How to Control 3 Common Tomato Pests Organically
As a tomato gardener, you will no doubt encounter a whole host of common garden pests. Creepy critters like cutworms, flea beetles, grasshoppers, spider mites, and root weevils are all too eager to feast on your beautiful, healthy plants. Let’s explore how to control the 3 most common tomato pests organically, getting rid of these pesky “buggers”.
Three of the most common tomato pests you’ll want to guard against are aphids, stink bugs and tomato horn worms. The damage these little buggers cause is varied, so it pays to know exactly what you are up against with each. So, let’s look at each one and discuss some organic solutions to get rid of them.
3 Common Tomato Pests
These tiny green or black insects can either be winged or wingless and like to hang out in clusters on the bottom side of tomato leaves or tomato stems. They suck moisture and nutrients out of your tomatoes, causing curled and yellowed leaves and stunted plants. Gary from The Rusted Garden explains all about aphids and soft bodied insects in his video, “How to Easily Treat Aphids on Tomato Plants”. I have also included his recipes (and I do use them) at the bottom of the post.
Aphids are attracted to the yellow color of tomato blooms, so using yellow sticky boards will also help catch aphids (and other bugs).
True to their name, stink bugs let off a very foul odor if threatened or squashed. Both nymphs and adults damage your tomatoes by sucking their sap and attacking the fruit. Young and adult stink bugs look the same with an easily recognized shield-shaped body. Adults can be black, brown or green, and either with or without markings. Youths are basically just smaller versions of adult stink bugs. When they attack your tomatoes, your plants are weakened and young fruit may form improperly as a result.
What do they do to the tomato plants:
These pests insert their snouts underneath tomato skin. The enzyme they leave at the sting point turns that area of the tomato into liquid. The bug then drinks the liquid. Sting points produce dark pinprick marks on the tomato. Discolored areas appear on tomatoes where fluid is removed. They’re often white, yellowish or light green. Damage can appear knot-like.
Yellow-white spots beneath the skin of ripened fruit are a common sign of stink bug damage to your crops.
Tomato Horn Worms
Also known as the corn earworm, these pink, green or brown insects with light striping can grow to nearly 2 inches long. They are actually moth larvae that bore into tomato fruit to feed. Moths lay their eggs close to tomato stems with green fruit, and approximately a week later, you will have a tomato fruit/horn worm problem.
Organic Garden Pest Control Solutions
Once you see any of these common and frustrating tomato pests on your plants, you’ll want to take immediate action. For starters, spray the affected areas with a strong stream of water to dislodge these critters. If you spray several days consecutively, you can eliminate multiple generations of these quickly multiplying pests. Once you’ve done that, you’ll also want to employ any of the following organic pest control methods:
1. Hand picking – throw on a pair of gardening gloves and fill a large can with warm, soapy water. Then simply pluck the little “darlings” off your plants and drop them into the can.
2. Weeding – keep the areas around your plants free from weeds and other garden debris as this eliminates a favorite habitat and hiding place for many garden pests.
3. Organic insecticidal soap – mix with water to create a 2 to 3% solution and apply directly to common tomato pests for best results.
4. Neem oil – this organic, plant-based oil is very effective against aphids, stink bugs and tomato fruit worms. You can find neem oil in many garden centers or order it online. Apply according to package directions for best results. It’s highly recommended to purchase a Neem oil that is 100% cold pressed. The oil must NOT have anything removed for it to be effective. The chemical azadirachtin in the Neem oil is primarily responsible for it effectiveness. Look on the label, it should state 100% cold pressed, or it’s not.
5. Beneficial insects – introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, praying mantis, and lacewings to your garden and let them do what they do best.
6. Plant “trap crops” – in an area around the tomato garden but set apart from the tomato plants. Trap crops are natural deterrents that draw stink bugs away from tomato plants and provide them with a thriving habitat. Mustard, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, sunflowers, marigolds, garlic, lavender, and chrysanthemums are good trap crops for these pests.
7. Use a hose – spray off the aphids or spider mites with strong streams of water. It will reduce their numbers and they don’t crawl back on the plants.
I have learned over the years, that an ounce of prevention is far better than these pesky buggers destroying all your veggies! When I remember, and it’s best for me to put it on my calendar-the bugs come around same time every year, I use these recipes that I learned from Gary over at The Rusted Garden. I have learned quite a lot from him. His YouTube channel is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.
So here are a few recipes that I use, that I learned from Gary. I try and make them up at the beginning of the gardening season. And then put a reminder on my Calendar to be on the lookout for ____ bug.
Peppermint Oil Spray
To 1 Gal Water use: 1-2 tsp Peppermint Esssential Oil – Under 80 degrees – 1-2X Weekly
To 1 Gal Water use: 1 tsp Peppermint Essential Oil – Over 80 degrees – 1-2X Weekly
Same recipe, just use 1X a week
Make sure you buy pure peppermint essential oil and not extract. Gary recommends using the variety Mentha Piperita. Apparently the menthol level in this variety is greater and it is more irritating to the insects.
Soapy Water Spray
To 1 Gal Water add 1 Tablespoon pure soap (such as castile soap)
Tip: Put the water in first, then the soap. Or you get a soapy, bubbly mess.
Soapy water spray is really effective on aphids. The soap basically dehydrates the insects.
Garden pests are an inevitable fact of life for all gardeners. However, with a little education and the right resources, some good natural recipes and a calendar you’ll be able to protect your hard work so you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
What pests do you have in your garden that love your tomatoes as much as you do? What are your personal remedies or recipes? Share below so we can all learn!
Keep your hands dirty,
Dig in with more Gardening Articles:
- 7 Organic Gardening Tips for your Best Tomato Crop Ever
- Beat the Heat – Shade Cloth for your Vegetable Garden
- Monthly Gardening Guide – July
- How to Control 3 Common Tomato Pests Organically
- Monthly Gardening Guide – June
- Monthly Gardening Guide – May
- Growing Potatoes
- Monthly Gardening Guide – April
- Monthly Gardening Guide – March
- Monthly Garden Guide February
- Monthly Garden Guide January