It’s a real pain to go out in the garden and see that your tomato plant stem has been eaten up and the culprit is not in sight. I wanted to figure this out and protect my other tomato plants from this fate.
Your tomato stems are being eaten by some insects such as cutworms, stem borer, earwigs, or earworms. They could also be attacked by pests like rats, voles, rabbits, squirrels, or birds. You need to identify the insect or pest and use the right solution.
I’ve written a lot more details about these pests and insects that will help you figure out the ones attacking your tomato plant stem. I’ve also added some tips that can help you solve this problem.
The most common insect that attacks the stem of your tomato plant is the cutworm. This pest has a caterpillar-like shape and crawls around in the soil near the base of the tomato plant.
If you find the stem near the base of the tomato plant has been eaten, there’s a good chance you have a cutworm problem. These pests can come out at night to eat the stem so you may find it difficult to observe them.
The good thing is there is an easy solution to prevent cutworms from attacking your tomato plant stem. Just use a toilet paper cardboard tube to protect the base of the stem. Place the tube so that it goes 1 inch into the soil and stays 4 inches above the soil. Place the tube so it surrounds the tomato plant stem.
You can also make your own tube using a material like cardboard, thick paper, or aluminum foil. Just make sure the height is enough so 1 inch goes into the soil and 4 inches can stay above it.
You can also use Bt to get rid of the cutworms from the soil. Spread the Bt near the base of the soil and after a few days, you should have gotten rid of the cutworms.
Another option is to spread some bloodmeal near the base of the plant which repels the cutworms from your plant.
The stem borer is an insect that leaves its eggs on the tomato plant. The larva will dig a tiny hole in the stem and tunnel through the stalk which can seriously damage the plant.
It may be difficult to figure out your tomato plant stem is being attacked by this pest because the hole they dig is very small. If the plant is too damaged, you cannot do much but get rid of it.
Wireworms are the larvae of click beetles that attack young tomato plants. They prefer to stay in the soil and eat the roots and stem of the plant. They may even burrow out and eat the base of the stem.
The easiest way to get rid of wireworms is to dig up the soil about an inch. This helps the birds to eat up these pests. The wireworms also cannot survive well on the surface of the soil.
You can also prevent these pests from reaching your garden by keeping it clean. Avoid moist areas in the garden and cut any unwanted grass or weeds near your tomato plants.
You can also control the wireworms by removing the plants from the soil every year and growing a fresh batch.
Flea beetles are insects that attack the leaves of the tomato plants. But they leave their eggs near the base of the tomato plant. The larvae will feed on the stem and leaves of the plant causing damage to them.
The solution to this problem is to use a row cover when growing tomato plant seedlings. Make sure none of these insects manage to get into the row cover and leave their eggs.
The tomato hornworm is another common pest you will find on your tomato plants. This caterpillar-like insect will much the leaves and stem of your tomato plant.
They usually stay on the leaves of the tomato plant but you may find them eating the stem. Unlike the cutworms, they will eat the stem above the base of the plant.
These insects are quite large in size being 2-4 inches in length but you may not be able to see them because they have good camouflage among the leaves.
It’s best to pick these pests by hand and drop them in a bucket of soap water to get rid of them. You can also spray Bt powder on the foliage of the tomato plants to get rid of the hornworms.
Rats are one of the pests you may find in your garden that are attacking the tomato plants. They’ll eat the tomatoes and leaves but sometimes will also attack the stem of the plant.
You can easily recognize the gnaw marks on the stem to know that it’s caused by rats. The solution to this problem is to keep an outdoor cat that can get rid of them.
You can also set up traps to catch the rats. The problem would be what you do after that. Would you kill them or release them in another area. There are some states where it is illegal to do so. And you cannot release the rats in another area as well.
Voles are small rat-like creatures that may dig around in your garden. They create small tunnels under the soil and may attack the roots and stem of the tomato plant.
If you find that the stem of the tomato plant has been eaten under the soil, there’s a good chance you have voles in your garden.
You can also check the area near your garden to find if there are holes created by them. You may also find the tunnels they use to move under the ground.
You can protect your tomato plants by placing them in a cage that is buried deep in the ground. This will prevent the voles from reaching the roots and stem of the plant.
Rabbits and squirrels
Your tomato plants can be attacked by rabbits that would eat any tomatoes they can find. If there are no tomatoes, they can target the leaves and stem of the tomato plant.
This can be a problem with chipmunks and squirrels as well. You need to consider whether it’s best to trap these animals and release them in another area. But that depends on the laws of your state.
Another solution is to build a tall cage around your tomato plants that will prevent such animals from reaching the plant.
Birds can be another cause of eating your tomato plant stems. When they don’t get any other food source, the birds can peck at the stems and damage them.
The easiest solution is to cover your tomato plants with a cage and row cover that prevents the birds from reaching the plants. You could also build a scarecrow but some birds can be very smart and ignore that.
Sometimes, your tomato plant stems may suffer not because of pests or insects but environmental stress such as strong winds. This can cause your tomato plants to bend causing the stem to get damaged.
You can use a wind cover to protect your tomato plant from such strong winds. You could also grow the tomato plant near a tree or a wall that would protect them from the wind.
When you grow a tomato plant that gets tall, you need to support it using a trellis or cage. As the plant grows, we tie the stem to the support using a string.
If the string gets too tight, it can cause damage to the stem which may seem like an attack from a pest or disease. Make sure to tie the string loose enough to allow the stem to breathe.