Bugs and worms may make their way into your garden and eat your tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) before you can. Rid your vegetable garden of these pesky critters with some all-natural bug and worm repellents as alternatives to synthetic pesticides.
Many different pests can wreak havoc on your tomato garden. The tomato fruitworm is a particularly destructive one and feeds on the fruit and leaves of a tomato plant. Also be mindful of potato aphids, leaf-footed bugs, stink bugs, hornworms, silverleaf whiteflies and two-spotted spider mites as they can harm your tomato plants too.
Make Hot Pepper Spray
This spray is very effective pest deterrent and is inexpensive to make. It can be used for most insects and pests that are making their home in your garden. It is particularly effective for aphids, Japanese bean beetles and squash bugs.
Place 4 or more cayenne peppers in a blender. You can use hotter peppers, if desired, such as habanero or bird's eye peppers. Add 2 to 4 cloves of garlic. Mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil or another vegetable oil of your choice. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid Castile soap or another liquid dish soap. Make sure the liquid soap doesn't contain dyes or added scents. Pour in 2 to 3 cups of hot water.
Combine all ingredients in a blender on high for a few minutes or until liquified. Pour the contents into a bowl and leave it overnight for a minimum of 12 hours. This will allow the full potency of the garlic and peppers to come out. Next, filter the liquid with a strainer, cheesecloth or towel. Pour it into a glass jar or container.
Mix 2 tablespoons of the liquid with 16 ounces of water. If you need a bigger batch, mix 3 tablespoons of the liquid with 24 ounces of water. Shake the water and liquid together vigorously. Pour into a spray bottle for the best application.
Wear gloves when applying to avoid skin irritation. When using, spray directly onto the plants and repeat when needed. It can also be used preventively. Apply the spray as often as needed.
Use Insecticidal Soap
This option is effective on aphids, whiteflies, flea beetles and spider mites. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap that's free of dyes and scents to 1 quart of water. Organic liquid Castile soap is a great option.
You can add a small amount of bar soap water. Allow a bar of soap to soak in a gallon of water for 12 hours. Remove any pieces of soap, and stir thoroughly.
Mix the solution thoroughly, pour into a spray bottle and apply directly to the tomato plant on both the tomatoes and leaves. The soap acts as an insecticide, and any soap that remains on the plant will discourage bugs from nesting in the future. This methods works until it gets washed off by rain or a sprinkler. It also may evaporate in the sun. Reapply according to the conditions.
If you see a pest on the plant, pluck it by hand and put it in a bucket of the soapy water. If you see many, put the bucket of soap beneath the tomato plant and gently shake the plant to displace the pests. This can save time if there's an infestation.
Try a Neem Oil Spray
Neem oil is primarily used to moisturize skin and make hair shiny, but it can also be used as an all-natural pesticide. This oil derived from seeds of the neem tree has a sulfur and garlic-like smell and is very bitter. It works well to deter tomato fruitworms and hornworms, whiteflies, aphids, flea beetles, mealy bugs, spider mites, cabbage worms, stink bugs, squash bugs and moths.
Fill a spray bottle with 1 quart of warm water. Mix in 1/4 teaspoon of liquid soap — preferably liquid Castile, which works best. This acts as an emulsifier since neem oil alone won't dissolve in water. Add 1 teaspoon of the neem oil, place the top on the spray bottle and shake until mixed thoroughly.
Spray the mixture directly on the plant. Apply to the tops and undersides of the leaves. You may need to shake the mixture from time to time to maintain the consistency. As a bonus, use any remaining neem oil to treat your skin and hair.
If you have existing bugs on your tomato plants, apply the spray every seven days until you do not see any remaining bugs. If you are using it preventively, use every 14 days. Reapply after rain.
Wash the tomatoes thoroughly and use a vegetable wash before eating to remove any lingering spray. Using a DIY natural and organic pesticide is the safest and healthiest method for removing bugs and worms and preventing future infestations.
- Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center: Tomato Insect Pests
- Pinch of Seeds: 3 DIY Neem Oil Spray Recipes for Plants
- Wellness Mama: Organic Pest Control for Gardens (Natural Options)
- National Pesticide Information Center: Neem Oil
- Plant Care Today: How To Make Your Own Castile Soap Insecticide Spray
- Missouri Botanical Garaden: Lycopersicon esculentum
Meg Scanlon earned a Masters from Johns Hopkins University. Her writing can be found on Hunker, Cuteness, Funny or Die, BarkPost, Taste of Home, LoveTV and ALittleBitFunny.com.