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Treating tomato plants with dishwashing soap

Posted by susanbf714 Alabama (My Page) on
Tue, May 10, 11 at 11:22

This is my first time here, so i hope i am following the rules. I've grown tomatoes all my life (it really is a "Southern" thing), and so did my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother, so i'm here to share a few "tips." Yes, i do spray my vegetable garden, especially tomatoes, with dish soap, using only a few drops, and lots of water. It has worked for our family for well over 150 years. The insects don't like the soap, and neither does the tomato horn worms (scary, but cute). To keep other "critters" out we "scatter" hot sauce, pickle juice, and cayenne pepper generously over the soil area, and sometimes we mix the pepper with some water in a spray bottle, and spray a few each and every time. The hot sauce and pepper spray will not hurt the plants, nor will the dish soap. I do; however, at least once during my garden season, use Sevin just works good, and you are going to wash off your vegetables. Another good tip, and this is a good one, because most people just don't think about it....i hate spiders with a passion, but i know what a garden spider looks's big and yellow and weaves the most incredible webs you will ever also "eats" most pests and insects in your garden, so DON'T kill them. I know it's a natural instinct to kill spiders, but try really hard to not kill the garden spiders, they are nature's best defense against the "pests" of your garden, any garden as far as that goes. Plus you will witness the amazing creativity of these webs....truly God given. My secret for big healthy tomatoes...soil and good drainage. I have three (3) compost piles where we place grass and pine cone mulch, leaves, sticks, and coffee grinds. When it's time to plant (and i always do before Good Friday because my great-grandmother told me to), my husband and i rake back the top layers, and we find the blackest dirt full of earthworms waiting for us. You know it's good soil if earthworms are crawling in it. Rake away the worms, but don't kill 'em. Shovel some of that black dirt in a separate pile. Make sure your worms go back in the dirt. Rake the top layer of mulch and cuttings back on top so that the compost process will continue. Now you have a good size pile of rich, fertile dirt. Mix with 1/3 part of garden soil, and 1/3 part of manure, and a little of peat or potting soil. Mix WELL. If you are using a ground level garden (you use a tiller to break up the ground), throw that dirt on top and between your rows...then do your planting. Since we are older, and arthritis sets in, we now only do "raised-bed" vegetables garden, so we fill up our containers with the good soil and plant. We have always had the best vegetables using this combination of soil. Oh, i forgot, there is something you should try to also help keep pests grandmother and grandfather always planted sunflowers, zinnas, and marigolds in the gardens....they said the "smell" keeps the tomato horn worms away, and basil, the smell of basil is offensive to some insects too. But again, if you want to keep the squirrels away, and other critters, put that hot sauce and cayenne pepper out, and the dish soap. It works every time for us! We also keep adding fresh compost dirt to the gardens a couple of weeks, and garden fertilizer. We even use kiddie pools to raise squash, cucumbers, and zucchini. Just drill holes for drainage. And i always put broken tiles and rocks for extra drainage. Like i said, it works for us, and the soap is not going to hurt any animal or birds. We place cayenne pepper in our bird feeders to keep the squirrels away, works every time. And that is the end of this post, hope i did ok.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Treating tomato plants with dishwashing soap

You did just fine, Susan. It's always great to hear from gardeners with generations of experience behind them. I agree that those big garden spiders are amazing. I used to fear them horribly as a child, though. They would string their webs between the corn stalks in our big family garden, and I'd have to run and hide before supper time so that I didn't have to go out there and pick corn! (I've pretty much mastered my fear, though.)

Truly, the only negative comment I would make would be in reference to your use of Sevin. I know that it has been around forever, but it is surely one of the worst chemicals when it comes to harming beneficial insects and other critters. Sevin is absolutely lethal to earthworms. Maybe, if you visit some of the other forums, you'll find an alternative that is worth trying.

I see that you are from Alabama. I hope that you live in an area that wasn't hit by one of the many tornadoes that ripped through our state. Those of us in Northern Alabama were hit harder than the Tuscaloosa area; the damage is beyond description.

RE: Treating tomato plants with dishwashing soap

susanbf714 - may I ask how often you have to spray with the dish soap? I'm having an awful time with horntail worms and I'd love to try that technique, just want to do it right!

RE: Treating tomato plants with dishwashing soap

The "dish soap" used today is not soap but detergents, not your grandmothers soap which was probably homemade by rendering animal fats and then mixing that with lye. You can still buy soap, you just need to watch what you do buy. Mix 1 teaspoon of soap in 1 quart of water to make an Insecticidal Soap. Spray as needed because it is a contact poison and spray when the sun will not cause damage to the plants leaves, like early morning or late evening.

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