Growing tomatoes requires more than planting and watering. Tomatoes must be protected from airborne and soilborne garden pests that attack the foliage and fruits of tomato plants, causing severe damage. If left untreated, these pests will destroy your plants. Chemical pesticides are effective but can be expensive and dangerous. Homemade pesticides made with natural, non-toxic ingredients save money and are safer for you and your garden.
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Dusting your garden with a non-toxic pesticide eliminates and prevents pests such as aphids, beetles, mites, flies and their larvae. Dust your tomatoes weekly or biweekly, depending on the severity of the infestation. Use substances such as baking soda, Borax, garlic powder or any hot pepper powder. The tastes and textures of these substances are unappealing to tomato plant pests, and while safe for humans or animals, may prove toxic to insects. An added bonus of dusting with hot pepper powders is that they also repel large pests such as birds, rodents and even cats that like to dig in gardens.
Use garden sprays to completely eradicate pests and prevent severe infestations. Create sprays from ingredients known to repel pests, such as vegetable oils, buttermilk, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Garlic or hot pepper powder may be added to sprays to increase their effectiveness. Always test each spray on a few leaves of one tomato plant before spraying your entire tomato garden with the spray.
Compost tea or manure tea are ideal for pest control. These teas are made by brewing compost or manure in water for several weeks, then diluting that mixture with more water. The resulting product is poured over tomato plants to eliminate pests such as pathogens that cause disease as well as mites, thrips and aphids. The benefit of using these teas is that they provide your tomatoes with a weekly pest control treatment while also giving them a weekly dose of fertilizer, write Deborah Schneebelli-Morrell in her book "Organic Crops in Pots."
Insecticidal soaps are effective against numerous garden pests, especially tiny mites, aphids and scales. When poured over tomato plants, the soaps smother the pests and kill off their eggs and larvae on the plants and in the soil. Furthermore, these soaps have no adverse effect on the plants themselves and are safe around humans and animals. Any natural, non-toxic soap works for this purpose, as does liquid dish soap.
This homemade pest repellent not only controls insects but adds interest to your garden and improves your tomatoes. Marigolds, when planted around tomatoes, repel mites, aphids and flying insects. Garlic bulbs planted around tomatoes drive away pests in the soil as well as on the plants and improve the flavor of tomatoes. Basil planted alongside tomatoes repel airborne pests and improves flavor and color of tomatoes.