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Sustainability Blog

Welcome to the City of Buda Sustainability Commission Blog! Here you will learn tips on environment-friendly activities and practices.

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Aug 14

The Tomato Saga - How to Keep the Hornworm from Destroying Your Garden

Posted on August 14, 2019 at 4:54 PM by Micah Grau

It’s that time of the year when our gardens are in full swing!Flowers are blooming and vegetables are ripening. However, problems can arise quickly.One early morning, as I was walking in my garden,I could smell the rows of basil fragrant the air around me. I saw a few strawberries still peeking up from underneath the leaves, and the jalapeno peppers where shining in the sunBut,when I reached my tomato plantsnoticethat some of them were half eaten!The voracious hornworms were at it again!It’s amazing how quickly these worms can destroy a whole plant in such a short period of time. Hornworms are the larval stages of large moths and can measure up to five inches long as a caterpillar. They gorge themselves on the tomato foliage and then bury themselves back into the soil during the winter time and emerge as a sphinx moth the following spring. 

If hornworms have made it into your garden, there are 
preventative measures you can take to help protect your plantfrom their ravenous destruction. First of all, you can simply pick the caterpillars off of the leaves. They can sometimes be hard to find due to their coloring and shape which acts as camouflage but can usually be spotted under the tomato leaves. Search carefully because there is usually more than one on a plant.Companion planting can also be beneficial to protecting your garden. Planting dill among your tomato plants is a great deterrent. The moths that lay the larvae do not like dill and will look for other places to lay their eggs. Planting flowers and herbs that produce tiny flowers will also attract beneficial insects such as the braconid wasp that kill hornworms. Be sure to rotate your crops year after year and well as cover the ground around your tomatoes with black plastic to prevent the emergence of the adults. Taking precautions early is the best step to a healthy garden.Good luck and happy gardening!

Author: Jacqueline Leo, Sustainability Commissioner