Posted on 10 May 2008 by

Natural Pest Control for Organic Tomatoes

Tomato HornwormIn a society that seems bent on overmedicating every problem we have as humans (don’t get me started on that one), it should come as no surprise that we tend to overuse poisons to get rid of common pests in our tomato gardens as well.

I am one of those oddballs who would rather do things the way Laura Ingalls did them than the way mass production tomato farmers think is right.

That’s one of the things that initially drew me to organic gardening in the first place — second only to the health benefits of a pesticide-free organic garden home for my tomatoes.

I haven’t sprayed the first poison on one of my plants in years. Of course I also believe that I am to expect a certain — and hopefully small – percentage of loss of my tomato plants each year due to pests and diseases.

Natural Pest Control Tips
The most important things to remember when you are planting tomatoes are mostly common sense. Make sure that your soil is properly oxygenated and that you don’t crowd your plants too close together so that they receive a good amount of air flow.

1. Pruning
I trim my tomato plants after several weeks outdoors so that there are no leaves or stems any lower than 12” from the ground. This allows for plenty of airflow from the ground up and has stopped many insects from feasting on my precious tomatoes.

2. Complementary Planting
Planting garlic with tomatoes will keep several types of common pests away, as do onions. Mint is exceptionally good at dismantling an ant problem. Sweet corn will draw away tomato fruitworms, too.

3. Cornmeal
This one borders on being a little disgusting, but if your problem is the tomato hornworm, sprinkle cornmeal on the ground around the base of the plants. The hornworm can’t digest the meal and it will cause them to die a rather explosive death.

The coolest thing that I’ve learned about organic tomato gardening over the years is that growing heirloom tomatoes (as I do) and rotating the varieties and crops every year (as I do) will often be all that is necessary for me to enjoy a largely pest-free tomato crop every year.

Do you have a favorite natural pest control tip that you don’t see here?

Please share it so everyone can enjoy!

8 Responses to “Natural Pest Control for Organic Tomatoes”

  1. deb Says:

    Oh man, I am going to explode me some tomato hornworms. I have never using cornmeal like that before.

  2. Michael Nolan Says:

    It actually works, too!

  3. our friend Ben Says:

    Organic is “it” as far as I’m concerned. But I can’t explode my hornworms (eeewww!!!) or even pull ’em off and toss ’em to the chickens, because every single one I’ve found is playing buffet to a bunch of braconid wasps. If you can beat hornworms, I think you’ve got pests taken care of on tomatoes, *unless* you’re growing them in the greenhouse, when those fiendish whiteflies can really sneak up on you! I try to order ladybugs for the greenhouse every year before whiteflies can become an issue. I think your tips on pruning up plants, aerating the soil, rotating crops, and giving your tomato plants enough room are all great. Folks who follow them, work plenty of compost into the soil, mulch, and maintain even watering should have great crops of tomatoes, especially if they foliar-feed with liquid seaweed and/or compost tea every month through the season! Thanks for sharing these tips with everyone–I hope they encourage all gardeners to see how easy it is to grow great tomatoes organically!

  4. Organic Tomato Organic Gardening Pest Control Tips Says:

    […] Tomato Casual » Natural Pest Control for Organic Tomatoes – … will often be all that is necessary for me to enjoy a largely pest-free tomato crop every year. Do you have a favorite natural pest control tip that you don’t see here? … Organic Tomato Natural Organic Gardening Pest Control Tips Says: […]

  5. Neva Says:

    How often do I apply the cornmeal?

  6. Kristi Says:

    I was picking hornworms off my tomatoe plants and saw a wasp land on a rather large hornworm and suck the worms insides out. I then held out the worms I’d collected to see if the wasp wanted more.
    I love it when people say ‘gentle as nature’. nature isn’t gentle but it is efficient.

  7. Bonnie Says:

    Or if you have the room leave one tomato plant just for the tomato worm. They become a beautiful moth that looks like a hummingbird, only smaller.

  8. Susan Says:

    Will try this to hopefully save what’s left of my plant :-/. This is first time ever dealing w/these hornworms! I’ve NEVER had them before. BUT.. this is the first year I tried those planting containers you fill from bottom..maybe coincidence, but I don’t know?? Thanks so much for your wonderful advice!

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