How to Keep Bugs Off My Tomato Plants

Overview

Tomatoes are the quintessential backyard vegetable plant, known for their relatively easy care and their red fruit. Though low-maintenance, tomato plants are occasionally afflicted with insect pests. These include fruit worms, aphids, hornworms and stink bugs, according to Clemson University. Several physical, natural and chemical controls can help keep bugs from ruining your tomato harvest.

Step 1

Fertilize at the time of initial planting and again when the tomatoes start growing flowers, using a standard 10-10-10 all-purpose garden fertilizer. Also, give them lots of water; the University of Missouri recommends 2 qts. per plant daily until the plants start producing fruit, after which you should supply 4 qts. daily.

Step 2

Pluck off the bugs and drop them into a bucket of water mixed with dish soap. Alternatively, place the bucket under the tomato plant and shake the plant vigorously to dislodge pests. Manual removal is an ideal control method for limited invasions of larger pests like caterpillars.

Step 3

Spray your tomato plant with a homemade insecticidal soap. Mix 2 tbsp. of liquid dish soap with 1 qt. of water and use a spray bottle to spray it onto your tomato plant's fruit and foliage. The soap kills insects while the soapy residue deters future pest invasions. according to the Care2 environmental network.

Step 4

Apply a commercially prepared chemical insecticide specifically labeled for use on vegetable plants when there's a heavy insect invasion. Such products should be applied according to their labeled guidelines, since toxicity varies widely by product.

Step 5

Plant insect-deterring plants around your tomatoes. This can naturally discourage insect pests from approaching your tomatoes, according to Cornell University. For example, Cornell University recommends planting basil adjacent to tomatoes to repel tomato hornworm bugs, or surrounding your tomato garden with lavender or thyme to keep out slugs.

Things You'll Need

  • Tomato fertilizer
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Spray bottle
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Vegetable pesticide spray
  • Basil, lavender and thyme plants

References

  • "American Tomato: The Complete Guide to Growing and Using Tomatoes;" Robert Hendrickson; 2006
  • Cornell University: Companion Planting
  • Clemson University: Tomato Insect Pests
  • University of Missouri: Growing Home Garden Tomatoes
  • Care2: Homemade Insecticidal Soap

Who Can Help

  • University of California: How to Manage Pests: Tomato
Keywords: growing tomatoes, tomato plant pests, kill tomato pests

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.