Oh You Have To Be Kidding Me!!!

Erod1May 23, 2014

Ok, so after a bumper tomato crop last year when I was literally eating vine ripened tomatoes in December, totally organic at that, this year I have an ant colony in my raised bed, white flies and now what I assume are pin worms.

They are maybe 1/8th inch long and making little pin holes in my fruit.

I'm thinking this is a losing battle this year and maybe I just need to pull my plants and do something with the soil in this bed, or perhaps since its been there for 11 years, it's time to start fresh in a new location.

I just don't feel like battling all these issues at once!

Any suggestions or thoughts about maybe being time to disassemble and move this raised bed??



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Emma, I use a borderless raised bed because I know that at some point I will have to through in the towel. I, or someone else will have a lot less labor involved when I have to quit gardening. Being that you already have your beds located, and you must still enjoy gardening, so I would try to deal with the problem. Year before last I had big problems with pin worms. It got to the point that I was losing 90% of my tomatoes to insects. I sprayed something strong and told myself that if the problem came back I would not wait so long to spray again. I have BT and a broad spectrum insecticide in the shop and will use what ever it takes.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 1:38PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Please don't let the tomato pinworms steal your joy. You know that you work hard to get your tomato plants to the point that they are producing tomatoes and it doesn't make sense to me to just rip out the plants and let the pinworms "win" the battle. Think of all the tomato-less months you'll endure if you yank out the plants.

Why not spray your plants (and quickly before more generations of the worms appear) with the insecticide of your choice and give it a chance to kill them? You always can yank out the plants later if the insecticide doesn't work. In the organic realm you could use Dipel, Thuricide or any other product containing Bt 'kurstaki' for a narrow-spectrum product that targets only caterpillars which ingest it. If you want a more broad-spectrum pesticide, you could use one containing Spinosad. The one I see most often in stores is one made by Monterey. The one I currently have in my shed likely is Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew.

With pinworms, they can have as many as 7 or 8 generations in one year, so you want to catch them and knock them out as early as possible before they reproduce to such a large population that control becomes challenging.

You really don't have to move your whole garden bed. Just renew it by adding a lot of organic matter to it---compost, composted manure, etc. If you grow tomatoes there in the same place every year, remember that they are using up nutrients from the soil and you need to be putting back those nutrients every year for the next crop. One drawback to leaving the bed in the same place is that sometimes specific pests can build up in that spot, but even if you move the bed, I guarantee you that the pests are going to find it whenever they hatch out. It might take them a little while, but they'll find it.

It has been a very hot, very dry year so far, and that makes our yards and gardens even more attractive to pests because the surrounding wild areas are toasty brown and dry and have little to offer nutritionally. There's not much we can do in a case like this except battle the pests in the garden. Maybe when that upper low finally reaches the rest of OK and dumps some rain like it has been doing out west the last couple of days some of the countryside will green up and offer pest insects some other places to visit besides our yards and gardens.

I always try to examine a crop that is having pest issues and determine if there is an explanation for why that pest is a problem at a particular time. Are the plants too dry? Are they hungry? Is there a shortage of the beneficial insects that usually control them? Often, the only explanation is that the plants are stressed by heat and/or drought, and stressed plants are more attractive to pests. That's probably all that is going on in your garden this year---the pests are visiting your garden because of the heat and drought, and the plants might be more attractive to them than usual because of the stress of the heat and drought.

Some years are just this way, but I don't spend all winter waiting for spring to get here just so I can let the pests defeat me and take my tomatoes. Where's your fighting spirit? I might yank spider mite-infested tomato plants in July after they've already produced tons of fruit from April through July, but there's no way I am yanking a plant this early in the year when there are still so many potentially yummy tomatoes ahead. Think, woman, think! A summer without tomatoes fresh from the garden? Why, that would be like a day without sunshine. (grin) Keep fighting them and we'll keep encouraging you.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 2:28PM
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Ok, you got me, i would be miserable without my fresh tomatos, i clearly did not have enough caffeine in my system when i thought i may as well give up for the year.

I do amend my bed every year with some powdered goat poo and good compost, sometimes a bag of miracle grow garden soil stuff, its a nice little bed.

Im not sure where the pin worms came from, i wonder if they were on one of the plants when i bought them, hard to say, but now its my understanding that i will need to turn my soil a few times in fall and very very early spring to try and let the cold weather kill them?

Is the Bt "organic". And by organic, i mean will it kill any of the honey bees, bumblebees, etc that are prolific where i live? The man down the road has hives and i get my honey from him and i do not want to harm any of his bees.

Dawn, i sure dont know why I have 3 things ive never had before, ants, whiteflies and pinworms, i keep my bed evenly watered, its rich in nutrients, etx. I think mother nature just said hey, lets go get this girls tomatos, spread things around a little bit.

I will go get Bt as soon as someone tells me it will cure my ills and not harm any bees. Im assuming i can get it at a big box store like lowes. I think theres a southern ag in town as well.

