Call ’em horn worms, tobacco worms, or mater bugs, I hate their guts.
If you’ve tried raising tomatoes without chemical insecticides, so do you. In my nearly 20 years of gardening, I’ve tried a lot – picking, diatomaceous earth, extra tilling, crushed egg shells, hoping, praying, pleading, and yes, chemical insecticides (gotta give it to them, they get rid of the little scourges).
Maybe it’s where I live (North Florida), but I’ve never been able to get them completely off of my beloved red balls of sunshine.
I have a semi-fix. Not perfect, but realistic if you have a bigg-ish garden (more than 3 tomato plants). It’s a two-prong approach.
This is especially fun if you have chickens. It’s deeply satisfying to find those demonic tubes of goo and flick them into the run. The girls make short work of them.
In fact, if you only have a plant or two, have the time, and your weather isn’t completely miserable in the heat of summer (it is for me), a daily picking will almost completely control worms. It takes a while to get good at spotting them, but once you do you can scan your bushes pretty quickly.
That’s why I say intermittent. I have neither the time nor inclination to stand in the swampy Florida air picking worms every day, so I do it as often as possible.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
Bt is a natural insecticide, a bacterium actually, that only affects the worms. It won’t hurt people, pets, or beneficial insects like bees or butterflies. I’ve had moderate success with Bt – it slowed the worms, didn’t eradicate them.
You can buy Bt on Amazon (prime!).
Pick and spray to keep worms away (mostly)
Unless you go full chemical attack, you’re gonna lose some tomatoes. Sorry. But with regular Bt spray and some therapeutic picking (get ’em girls!), you’ll get most of the worms without spraying chemicals.
Note: If you have no problem with chemicals, then ignore everything I’ve just said and use Sevin dust. Your worms will vanish.
- Plant your tomatoes far enough apart so you can get around them easily to pick. If you bunch them up, it’s nearly impossible to pick well or get the Bt where you need it, on the undersides of the leaves.
- Prune the bottom branches of your mater plants. This will mean a little less bending over in the long run, which matters to me more as I age. Trimming won’t hurt the plants, as long as you don’t trim above the level where they are fruiting.
- Look for varieties that are naturally resistant to pests. In my area (North Florida) Roma and Cherry tomatoes do best.
I’d love to hear if something worked for you. Comment please!