Guest post by Kevin Rodrigues*
It’s frustrating. You’ve spent all spring taking care of your seedling tomato plants and they are growing like crazy thanks to the tips in our tomato growing guide. But then, they show signs of being eaten and you need to act quickly before your crop is ruined. Here are some tips on how you can naturally protect your tomatoes without negatively impacting nature.
1. Let the bugs enjoy their meal
I know you don’t want to. But sometimes a truce is the best choice in a war. If there are just a few insects let them chomp on a few leaves and they will be happy without damaging your plants. Keep a very keen eye out to ensure that they are only eating their share and not doing damage to the plant itself.
2. Use the “search and destroy” method
A simple solution could be to pick off the insects like slugs, snail and caterpillars by hand and throw them in a bucket of soap water. If there aren’t too many insects and you can clearly see them, this is a very good solution. You can also leave them in a shallow dish (without the soapy waster) for the birds to eat.
3. Fence your garden
A tomato cage will help keep the leaves away from the ground where insects can easily access them. It can also protect your tomatoes from rabbits as long as you stick it deep in the ground.
A fence is good to keep large animals like deer away from chomping on your tomatoes. You can use a crop cover to protect your plants from flying insects such as flies. This could be made of a plastic sheet or a mesh that allows air and light to reach the plants. You can make your own mini DIY greenhouses to keep bugs at bay by following the instructions here.
4. Use animal deterrents to keep pests away
Rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and other pests will stay away from your veggies if they think a predator is in the area. Predator urine or hormone can be sprinkled around the perimeter of your garden to keep pests away. These items are available from hunting stores, garden centers and hardware stores.
5. Catch and release
Moving big caterpillars and beetles to wild locations is time consuming and only works if there are one or two. This will help to bolster your local moth and butterfly population or provide food for local birds.
6. Give the tomato plants some protective companions
Everyone needs friends. You can grow some companions near your tomato plants that will protect them from pests. Herbs like basil and oregano can protect the tomato plants from several pests. Marigolds, cabbage, chives, parsley, mint. geraniums, and nasturtiums all help to protect your tomatoes from insects.
7. Make sure your tomato plants are healthy
If your body is healthy you won’t get diseases, and the same can be said of your tomato plants. Keep them happy with the right food, water, air and they will be more resistant to insect infestation. Make sure to give the plants ample space to grow by pruning the excess foliage. Insects love damp spots underneath leaves.
8. Attract birds to your garden
To raise a nest of chickadees, parents must catch a whopping 7,500 caterpillars! Hanging nests and providing seed can help attract birds to your garden who will take care of your insect problem. This is a great natural solution that helps the whole food chain.
9. Rotate your garden crops
Some insects lay their eggs in the soil. You need to rotate your garden crops every few years so that you can get rid of any infestations. You do need to be careful not to plant the same families of plants such as pepper, eggplant, potatoes because they will face the same problem.
10. Use an organic pesticide
Do not use chemical pesticides. Ever. They are bad for you, for the environment and all the animals that live in your area. Instead, you can rid your garden of bugs with natural sprays and pesticides that you can make yourself. Here is a full guide to healthy pesticides that you can make yourself.
*Kevin Rodrigues is a developer-turned-blogger with an interest in gardening. He creates useful gardening guides at https://gardeningmentor.com/.
I love home grown tomatoes. They are actually something we can grow succesfully in the UK. They taste so much better than store bought ones, and free from pesticides too
You are absolutely right. Homegrown tomatoes can have a flavor profile that is incomparable to the store bought ones.