Thanks again for helping me pull my head out of....well, you know.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 3:46PM
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Dawn-at what temperature would you not take the risk of spraying? I typically use 95-100 for water based sprays. I'd like to use some neem for aphids and mites. Would I be safer using spinosad, azamax or just castille peppermint soap?
We are in the low 90s-105 all week. Dew point is so low we could never have dew and humidity is less than 5%.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 6:06PM
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You have tomatoes?! I just have tomato plants.....lots of them. A few have a blossom...singular. Last year I had to foist tomatoes on co-workers because I had so many of them...this year, looks like I'll have nothing. It's likely my fault as this year I bought tomato cages and they are free spirits. :( (They are also too short to require a tomato cage.)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 12:46AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Bt products target a very narrow range of pests and you have to buy exactly the right one for each pest, so no, the Bt 'kurstaki' used for caterpillar control will not harm bees. It only affects the larvae of butterflies and moths and some beetles.

Tracy, I rarely spray anything at all on my plants because I don't want to hurt the foliage or harm the beneficial insect population, so I'm the wrong person to ask. I think the last (and, in fact, the only) time I sprayed my entire garden was with Bt 'kurstaki' during the great climbing cutworm and Army worm outbreak of whatever year that was...2010? Sometimes I'll spray neem on a single plant that has a problem and I won't spray at temperatures roughly above 85-90 because it is an oil-based product and there's a chance of phytotoxicity occurring. Oil and soap sprays both can damage drought-stressed plants, so be careful if your plants are stressed.(In your climate is it possible to have plants that aren't stressed?) Spinosad could be used even at high temperatures as far as I know, but check your label to be sure. If you feel compelled to use soap or neem, I'd spray them in the evening so the plants have overnight to recover. Spraying either of them on plants in direct sun on a hot day is asking for trouble. If in doubt, you could spray one plant as a test, wait 48 hours to see if damage occurs, and then spray the rest under similar conditions if no damage occurred.

Okievegan, It is early yet, and we are not yet reaching the temperatures that impede fruitset, so I think you still could get tomatoes.

If you want to manipulate your plants into forming more flowers, just buy a Bloom Booster fertilizer and feed them. Sometimes I do that to push them into blooming in the hot summer months when we have a cool, rainy spell in the forecast. If I use it about 5-7 days before the cool rainy spell is expected, I can get blooms and new fruitset in the dead of summer.

Usually tomato plants start blooming when they have about 13 true leaves, though I have seen some bloom much earlier than that. If you planted your tomatoes a little late, maybe they just aren't quite large enough yet to bloom more and set more fruit. It also could be the lack of rainfall, which the forecast rain ought to change for a least a few days.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 8:16AM
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Keep fighting Emma, it will be worth it. That is what I tell myself. I am behind from a few family emergencies and I just keep planting and weeding and saying it will all work out just fine. I have also lost a few plants to bunnies and possum has dislocated a couple plants but its ok I planted enough for everyone.
I am still planting and some of my tomatoes are full and blooming but like you Okievegan they are kinda slow. They look kind of silly in the giant tomatoe cages. I still have some tomatoe plants waiting to go in the ground. I couldn't get them hardened off with all my out of town runs and we are a little cooler here this year than normal so I guess that's it. It will pick up now after this rain.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 10:26AM
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I first got tomato pinworm two years ago. I am not yet sure if I have gotten rid of them. What appears to be white flies may be the moth version of the pinworm. I also saw this "fly" infestation when my pinworm problem began two years ago. I contacted the agricultural department who put me in touch with one of the universities in the state and they identified the problem as tomato pinworm. The advice was to be VERY cautious when buying tomato plants the following year. I attempted to be very cautious last year and hoped the winter (although mild) had been enough to destroy the pinworms. I was hit again. We had a colder winter last winter and I hope it was enough to kill off anything in the soil this year. I gave up on buying plants this year and have started everything from seed. I am way behind on the growing season, but am hoping not to have the same problem this year. If avoiding nursery stock works, I may never buy them again, even though I love the head-start on the growing season. I did get frustrated last year and pulled up most of my plants. I had a few small variety tomatoes that seemed to be attacked a little later in the ripening process, so I let them go most of the summer. The year before, I got so frustrated by the worms attacking right as the tomatoes were ready to ripen and in the end, I took my green tomatoes and made chow-chow just to beat the worms to the tomatoes. I eventually pulled those plants as well but only late in the season. I did a lot of picking, plucking, and disposing of leaves and limbs, but for two years in a row, I could not stop this once it started and found no spray effective as the worms are a leaf miner and are hidden between the layers of the leaf most of the time rather than exposed. I did find by accident that putting the affected limbs and leaves into a white trash bag and then sealing it completely to put in the garbage for disposal gives you some idea of the severity of infestation. The worms come out of the vegetation when sealed into the bag and placed in the trash in the sunlight for disposal. I could then see many, many tiny worms on the inside of the garbage bag after they exited the vegetation. I wish you luck. If you are unable to stop the infestation, consider using the green tomatoes if they can be salvaged. I have read that all refuse from the plants needs to be burned or completely disposed of in some other way to prevent re-infestation the following year. I attached a pic of the moth that I sent to the agricultural department. You can see the tiny hole the worm had made in the stem also.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 1:18AM
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