10 Ways To Save Tomato Plants From Slugs/Mollusks

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Quick Answer: How To Save Tomato Plants From Slugs/Mollusks?

The different natural methods to save tomato plants from slugs include sprinkling crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, rice bran, diatomaceous powder, beneficial nematodes, and gravel or mulch around the plants. You may handpick these creatures or use traps with beer or cardboard on the ground. Many commercial slug repellents are available in the market.

This guide will explore more about different methods to save tomato plants from slugs and mollusks.

How Slugs Harm Tomato Plants?

Slugs live on the top of the soil and hide during the day. It will crawl up a tomato plant and eat its leaves, stems, and fruit.

 It prefers to eat soft, new plants, riper tomatoes and may kill the plants before they fruit. Also, it likes fruits that are starting to rot.

How To Confirm That Slugs Is Troubling Your Tomato Plant?

Look for the telltale signs. Slugs and mollusks are active at night, and you may notice shiny trials of slime on the tomato plants and surrounding soil.

You may see the plants damaged overnight, and the whole seedlings can be consumed. You may also see irregular-shaped holes and ragged edges in the leaves and stems.

Check out this video on identifying slug damage on tomato plants:

How To Save Tomato Plants From Slugs?

There are many natural, physical, and chemical methods to save tomato plants from slugs. The best approach is to combine different methods to increase effectiveness.

Next, let us explore different methods to deter slugs in detail.

Natural Ways To Deter Slugs From Tomato Plants

The different natural methods to deter slugs from tomato plants include using eggshells, coffee grounds, biological nematodes, rice bran, DE powder, and gravel. Most of these methods are cost-effective and safer.

Method 1- Sprinkle Crushed Eggshells Around The Plants

Crushed eggshells will prevent the slugs from damaging the tomato plants by acting as a natural barrier. Its sharp edges will prevent these creatures from crawling. It also acts as a natural fertilizer in the garden.

  • Use crushed eggshells– Save your eggshells and rinse them. Dry them out to make them easier to spread. Place them in a plastic bag and crush them using a rolling pin or blend them in a food processor.
  • Sprinkle around the plants– Sprinkle the crushed tomato shells around the tomato plants leaving at least 4-5mm.

Check out this video on deterring slugs from tomato plants using eggshells:

Method 2 – Spread Coffee Grounds Around The Base

Coffee grounds can be used as a slug deterrent for tomato plants. It makes a natural barrier as slugs hate caffeine and prevent them from crawling onto your tomatoes.

  • Spread coffee grounds– Collect the coffee grounds and sprinkle them around the base of the tomato plants. Take care they don’t cover the soil and are 3-4 inches wide.

Here is a video on using coffee grounds to deter slugs:

Method 3 – Apply Microscopic Nematodes On The Ground

Beneficial nematodes are small microscopic creatures that live in the soil and will infect slugs with bacteria. It prevents these pests from damaging nematodes. It is safe to use and harmless to other wildlife.

  • Dilute the microscopic nematodes– Suspend the nematodes in water following the instructions on the packaging.
  • Apply the nematodes– Apply the nematodes in the evenings when the soil is warm and moist following the winter months.

You may watch this video to deter slugs using nematodes:

Method 4 – Sprinkle Bran Around The Plants

Bran is a desiccant that will cause slugs to swell when consumed and difficult to move. Birds will watch over the struggling slugs and feed them. It is inexpensive and non-toxic.

  • Sprinkle bran– Sprinkle pure bran around the tomato plants in the soil. You may blend them in a food processor to a finer grain to make it easier for slugs to eat.
  • Reapply bran– You may reapply the bran after heavy rain or as required.

Click this video to control slugs using rice hull:

Method 5 – Spread Diatomaceous Earth Around The Plants

Food-grade Diatomaceous powder (DE) powder can effectively deter slugs from damaging tomato plants. It has sharp edges that lacerate the soft-bodied garden pests.

