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Controlling Tomato Pests in the Home Garden Seminar

Damage to tomato fruit caused by hornworm, Credit: James Castner, University of Florida

Damage to tomato fruit caused by hornworm,
Credit: James Castner, University of Florida

Despite the fact that the State of Florida is one of the top two tomato producing states in the United States, many times the Florida home gardener finds it difficult to grow tomatoes. Florida farmers are first in the production of fresh market tomatoes with California farmers being first in the production of processed tomatoes (turned into juice, sauce, paste, salsa, etc.). According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, 30,000 acres were planted in tomatoes in Florida in 2012 by farmers.

According to the University of Florida Extension publication Vegetable Gardening in Florida, “The tomato is the most popular vegetable in Florida gardens.” But Florida offers many challenges for the home gardener in being successful with growing tomatoes.

Florida’s warm, wet weather offers an ideal environment for a host of tomato pests (insects, diseases, nematodes). Many home gardeners are not familiar with some of the better tomato varieties for Florida. Correct variety selection is a key factor in successfully growing tomatoes in Florida. Many Florida gardeners plant too early or attempt to grow tomatoes too late in the season. They fertilize too much or too little.

At this year’s tomato seminar, I’ll begin by sharing the basics of how to grow tomatoes in Florida’s challenging environment. But I’ll spend most of the time concentrating on tomato pest control options, including non-chemical choices of combating the scores of tomato insect and disease problems.

If you plan to grow tomatoes this year, you may want to attend the Controlling Tomato Pests in the Home Garden seminar. Learn how to identify and control many of the insect and disease pests associated with growing tomatoes in the Florida home garden. I will provide this seminar on Thursday, April 2 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Okaloosa County Extension Office, 3098 Airport Road in Crestview. 

Please register for this program by calling the Okaloosa County Extension Office at 850-689-5850. Space is limited.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, March 26, 2015

2 Comments on “Controlling Tomato Pests in the Home Garden Seminar

  1. How do you get rid of nematodes? Use black plastic for how long to kill them in hot weather.

    • Soil solarization, done correctly, can be helpful in controlling nematodes in the vegetable garden. Here are the basics taken from the UF/IFAS Extension publication Nematode Management in the Vegetable Garden ( Soil solarization is a process of using heat from the sun to kill nematodes and other pests. The soil should be worked with a hoe or rototiller to break up clods. Remove all sticks, roots, and clumps. The soil should be moist but not wet. Cover the soil with a clear plastic tarp and bury the edges of the plastic (Figure 14). Leave the plastic on the soil for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Do not remove the plastic until you are ready to plant.Sunlight goes through the clear plastic and heats the soil underneath. The plastic then holds in the heat so that it penetrates and warms the soil. Long-term exposure to high temperature kills nematodes, as well as many weeds, fungi, and insect pests. The disinfested zone is usually 6 to 8 inches deep. Do not till or mix the soil after solarization. That may reinfest the soil you just solarized with nematodes from below the treated zone. Because it depends on sunlight and heat, solarization works best during the summer months. It does not work well in areas that get shade. Only solarize planting beds that get full sun.