Tomato Disaster!

Asked September 11, 2018, 12:31 PM EDT

I am having a problem with my heirloom tomatoes that I never experienced before. They have been sitting so long just green, not ripening. Now that they are starting to ripen a creature or 2 is beating me to my tomatoes. I find them with holes bored into them. I can never find who is doing this though. When I cut into them I find roly poly bugs of assorted sizes .I don't think the roly polys are doing the boring though. I'm losing around 50% of my harvest. Some are trimmable and others are descimated. I am an organic gardener and have tried Neem oil and Captain Jack's Deadbug (spinosad) to no avail. I did try a new approach this year and I laid a layer of newsprint on top of dirt then straw mulched on top of that. It worked great for eliminating weeds, but I fear I may have provided a lovely home for the offending creatures . Please, any help offered would be greatly appreciated by me and those that love my tomato pies. Many thanks.

Livingston County Michigan tomato problem

1 Response

Hello,

Hornworm, corn earworm, slugs, or yellow striped army worm could damage fruit. The pillbugs will move in once fruit is damaged, since they feed primarily on rotting vegetation.

Squirrels, raccoons, birds and other critters will bite fruit sometimes. Exclusion is the best control by fencing or caging. Leave water out for wildlife to drink- away from the garden- some eat fruit for moisture when it is hot and dry. Sprinkle flour around plants and check the next morning for foot prints, to help ID what is coming to your plants. Go out in evening with a light and examine fruit to see if slugs or other insects are present.

Some things to do-

As soon as fruit starts to turn pink or light orange remove it and ripen indoors on a counter or in paper bags at room temperature.

If you are growing determinate tomatoes, net them all the way to the bottom after fruit is set to protect them from visiting insects, and discourage animals. Examine plants daily and remove any bugs inside the nets.

Discourage night insects like slugs by watering early in day so mulch and soil surface dries. Slugs and pillbugs require moist dark places to hide in the day. On top of dry mulch set wet rolled up newspapers at dusk, these attract slugs who hide inside; collect them and discard in the day to reduce insect numbers.

If you can discover exactly what is damaging the fruit, there may be other organic things that can be done.

Here are references for you-

https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publications/E-97/E-97.html

http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/plants/wildlife-vegetables

https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2002/6-21-2002/rabbits.html

One idea that comes to mind, though I found no references for it on tomato, is to bag the fruit while on the plant. This may only be practical for small amounts, though it is used on grapes, apples and pears. And I don’t know if it would stop larger wildlife, like rabbits and squirrels. Here is the technique—- https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/F&N-14.pdf

Good luck and Thanks for using our service.