eating tomato plants
Here are some easy tips to naturally stop slugs from eating tomato plants so they can grow large and strong. I find that once tomato plants have grown and established they are less affected by slugs and healthy plants will be more resistant to being eaten.
1. Wait until tomato seedlings are mature before planting
The best way to stop slugs from destroying or killing your tomato plants is to wait until the seedlings are larger before planting them out. Slugs can destroy a young tomato seedling so keep them safe in a greenhouse until they reach at least 4-5 inches high.
I like to buy mature tomato seedlings to make them less susceptible to slug attack. That way the leaves are higher up, stronger and there is more of them. This means they can recover fast even if a slug is able to take a few bites from the leaves.
2. Sprinkle coffee grounds around the base
Used coffee grounds are a great slug deterrent for tomato plants. Sprinkle the coffee grounds all around the root zone of the plant, keeping them away from the plant stem. Make sure the coffee grounds cover the soil and are at least 3-4 inches wide.
Slugs hate crawling through coffee grounds so they will make a great barrier for your tomato plants.
3. Use crushed egg shells
Crushed egg shells scattered around the base of tomato plants is a great way to keep slugs away. They don’t like to crawl over the sharp edges of the egg shells so they make a great natural barrier.
You can bake egg shells in the oven to make them easier to crush. This will dry them out and make them easier to spread. You can then crush them with a rolling pin or can and then sprinkle them around the tomato plant. Leave the pieces at least 4-5mm to deter slugs.
For more on how to prepare egg shells, check out my article here: Do you need to wash eggshells before composting?
4. Layer sharp, large bark mulch
Slugs hate to crawl over sharp mulches so sprinkle bark mulch around your tomato plants. Coarse, large pieces will be uncomfortable for slugs to crawl over and they will keep away. Bark mulch also gives the slugs something else to feed on instead of your tomato plants.
5. Use a beer trap
Fill a shallow saucer or tray with beer and keep slugs off of your tomato plants. They are attracted to the yeast smell of the beer and will crawl in and drown. This works for snails too and is a good way to get rid of the slugs without harming your tomato plants.
6. Improve the soil with compost
Improving your soil with good quality compost before planting tomato plants will help to stop slugs from destroying them in 2 ways. Compost improves the soil, allows water to drain freely and will allow the tomato to grow faster and stronger. A strong, healthy plant is more resistant to pest attack than one that is growing slow and suffering.
Adding compost to the soil is also a great food for slugs and this can keep them away from your tomatoes. Slugs love to digest rotting plant material so adding compost is a great way to keep them off your tomato plants and leaves.
Do slugs bother tomato plants?
Once tomato plants have reached a mature size slugs will not have a significant affect on their growth. If you have lots of slugs around then try a beer trap for a few nights to see if you can catch them. My tomatoes grew strong and large and would keep growing new leaves and tomatoes even if they got a few slug bites.
Pick your tomatoes as soon as they start to ripen to get the fruit before the slugs do. Avoid leaving rotting fruit on the ground because it can attract more slugs to your plants.
Do Slugs Eat Tomato Plants? | Summary
Slugs can eat tomato plants and love to live in the moist soil around the base of your plant. Because tomatoes get regular water, slugs can set up home at the base of the roots and crawl up when night arrives. Natural deterrent work best to keep slugs away but if you grow large, healthy plants they will be more resistant to slug attacks.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.