Although rain is a harbinger of good times in a gardener’s life, it also invites all kinds of nuance pests. Well, I am talking about snails. Snails are a menace to your kitchen garden. They arrive in hordes and finish off every plant you attentively cared for. And that includes tomatoes, too.
And that brings me to today’s question – can snails eat tomatoes?
Can Snails Eat Tomatoes?
Snails love binging on tomato plants. That includes fruits, leaves, and stems. Unfortunately, not even the flowers and unripe tomatoes are safe from snails.
Even if the tomato plant isn’t ready to bear any fruits, you will find these gastropods hanging upside down, devouring the leaves. It is common to find them munching on stems as well.
Snails have a radula, which comprises anywhere between 10,000 to 25,000 teeth! Their radula is sharp enough to thaw the tomato plant stems.
But lucky you that these tiny pests aren’t fast eaters. They take time to consume plants. So, if you opt for the necessary measures, you can definitely save your tomatoes.
So, how do you save your hard work from a walk of snails? (Fun fact: a group of snails is called a walk).
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How To Stop Snails From Eating Tomato Plants?
There are several ways to stop snails from eating tomato plants. Some of them are the beer trap, use of bait, manual picking, introducing predators, and sprinkling coffee near the tomato plant.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book to get rid of pest snails from your garden. Let me tell you how it works.
Home research by hobbyists has shown that snails also share a love for beer like us. However, they are chronic alcoholics who just don’t know when to stop. Talk about addiction!
They drink to such an extent that they don’t live to see another day.
So, if you don’t like using commercial repellants, the beer trap method is one of the best ways to eliminate pest snails.
Here’s how you set a beer trap.
- Take a bowl and fill it with beer. Fill only about 70% of the bowl.
- Dig a hole near your tomato plant and bury the bowl halfway. The snails need to be able to climb the bowl easily.
- Leave the bowl overnight. Snails are nocturnal and will be most active at night.
- The next day, you will find a group of snails drowned in the bowl.
- Take them out and dispose of them in a sealed plastic bag.
- Repeat this every day for 2 to 3 weeks, and you will notice the decline in the snail population around your tomato plant.
Though this is an effective method to get rid of snails, unfortunately, several toxic compounds make up these baits. And one of such is metaldehyde.
So, you shouldn’t opt for this remedy if you have other pets like dogs, birds, cats, or reptiles.
Every spring and summer, the cases of metaldehyde poisoning among pets skyrocket in the US. And all of these cases are accidental.
Furthermore, metaldehyde harms not only your pets but also the natural environment. To make matters worse, it contaminates water quality. So, if you have water bodies near your garden, you’d better avoid using them.
So, you might wonder what could be the alternative for snail bait then?
Don’t give up on snail baits yet. There are better alternatives for snail baits with safe composition. For example, the bait with iron phosphate is considered safe for plants and pets.
Before you buy, look at the active ingredient label on the product. Make sure it has no traces of metaldehyde. Instead, get the ones that have iron phosphate.
How To Use Snail Bait?
Do not pile all bait in one place only. You need to sprinkle and scatter it all over the garden. This will make it effective and won’t harm soil quality. Avoid snail baits that have metaldehyde as their active ingredient. Only use the ones that have iron phosphate.
The Tweezer Method
This method is only applicable if you are dealing with the first wave of snails. At the beginning of spring, snails come in small groups, and it will be manageable to get rid of them immediately. So, this is more of a preventing measure than a cure.
Snails and slugs are nocturnal, and late-night dinner is their thing. So, grab a tweezer and a flashlight and visit your tomato vineyard.
Pluck the snails from the stems and leaves and dispose of them safely. Make sure you seal them in an airtight bag to prevent them from escaping.
Do it regularly, and you will get rid of snails in a few days.
Introduce Snail-Eating Predators
There are several snail-eating predators in the wild. And what animal can be better at eating snails than their counterpart carnivorous snails that have been doing it for millions of years?
This is why farmers across the US have used decollate snails for over 150 years to solve the problem of pest snails.
You might doubt these unassuming cannibal snails at first, but they have quite a reputation for getting rid of pest snails.
Like herbivore snails, they, too, come out at night but with a different purpose. And that is to stop the bad guys from finishing your tomato vines.
Decollate snails are faster than other snails. Hence, they can quickly track down prey that has reached the plant’s apex.
Another thing about decollate snails is that they will also pay a visit to pest snails’ homes and eat their eggs. This will reduce the pest snail population significantly.
And also, it can be comforting to know that you are not using chemicals or baits to kill off snails in your garden. Definitely, the most organic method to get rid of pest snails.
Several kitchen gardening sites recommend sprinkling ground coffee near your tomato plants. Personally, I haven’t tried this method.
That is an assignment that you will have to do on your own.
Now that you know how to eliminate snails from your garden, let’s look at this topic from a different perspective.
From A Perspective Of A Snail Keeper
Like me, many snail lovers keep snails as pets. And if you are one, you’d also want to know if feeding tomatoes to your slimy pals is healthy or not.
So, let’s find out.
Can Pet Snails Eat Tomato?
Tomatoes are safe for snails but do not feed them regularly. Snails need a diverse diet, so occasional feeding is recommended. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, lycopene, magnesium, and potassium, necessary for your pet snails.
Can Snails Eat Tomato Plants?
Snails love greens, and tomato plants deliver just that. They will bury their radula in the plant’s stem and leaves and meet their dietary requirements.
Can Baby Snails Eat Tomatoes?
Despite their size, baby snails can eat tomatoes and the plant itself. So, if you have baby snails in your care, you can definitely offer them tomatoes. And yes, it is entirely safe for your little pals.
Should You Feed Your Snails Tomatoes Daily?
Though tomatoes are completely safe for your snails, they aren’t the food your snail would consume regularly in the wild. To emulate their natural diet as closely as possible, consider mixing tomatoes with other leafy greens.
Can Mystery Snails Eat Tomatoes?
Like land snails, freshwater snails, like the mystery snails, enjoy feasting on tomatoes as well. However, you should feed them occasionally, mixed with other food.
Can Nerite Snails Eat Tomatoes?
Although a freshwater species, nerites eat tomatoes, which is completely safe for them. However, you shouldn’t feed it regularly. Algae is their preferred food, so it won’t be wise to bereave them from their main course.
Snails eat all sorts of fruits and vegetables. So, tomatoes are no exception. Like with all greens, they won’t stop devouring tomatoes once they find them in their vicinity.
So, you need to opt for the methods I mentioned earlier to get rid of pest snails.
Although snail baits are effective, they might contain harmful compositions like metaldehyde. So, read the label and only get the ones with iron phosphate.
And for hobbyists who keep snails as pets, feeding your slimy friends tomatoes is entirely safe. Having said that, do it occasionally.