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Apr 12, 2011 08:31 AM

Tomatoes and Stink Bugs

Just noticed this board - am very happy!

I live in western NC and have been growing a few tomato plants for the last 5 or 6 years. Always in the same spot. The last couple of years, I have had a terrible time with stink bugs ruining my tomatoes.

Has anyone had this problem and if so, is there a way to get rid of them?? I try not to use pesticides, but am not opposed if it will get rid of these stupid bugs. Do I need to find a new spot to grow the tomatoes?

Thanks for any help!

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  1. I'm surprised that you've been successful in growing tomatoes in the same place for that long, but don't believe that to be the cause for your stink bugs. Crop rotation says: Tomatoes (and other nightshades) should not be planted in the same place without a 3 year rest between. You obviously proved that theory wrong!! :)

    Check this website for bug-specific info. Click "your bug", to see a list of both chemical and biological control methods - you'll see several. Pick one and click "more" to see a more easily read version of controlling it.

    If you're not sure of the bug or other disorder that your tomato is suffering, this site could help you identify the specifics.

    1 Reply
    1. re: CocoaNut

      thank you! I'll check it out.

      well, it was pure laziness that they remained in the same spot. previous owner had created this little garden area (very small - only about 6' x 10'), so didn't feel like digging a new one. In previous (much much larger) gardens, I have tried to at least move the crops around within the space and it was frequently composted. Much easier to have good success! :)

      My new little spot also gets a TON of sun. Perhaps too much (and last year was beastly hot with temps in the 90s often, which I know they don't like - me either!). In New England (where I've had other gardens) it was hard for me to get enough sun, so never even thought about too much. Not that the heat/sun has anything to do with my bug issue...

      I've also considered containers which might help with the stink bugs (I have a bunch of 5 gallon buckets), but I know that for those, feeding is critical. and that the sides of the buckets can get too hot and cook the roots. And we have deer, so things have to be fenced or out of reach. So many issues... The farmer's market is looking better and better! LOL

    2. We've found the best way to deal with stink and squash bugs is to spray the plants with a product called "Surround". It's made of harmless kaolin, a type of clay, and forms a shield between plants and bugs while allowing sunshine and air to permeate. We also use it on our fruit trees. We lost our entire crop of cucurbits practically overnight while the organic farmers nearby were bringing beautiful squash and tomatoes to market. They were using Surround. Here's a link to it: We buy it locally from the organic farmers.

      BTW, containers won't help. Been there, done that.

      Definitely move the tomatoes, dig lots of calcium into their new bed, and put a double handful of cheap dry milk into the holes when transplanting them. They love calcium and it helps fend off blossom end rot. Peas in the spring followed by beans for the fall are good things to plant where the tomatoes were. They'll put nitrogen back into the soil.

      5 Replies
      1. re: morwen

        Thanks for the suggestion! do you spray the plants before tomatoes start? And then once the tomatoes show up, do you continue to spray both plants and tomatoes?

        I just read about the dry milk recently. I thought that was a great way to get calcium in there AND I have a box of it leftover from a recipe I made last summer! :)

        thanks for the crop rotation suggestions. There are also thyme and chives that stay there year 'round. My husband and I both like peas and beans, so maybe I'll do that in the old spot. I did some sugar snap peas one year back in New England and OMG - good. Sweet as honey right out of the garden!

        1. re: Scirocco

          *Most* perennial herbs thrive in soil that is less than optimal, they actually prefer it. So no need to move the chives and thyme unless you want to divide/propagate the plants.

          The Surround eventually washes off after a few rains, dew, etc., so you do have to repeat spray it. Spray the tomatoes as soon as you see the little green fruits emerge from the flowers. Same with squash, but you want to spray the base of the squash stalks early on before the squash bugs and borers emerge and start to damage. The borers are difficult to see and they attack the plants where the stalk emerges from the root, boring their way inside and doing the damage internally so you have to set up the barrier before they get there.

          Sugar Snaps are one of the crops we plant that never seem to make it into the kitchen. We always seem to strip the vines for snacks while working in the garden! Every year we plant more and it doesn't seem to make a difference. This year we went all out and put in 200 of them. Maybe this is the year that I'll actually have enough to cook with and freeze!

        2. re: morwen

          Hi morwen! RE: the above link..... I'm assuming it's harmless to the plant or the person eating the crop, but does the film wash away? Looking at the picture of the apple, it's less than appealing. Probably a silly question, but I'm asking anyway.

          I've already killed a cutworm within inches of one of my tomato stalks and was wondering what I could use as a preventative other than Sevin. Looks like this is it if I can find it locally without having to order. Thanks for the info!

          Edit - just called a local nursery that can special order Surround for me. Only problem is the smallest amount (for them) is 25#'s, but the price on that is $29. At the link above, 5#'s is the same $29. If anyone is inclined to order, before you do, you may call around to your local nurseries and see what they have to offer. 25# is much more than I'd ever use, but just passing the info along.

          1. re: CocoaNut

            thanks for the pricing legwork. :) good to know that it might pay to shop around. I also like that it helps protect against heat, which can be a problem here. But, ya, not too pretty! I would assume (hope!!!) the film washes away.

            1. re: CocoaNut

              Yes, the film washes away. It's harmless, just kaolin, which is an ingredient in lots of everyday things like cosmetics and face masks. We're not concerned with having perfect fruit and produce but when it comes to getting ANY fruit and produce or losing it it to bugs we've found that Surround is our solution.

              The organic farmers (especially the certified ones) around here sell the majority of their crops through CSA's, farmers markets, and farm to table restaurants so they need to get their crops to market and look good and this seems to fill the bill for them. Buying the stuff retail is pricey so if you can find growers in your area that are using it, you may be able to buy some of their supply. One of the farmers here cuts his costs and backyard growers costs by buying in quantity and then offering it to others. If you can't find a farmer offering it and you're friendly with other gardeners, it may be worth your while to buy the 25# bag and split it up with others.