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What Can I Spray on Tomato Plants to Keep Bugs Away? 10 Suggestions

The gardener sprays the plants from pests and bugs

Tomatoes are great plants for the garden because they’re easy to grow and produce a large harvest — as long as you can keep the bugs away. If you’ve had trouble growing tomatoes in the past due to insects, you’ve come to the right place. This list contains several things that you can spray on tomatoes to keep the bugs away, many of which you might already have in your home.

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The 10 Things You Can Use on Your Tomato Plants to Keep Bugs Away

1. Dishwashing liquid

holding dishwashing liquid and sponge
Image Credit: Subbotina Anna, Shutterstock

What’s good about it?

Ordinary dishwashing liquid is one of the best and easiest methods for controlling insects on your tomatoes. It helps keep insects off your plants and works as a fungicide.

How do I use it?

To use dishwashing liquid as an insect repellent, dilute 1–2 tablespoons into 1 gallon of water. Mix the solution well, and pour it into a spray bottle so you can spray the plants as needed. Use only dishwashing liquid, as anything else will likely be too strong. You can test it first by using it on a few leaves and waiting 72 hours. Add more water to the solution if the leaves become spotted or discolored.


2. Baking Soda

baking soda in wooden bowl with wooden spoon near a glass of water
Image Credit: al1962, Shutterstock

What’s good about it?

Baking soda is a natural insecticide that can help you control multiple insects, including the pesky aphid, which can gather in large numbers on your plants.

How do I use it?

To use baking soda as an insecticide in your garden, create a spray by adding several teaspoons of baking soda to a large spray bottle and filling the rest with water. Then, spray your plants with the solution; it will cling to them even after it dries. When the insects eat the baking soda, it will cause them to release carbon dioxide bubbles that can kill aphids, whiteflies, and other insects.


3. Neem Oil

Neem oil bottle
Image Credit: Ninetechno, Shutterstock

What’s good about it?

Neem oil helps protect your tomatoes from the tomato fruit worm. This insect lays eggs that hatch and burrow into the tomato, eating it from the inside out.

How do I use it?

Though you can purchase pure neem oil to create your spray, we recommend purchasing a commercial neem spray online or at your local garden center, so you can use it as needed without worrying about mixing ratios. Spray it on your plants when you notice any insect activity.

What commercial neem spray do you recommend?

Harris Neem Oil Spray for Plants


4. Commercial Tomato Insecticide Spray

Spraying of tomato bushes
Image Credit: Malshak, Shutterstock

What’s good about it?

Commercial tomato insecticide is easy to find, fairly inexpensive, and works well. Many brands can protect your tomatoes from many different insects, including Japanese beetles, cutworms, and aphids. In most cases, you can also use the same product to protect your other plants.

How do I use it?

To use commercial insect repellent, we recommend following the instructions on the container carefully. Most will require you to spray your tomato plant as soon as you notice insect activity.

What commercial insect repellent do you recommend?

BioAdvanced Tomato & Vegetable Insect Killer


5. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper
Image Credit: Monirul Islam Shakil, Pixabay

What’s good about it?

You can use cayenne pepper to create a DIY bug spray that works well to keep your tomato plants insect free. It’s also a great choice for keeping squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents away from your tomato plants.

How do I use it?

To create a spray out of cayenne pepper, chop up three to four dry peppers, and put them in a spray bottle. Fill the spray bottle with water, add a drop or two of dish soap, and mix well. Let it sit for a few hours, then use it to spray your tomato plants to get rid of insects and other pests.


6. Garlic

garlic cloves on wooden table
Image Credit: Anrita1705, Pixabay

What’s good about it?

Garlic helps repel several insects but is especially effective against aphids.

How do I use it?

To create a spray from garlic, put two whole garlic bulbs into a food processor, and blend them into a puree with a small amount of water. Place the puree into a 1-quart jar, add a drop or two of this soap, and fill it with water. Mix well, and fill a spray bottle to spray your plants as needed.


7. Use a Trap Crop

Planting tomatoes
Image Credit: Katya_Ershova, Pixabay

What’s good about it?

As the name suggests, a trap crop lures insects away from your tomatoes so you can reap a good harvest. With this method, you sacrifice a less-desirable plant or even a few tomato plants to save the bulk of your tomato harvest.

How do I use it?

If hornworms are attacking your tomatoes, plant dill. Radishes will attract flea beetles, and eggplant will help you get rid of potato bugs. Aphids are common tomato pests that you can trap with okra, and marigolds will get rid of root-knot nematodes.


8. Cardboard Toilet Paper Roll

empty toilet paper roll
Image Credit: Robert Owen-Wahl, Pixabay

What’s good about it?

A cardboard toilet paper roll can help protect your tomato plant from the cutworm insect, a common tomato parasite. These bugs can destroy your entire crop, and they’re easy to identify because they are about 1 inch long and curl up into the letter C when they feel threatened.

How do I use it?

To use the cardboard toilet paper roll technique, cut the roll to about 3 inches in length. Then, place it around the base of your tomato plants, with the tube half stuck into the soil. The cutworms cannot climb over the paper towel roll, so your plants will be safe.


9. Cornmeal

top view of cornmeal in a wooden bowl
Image Credit: izzzy71, Shutterstock

What’s good about it?

Cornmeal can help protect your tomato plants from the cutworm, a common tomato parasite capable of destroying your entire crop.

How do I use it?

To use cornmeal in your garden, spread it liberally around the base of the plants. Cutworms like to ingest cornmeal but cannot digest it, so it kills them.


10. Pick Them Off

Woman farmer picking ripe cherry tomatoes
Image Credit: Valentina_G, Shutterstock

What’s good about it?

Manually pulling the insects from the tomato plant is the best way to remove the tomato hornworm, a common parasite invading the garden. The tomato hornworm will eat your leaves and even the tomatoes, destroying your crop. If this insect is your problem, you will likely notice black or dark green droppings and chewed leaves on several of your plants.

How do I use it?

Look for these green insects in the early morning, pick them off the plant, and squish them. Inspect your plants daily until you don’t see hornworms anymore. However, if any of these insects have white spots on their back, that might indicate a parasitic wasp infection, which will help prevent further infestations, so it’s better to leave them be.

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Summary

For most gardeners, a commercial insect repellent will likely be the easiest and most effective way to protect your tomato plants. Many brands are available, and it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to apply. If you prefer a DIY approach, we recommend the dishwashing liquid or cayenne pepper spray, as both are effective and time-tested. Solutions like the cardboard toilet paper roll and cornmeal are great options if you have narrowed your problem down to a specific insect.


Featured Image Credit: Jevelin, Shutterstock

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