Americaâ€™s favorite backyard crop is a favorite food for pests as well! Youâ€™ll want to monitor your tomato plants for pest activity throughout the growing season.
Here are some tips, especially for those interested in an organic approach:
- Pay attention to the labels on the packets of the tomato seeds you plant: Disease-resistant tomatoes are marked with combinations of letters: V for Verticillium wilt; F for Fusarium wilt; N for nematodes; T for tobacco Mosaic virus; and A for alternaria (early blight). Plant resistant varieties to help ward off problems before they start.
- Look for tomatoes that yield early; theyâ€™ll offer mid-season harvests that avoid late-summer fungal diseases. Also, consider heritage varieties common to your area that may have natural resistance to some pests.
- Stop fungal diseases before they attack the entire plant by rotating crops away from previous seasonsâ€™ fungal spots:
- pluck off yellowing leaves from the bottom of the plant taking care not to touch healthy foliage;
- burn or throw the diseased foliage out with the garbage.
- allow space for circulation around plants and water their roots, not their leaves.
- Lure slugs away from tomato plants by burying a pie tin filled with beer; bury the tin at ground level and a fair distance from the garden.
- Pluck fierce-looking hornworms and toss them into a pail of soapy water — theyâ€™re easiest to spot in the morning before they seek shade from the sun.
- If you see a hornworm with rows of white rice-like spikes on its back, leave it alone; the white bits are the larvae of a parasitic wasp that will eventually kill the caterpillar.