Juicy tomatoes are a refreshing addition to summer salads and your favorite dinner entrees, and the relative ease at which they're grown makes them perfect for the backyard gardener. Unfortunately, the scarlet fruit also have the propensity for attracting bug admirers, too, which can ruin your crop. Defend your tomato plants against bugs using multiple manual and chemical strategies to protect your garden's health and beauty.
Clear away brush, weeds and debris from around your garden. Weeds are a major harbor for insect pests that can plague your tomatoes. Also, follow proper care for your specific species of tomato plant. Healthy plants may be less susceptible to diseases and pests.
Manually remove bugs from your tomato plants. This can help reduce the resident population of larger bugs such as beetles and stink bugs. Fill a bucket with soapy water and place it under your tomato bush or vine. Shake the plant to dislodge insects and make them fall to their death into the soapy water.
Use an insecticidal soap, which is less toxic than chemical pesticides and can be sufficient for minor bug infestations. Buy the soap from a nursery or garden store, or make your own by mixing a quart of water with 2 tbsp. of standard liquid dish soap. Pour the water into a spray bottle and mist it evenly over the entire tomato plant, including any fruit. The mixture will smother bugs upon contact and has an efficacy rate of 50 percent, according to the University of California.
Mist your plant with a chemical insecticide product containing methomylm. The University of California states that this is an effective treatment for some of the most common tomato pests, including the tomato fruitworm (Helicoverpa zea), the tomato pinworm (Keiferia lycopersicella), the tomato bug (Crytopeltis modesta) and most stink bug species. Apply according to the specific product's label, as toxicity varies by brand.
Apply a standard vegetable insecticide for all other types of common insects that may be afflicting your tomatoes. Make sure the spray is intended for plants meant for human consumption. Example chemical formulations may contain neem oil, an organic insecticide; abamectin, which the University of California identifies as effective against mites and the tomato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli); and fenpropathrin.