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. Three of the most common tomato pests you’ll want to guard against are aphids, stink bugs and tomato fruit 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.
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.
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. Yellow-white spots beneath the skin of ripened fruit are a common sign of stink bug damage to your crops.
Tomato Fruit 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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Organic insecticidal soap – mix with water to create a 2 to 3% solution and apply directly to common tomato pests for best results.
- Neem oil – this organic, plant-based oil is very effective against aphids, stink bugs and tomato fruit worms. You can find it in many garden centers or order it online. Apply according to package directions for best results.
- Beneficial insects – introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, praying mantis, and lacewings (all available for order online) to your garden and let them do what they do best.
Garden pests are an inevitable fact of life for tomato gardeners. However, with a little education and the right resources, you’ll be able to protect your hard work so you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors.