By Kira Hamman
We recently provided a guide to some of the bugs commonly found destroying tomato crops, so now it’s time to tell you how to control them.
And control them you can, without resorting to poisons, but remember that organic pest control is about just that — control, not total eradication.
Gardens have bugs, period.
We’re trying to keep them from eating everything in sight, not trying to eliminate them from the planet. Enough said.
Larger bugs, like hornworms, fruitworms, and stinkbugs, can be picked off by hand. I know what you’re thinking: EEEWWWWW!!! But this is why gardening gloves were invented. Well, this and the existence of stinging nettles, but that is not relevant here. The point is, get a jar of soapy water and a pair of sturdy gloves and go to work picking off the bugs and dropping them in the water, where they will quickly perish.
Better yet, pay your school-aged kids 5Â¢ per bug to pick them off for you (note: this job is not recommended for toddlers, who have a propensity to ingest the bugs and/or the water).
If this is simply too gross for you, or if you have pests like aphids that are too small to remove by hand, you can also spray the plants with any of a number of homemade insect deterrents. While this isn’t as effective as manually removing them, it will kill quite a few bugs and won’t hurt the plants, the environment, or you.
Some things to try:
- Soapy water. Any biodegradable liquid soap will do. Use about Â¼ cup of soap per gallon of water, and rinse the plants with clean water an hour or so after you spray them so that the soap doesn’t burn their leaves.
- Oily water. Blend about Â¼ cup canola or olive oil with one gallon of water and spray on plants. Remember to shake the spray bottle frequently to keep things mixed up.
- Hot pepper spray. To make your own, puree four or five chili peppers with a gallon of water, strain, and spray. This is even more effective if you let the puree age for a day or so before you strain and use it.
- Garlic spray. Puree a head of garlic with a gallon of water, strain, and spray. This won’t kill existing bugs, but it is a great deterrent.
- Combination spray — be creative! For instance, a chili-garlic-oil spray will kill existing bugs and deter future ones. An oil-soap spray is a double-whammy bug killer with a built-in emulsifier. And so on.
Make sure you spray the undersides of the leaves where bugs tend to hide and lay their eggs. Also, remember that you’ll have to reapply the spray after it rains, and remember to wash your tomatoes very well before you eat them — nobody wants to eat a chili-garlic tomato!