  • Sprinkle DE powder– Wear protective gear and spread diatomaceous earth powder around the tomato plants.
  • Reapply DE powder– You may reapply the bran after heavy rain or as required. It can also be mixed with water and used as a foliar spray.

Check out this video to control slugs using DE powder:

Method 6 – Sprinkle Gravel Around The Plants

Gravel makes a rough terrain and makes it difficult for the slugs to cross due to its sharp edges. Slugs will avoid crossing gravel.

  • Sprinkle gravel– Sprinkle a layer of fine gravel covering the soil around the tomato plants. It will deter slugs from crossing.

You may also spread mulch or seaweed that have terrains with small sharp pieces.

  • Sprinkle on the potting soil– You may sprinkle gravel on the top of the potting soil around the base of the pot.

Here is a link on using gravel as slug-deterrent:

Physical Ways To Deter Slugs From Tomato Plants

The effective way to keep slugs away from tomato plants is to handpick them and release them at a local wood. The other way to deter them is using traps of beer and cardboard on the ground.

Method 1 – Use Beer Traps

Beer traps are popularly used to trap slugs. The fermented smell of beer may attract the slugs and deter them from damaging tomato plants.

  • Place beer trap– Fill a bowl of beer and bury it in the garden. It is recommended that at least one inch sticks up above the ground.
  • Check the container– The fermented smell of beer attracts the slugs and will trap them. Check the container the next day and empty the slugs. Refill the container with fresh beer every few days.

You may watch this video to deter slugs using beer traps:

Method 2 – Handpick the slugs

The most popular approach to dealing with the slugs is to handpick them. It is best done two hours after dusk in the height of summer.

  • Handpick the slugs at night– Water the plants in the afternoon when you have slug problems. Go out with a torch in after dark and handpick them. Wear gloves while handling them.
  • Drop them in the bucket of salt– Drop the slugs in a bucket with seven parts of water and one part of salt. Leave them for at least two days.

Click this video to control slugs:

Method 3 – Set Traps Of Cardboard

Slugs can be trapped by using cardboard on the soil around the plants. The slugs will lurk beneath the boards and be removed from damaging the tomato plants.

  • Create slug trap– Water the soil around the plants. Lay pieces of cardboard on the bare soil around the plantings.
  • Pick the slugs– Check back the next morning and pick the slugs lurking underneath. Replace the planks to collect the remaining slugs.

Chemical Ways To Deter Slugs From Tomato Plants

Slug repellents are available in the market that can help in controlling the slugs that damage gardens and landscapes. It is recommended to choose less toxic chemicals as they can be harmful to other animals.

Method 1 – Use Commercial Slugs Repellent

Many commercial slug repellents are available at garden centers. Slug pellets made of ferric phosphate can be used to deter slugs. It is non-toxic to pets, birds, insects, earthworms, and other wildlife.

  • Sprinkle the slug repellent– Slug repellents are available as granules. Scatter them around the base of the tomato plants.

You may check this video on discouraging slugs using commercial repellent:


Can I salt slugs if I find them on the plants?

Salt can dehydrate the slugs by drawing water out of the body and can kill them.  But, avoid applying the salt directly on the plants as it can damage the plants and affect the soil balance. It may burn the leaves, stems, and buds.

Is it safe to use slug pellets?

No, slug pellets containing metaldehyde and ferric sodium are not safe. It poses a risk to birds and mammals, including hedgehogs. It is available as liquid, granules, sprays, grains, and dust but is banned due to its health risks. You may use organic slug pellets.

Do slugs like grapefruit?

Yes, slugs like grapefruit and can be used to trap them. Cut grapefruit into half and scoop the flesh. Place the empty rinds upside down on the ground leaving room for slugs to enter. Leave overnight and remove the trapped slugs. Future studies will determine its effectiveness.


I hope this guide has given you many tips on preventing slugs from eating tomato plants. You may try one or many methods to effectively remove them from your garden.

Let me know if you have tried any other method that has worked for you.

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