Ask a Question forum: What's eating my tomato plants???

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Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
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Ecscuba
Nov 10, 2014 2:54 PM CST
Well, I've never had much success growing tomatoes -- I usually just don't get a yield. This year though I was excited about putting the plants in the GH and seeing whether they would continue on and produce. But, when I put them in there, one of them had a few leaves that looked liked they had been eaten. The other cherry tomato plant has some of that starting on it now. But the big plant is probably 20% eaten. Some of the leaves are so eaten up they look "lacy" - hard to see in the pic, but there's not much solid leaf left in the first picture. I sprayed them with an organic spray. I don't see any sign of criters, but they are getting worse. I've attached pics - anybody know what is the cause ... and the cure ?
Thumb of 2014-11-10/Ecscuba/ca150b
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My passion is painting but gardening is running a close second.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Nov 10, 2014 2:58 PM CST

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Something is eating it. I bet if you look closely you'll find a tomato hornworm somewhere on there.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Nov 10, 2014 3:09 PM CST
That is what I was thinking. They are pretty good at camouflage.
If that is what is eating the plants, if you look closely you can see caterpillar poop somewhere on the plant.
[Last edited by valleylynn - Nov 10, 2014 3:10 PM (+)]
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Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
Herbs Garden Art Dragonflies Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Ecscuba
Nov 10, 2014 3:27 PM CST
Ah ... maybe that little green worm that was hanging on the wall today is a culprit? I'll have to look under the leaves too. Maybe some more of that organic spray is in order.

Thank you all. Hurray!
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My passion is painting but gardening is running a close second.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Nov 10, 2014 4:03 PM CST
Let us know what you find. Smiling
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Nov 10, 2014 4:50 PM CST
That's the ticket, Carol. Go out with a flashlight and look on the undersides of the leaves at night. I'll bet you see some little green caterpillars. These are not butterfly caterpillars so you can feel fine about picking them off the leaves and throwing them outside, or whatever else works for you. I get them on my brugmansias too. Bt (an organic insecticide) will eliminate them but hand picking will work if you only have a couple of plants. Just be thorough.

If it was a hornworm, there wouldn't be any leaves left at all, jmho. They're voracious, get big really fast and when they're full grown are the size of your finger. Green and white diagonal stripes and a red 'horn' on the back end, very distinctive.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
Herbs Garden Art Dragonflies Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Ecscuba
Nov 10, 2014 6:25 PM CST
I went out and spent a lot of time turning over every leaf. Nothing. But maybe there was only that one I kil...er...evicted this morning. Or maybe the spray is working. I like the idea of a flashlight and checking after dark. Another good excuse to go out to the GH which I am falling in love with. Sorry honey! Gotta go check for little green worms in the GH. See ya tomorrow. Haha

Thanks for all the ideas. I will update once I determine the final outcome.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
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Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Nov 10, 2014 7:10 PM CST
I bet it is indeed a Tomato Hornworm. I had a problem for a few years with those things eating my tomato plants ... even tried one of those upside down tomato bag things and the worms still got the fruit! Grumbling

For comparison, there are some photos of the worms at this link:

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/field/hornworm.htm
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Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
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flaflwrgrl
Nov 10, 2014 7:30 PM CST
I'm betting hornworm too but I've had many occasions where the caterpillar, not a hornworm, is brown, the same color as the soil & only comes out at night & eats. During the day, they seem to hide on the soil surface maybe making their way into dips & hollows & are the very devil to find as they are so well camouflaged. I don't know what kind they are but they do the kind of damage in your photos.
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
Nov 10, 2014 7:40 PM CST
Ann, I agree ... I had cutworms attack tomatoes too! When I'd find one, I'd pick it off the plant and throw it in the swimming pool. Green Grin!

Photos and information on Tomato Cutworm:
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r783301511.html
http://www.almanac.com/content/cutworms
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
Herbs Garden Art Dragonflies Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Ecscuba
Nov 10, 2014 8:28 PM CST
Wow. Sounds like I really need to check the plant at night.
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My passion is painting but gardening is running a close second.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
Nov 10, 2014 9:18 PM CST
Ecscuba said:Wow. Sounds like I really need to check the plant at night.

