For anyone who has grown a vegetable garden, they know that pests can be a problem. Pests often take an incredible toll on our gardens-killing plants almost as soon as they are put into the ground, causing vegetables and fruits to produce less, and even killing plants just before they are to start producing.
One of the staples in vegetable gardens are tomatoes. Gardeners use tomatoes for canning, salsa, sauces, and a variety of other dishes. For many, gardening and growing tomatoes are one in the same.
However, like most things people grow, tomatoes are susceptible to a wide variety of pests. Therefore, pest control for tomatoes is an essential aspect of gardening and a critical part of your overall pest control strategy. As with all aspects of gardening, there is a wealth options when it comes to pest control for tomatoes. Over the years, I have had success picking and choosing from the following strategies. As with most things in gardening, there is never one solution and indeed you will have the most luck minimizing the effects of pests on your tomato crop if you combine approaches. That said, what follows are pest control tips for tomatoes culled from my personal experience as an avid gardener:
Cage or Stake Your Tomatoes – While this should seem to be a no-brainer for any experienced gardeners, I frequently see gardeners at my local community garden plant their tomatoes without caging or staking them. Caging or staking will make your tomatoes less susceptible to disease and will help reduce problems with pests.
Fertilize Your Soil – I certainly wouldn’t encourage people to use chemical fertilizers, but there are ways that you can enrich your soil organically to increase the nutrients available to your tomato plants. By doing so, your tomatoes will be healthier and will be less susceptible to disease. One way of doing this is to use work compost-for example from a home compost pile consisting in large part of kitchen scraps-into the soil. You can also fertilize the soil using cow manure that can be purchased at garden supply stores.
Hot Pepper Spray – If you notice bugs eating your tomato plant’s leaves or burrowing into the fruits, a good first step is to apply a hot pepper spray to the plants. Mix Tobasco Sauce and water together and spray it directly onto the plants to repel many destructive tomato pests. You should test this on a couple of leaves and let it sit overnight to make sure that you
Consider Pests from Previous Years and Plan Accordingly for the Next Year – Some pests, like the Tomato Pinworm and the Potato Tuber Worm, can wreck havoc on tomato plants. If your crop has been decimated by these pests, it is best to plant tomatoes in a new area of your garden the next fall. Rotating crops is generally helpful-even in small garden-and any gardener would do well to read up on various techniques for doing this. Additionally, pests can sometimes survive the winter under garden debris, and as such, it is critical that you remove all garden debris in the fall to get rid of hiding spots for pests.
Remove Pests By Hand – Sometimes, a surprisingly effective way of undertaking pest control for tomatoes is to remove pests by hand. If your tomatoes are being attacked by Tomato Hornworms-four inch long green caterpillars-hand picking by removing and squeezing the bugs is one of the best ways to eradicate the pests.
Lime Spray – If you have a problem with stinkbugs-flat, green bugs that cause your tomato plants to develop white spots as they eat out the juices in your plant, you can spray your tomatoes with a simple solution of water, lime, and liquid soap. Mix ¼ cup of lime, 1 gallon of water, and 4 drops of liquid soap and spray it on your tomatoes.
Mulch Your Tomatoes – Another great way of managing pests who might otherwise attack your tomatoes is too mulch. You can surround your plants with a mulch of grass clipping, straw, wood chips, or dry leaves. In addition to helping to reduce pests, mulching seals in moisture and help prevent sagging tomatoes from rotting.
Deal With Whitefiles – Whiteflies leave the leaves of your tomatoes yellowed and slightly curved and they can greatly jeopardize the health of your plants. To deal with whiteflies, I have tried the following: Like Cucumber Beatles (another common garden pest), whiteflies are attracted to yellow. To minimize their damage, place a small tin can that has been painted yellow on the top of the stake or cage that supports the tomato plant. Place a small plastic baggie over the can and coat it the baggie in Vaseline. This will attract the insects.
Plant Marigolds – Aside from being keeping some pests away, marigolds can be a pretty addition to your garden. Gardeners have long turned to marigolds to keep pests away and the flowers are cheap enough that it is beneficial to plant some near your tomatoes.
Avoiding Cutworms – Cutworms are frustrating pests that can affect your tomato plants shortly after you plant them. Frequently, these worms cut-hence the name-your plants at the soil line thereby requiring you to replant. To avoid cutworms, wrap your tomato seedlings in newspaper with one inch below the soil and one inch above the soil. This should prevent a cutworm problem.