How to Plant Tomatoes With Mothballs

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Using mothballs in your vegetable garden may ward off pests such as birds and deer.
Using mothballs in your vegetable garden may ward off pests such as birds and deer. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

To avoid sharing the bounty of your tomato plants with animal and insect pests, consider using mothballs as a deterrent. Mothballs contain naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, substances that negatively affect certain animals, such as moles and rabbits, and some insects, such as beetles and white flies. The pests avoid the mothballs and leave your tomato plants alone. If you plan to use mothballs as pest control for your tomato plants, make sure you're doing it in the most effective way.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening trowel
  • 2 to 3 cups compost per plant
  • Mothballs
  • Tomato saplings

Dig a hole for the first tomato plant, approximately 6 inches deep. Make it deep enough so at least 1 inch of soil will cover the tomato plant root ball. Adjust the depth of the hole to your particular tomato plants.

Toss a handfull or two of compost into the hole. This extra boost of nutrition will help your tomato plants stay healthy and productive. Compost generally consists of decomposed organic matter; you can make it at home or purchase it at any garden store.

Place the tomato plant gently into the hole and press dirt around the root ball. When soil covers the base of the tomato plant, press the dirt firmly around the plant with your hands.

Continue planting your tomatoes approximately 2 feet apart. If you plan to plant several rows of tomatoes, Larry Bass of the University of North Carolina Extension Service recommends planting the rows at least 3 feet apart.

Scatter three or four mothballs about a foot away from the base of each tomato plant. The mothballs should be far enough out that any pest will encounter the mothballs before getting to the tender tomato plant. Do not place mothballs at the plant's base because the pests may not encounter the mothball fumes before munching on the tomato plant.

Tips & Warnings

  • Replace mothballs around your tomato plants every month, as the fumes from mothballs left out in the open become reduced and rendered less effective due to sun and water exposure.
  • An alternative to placing mothballs on the ground is to place three or four mothballs in the foot of an old pair of panty hose. Hang this bag of mothballs on a stake near your tomato plants so the fumes drive away pests.
  • If moles plague your garden, try dropping a handful of mothballs into one of their tunnels. The Gardening Channel notes that chemicals in the mothballs irritate moles, forcing them to abandon the tunnels and go elsewhere.
  • Do not place any mothballs into the hole where your tomato plants will go. The ingredients in the mothballs will kill the plant if placed that close together in a confined underground space.
  • Some groups, such as the National Pesticide Information Center, claim that mothballs harm beneficial insects as well as pesky insects and believe that mothballs may harm some animals. Consult your state extension office in your area for more information.

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