Or real early in the morning ... that's when I found cut worms on my tomato plants a couple of years ago.

~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
Herbs Garden Art Dragonflies Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Ecscuba
Nov 10, 2014 11:09 PM CST
GOT'em! DYZZY we just got in from our "hunt" in the GH. Picked off 8 of the little green catapillars. Lost one in the process. Will spray again tomorrow and then have another hunt in the night. They were very slow. Not sure if that's their nature or the organic spray working. Ya'll were right -- so hard to see them. Next time I will check and treat all my plants carefully before putting them in the GH. Hurray! Hurray!
Thank you everyone.

Thumb of 2014-11-11/Ecscuba/e0f0b6

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My passion is painting but gardening is running a close second.
[Last edited by Ecscuba - Nov 10, 2014 11:10 PM (+)]
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Nov 11, 2014 12:28 AM CST
Hurray! Hurray! Wahoo. Great hunting expedition. Your tomato plants are going to be so happy.
Good call Elaine. Thumbs up
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Xeriscape Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level
Butterflies Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Region: Florida Dog Lover Birds
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flaflwrgrl
Nov 11, 2014 5:41 AM CST
Way to go Carol! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!

Thumbs up Elaine.
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Nov 11, 2014 2:40 PM CST
Great! I tip my hat to you. and thanks for the acorn! Best keep an eye out for a week or so, as there still may be eggs that may hatch out new caterpillars.

You're right it could be either the spray working , or also cold temperatures make those little guys move very slow, too. Are you getting this cold blast of air there?
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
Herbs Garden Art Dragonflies Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Ecscuba
Nov 11, 2014 7:03 PM CST
Elaine we are getting this cold. It's down to 47 here with 31 predicted for tonight. Went out this morning and caught 6 more catapillars on my tomatoes. Read on web that using a little container of soapy water to drop them in kills them...plus they can't crawl out.
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My passion is painting but gardening is running a close second.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Nov 11, 2014 10:59 PM CST
Got your jugs of hot water out in that greenhouse, Carol? Your tomatoes will stop setting fruit and blooming if you let them get cold. They're divas, and won't produce again for weeks . . . Rolling my eyes.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
Herbs Garden Art Dragonflies Garden Ideas: Level 2
Image
Ecscuba
Nov 12, 2014 12:42 AM CST
DYZZY Yes I got those jugs in there but mine never seem to get warm during the day. So I bought a little heater today. I have an electronic thermometer out there so I always know what the temp is and monitor it from inside the house. I think I should have left the heat up higher. It's running 47-49 in the GH and 41 outside. Hopefully that's not too cold for them. Sure will be a year of learning for me since I'm not very experienced with gardening and no GH gardening at all.
I am using those mylar blankets and I made a bit of a "tent" around the tomatoes. The GH has been staying 8 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside with just a lightbulb. But tonight is the coldest so far. Well, I may learn from tonight that I should turn the heat up just a little more.

I'm not too worried about the radishes, spinach, lettuce, herbs or mammoth jalapeños in there. I think they can take it colder, right? They are on the opposite side of the GH and stay one or two degrees cooler than the tomatoes. It's only a 6 x 8 GH. Hope my tomatoes don't get too chilled. Too cold and late for me to go back out there tonight.

UPDATE. 40 outside and 55 in the GH so the heat is kicking on. Ok. Now I can sleep!
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My passion is painting but gardening is running a close second.
[Last edited by Ecscuba - Nov 12, 2014 1:16 AM (+)]
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Nov 12, 2014 10:35 AM CST
Carol, rule of thumb is don't let the tomatoes or peppers get below about 50deg. or they will pout. Peppers like your jalapenos are warm weather crops too, so maybe move them closer to the tomatoes.

Other things you listed will be fine with lower temps except maybe if you're growing basil. It likes warmth too.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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