Holes in tomato plant leaves are a matter of concern. If it is not treated properly, it may bring disaster to your entire tomato garden. Sounds sad? But it’s true.
There are several reasons behind the small and tiny holes in tomato plant leaves. These include poor growing situations, environmental problems, insects, and pests. Also, some diseases can cause pinholes in tomato leaves.
In this article, I will discuss what actually causes holes in your tomato plant leaves and the most effective solutions.
So, without further ado let’s get started-
Controlling Measures Against Holes In Tomato plants
1.Diatomaceous Earth as Pesticide
There are many kinds of pests out there that can cause holes in your tomato plant leaves. Diatomaceous earth is a renowned and efficient organic pesticide that is widely used to control pests of tomato gardens.
So, what’s the mode of action of Diatomaceous earth as an insecticide?
It has an active ingredient called Crystalline Silica. It functions as a contact insecticide. When the pests come into contact with it, the outer layer will be destroyed, and eventually, the worms will die.
This is effective to control most of the garden insects including slugs, worms, beetles, mites, fleas, and most of the spider. And you will be happy to know; those insects may be the reason for holes in tomato leaves.
Also, It is safe to use around home, wildlife, children, or pets. Here is the recommended Diatomaceous Earth-Safer 51703 Diatomaceous Earth-Bed Bug Flea, Ant, Crawling Insect Killer.
2.Parasitic Wasp as Biological Defender
It may sound like the title of a horror movie, but the truth is that almost all parasitic wasps are your friend in your garden.
The question is, how?
Parasitic wasps normally grow very tiny and prey on the garden pests, exceptionally the plant-sucking varieties (Cabbage loppers).
Some parasitic varieties have evolved to lay their eggs on the surface or in the body of their host. After the eggs hatch, the larvae use the host’s body for their food and ultimately the host body dies.
In this way, you can control your tomato garden pests very effectively. Also, this is not harmful to your garden plants. You can get your own Wasp Army. Our recommendation is Nature’s Good Guys 3000 Live Ladybugs.
3. Spinosad for Worms
Spinosad works by messing with worms or insect’s neurological functions, generating hyperactivity, vibrations, and muscle contractions. After a while, the insects run into seizures and become paralyzed, out of pure exhaustion, and finally die.
Worms or insects are normally affected by touching or eating this very powerful insecticide. Cabbage Worms and black worms(Learn more about controlling black worms) can easily be eradicated from your tomato garden which is one of the main culprits who creates holes in leaves.
Also, it can kill other garden insects that may be the reason for creating holes on the leaves of the tomatoes. Here is our recommended Spinosad for you- Monterey LG6138 Garden Insect Ready to Spray Insecticide.
Remember to use it carefully following the quantity measures provided by manufacturers.
4. Neem Oil for Unidentified Insecticide
If you cannot identify actually who is causing holes in your tomato plant leaves then you can use Neem oil.
It is a powerful natural insecticide, capable of destroying the life cycle of insects at every stage of life. That’s why it is a great insecticide for the organic gardener.
Wondering how it works?
It works as a hormone disruptor and “antifeedant” for insects that usually feed on leaves and other parts of a plant. Besides, it is biodegradable and non-toxic to pets, birds, or other wildlife.
Also, it can fight with powdery mildew, rust, and other fungal diseases on your tomato plants.
The good news is,
You can prepare a basic Neem oil solution at your home easily whenever you want. The process includes:
Step 1: Mix 4 tablespoons of Neem oil with 2 tablespoons of mild liquid soap.
Step 2: Add 2 quart of fresh water and shake the whole solution.
Step 3: Spray this solution on the upper and lower surface of leaves.
5. Garlic Insecticide Spray
If you get a few plants to treat at your homestead, then it can be a good choice. These common kitchen ingredients are used to knock down or even knock out insect infestations in the garden.
To prepare garlic spray at home:
Step 1: Take 4 whole bulbs (not just 4 cloves) and puree them in a blender or food processor with a small amount of water. Keep the mixture sitting overnight.
Step 2: Now strain it into a quart jar and add 1 cup of vegetable oil (optional), 2 tablespoons of mild liquid soap, and adequate water to fill the jar.
Step 3: To use this insecticide, add 2 cups of the mixture with 2 quarts of water and spray liberally on the affected area.
You can also get ready to use Garlic Insecticide spray. Our recommendation is Garlic Barrier Liquid Spray.
6. Soap Spray Insecticide
Soap spray insecticide is likely the oil spray. This is also powerful for controlling mites, aphids, beetles, whiteflies, and many other hungry tiny insects.
You can easily prepare a basic soap spray insecticide at home. To prepare the soap spray follow the steps from below:
Step 1: Take 1 teaspoon of a mild liquid soap
Step 2: Add 2 quart of water and mix it.
Step 3: Now take this solution in a sprayer and spray directly on the affected area.
Here is the ready to use Soap Spray insecticide that you may also pick Safer Brand 5118-6 Insect Killing Soap Concentrate.
7. Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT)
It is a microbial biological controller that defends very well against fruit worms. Specifically, it is widely used to treat the problem of holes in tomato leaves.
Remember to use them as soon as you recognize those worms in your tomato garden. Because several types of the worm are available that cause holes in tomato leaves.
When the worms come in contact with BT, they will be paralyzed and finally die.
The most recommended Bacillus Thuringiensis Insecticide is- Monterey LG 6338 Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.t.) Worm & Caterpillar Killer.
8. Horticulture Oil
Horticulture oil is a very widely known insecticide. It kills insects by suffocating them. This oil blocks the spiracles that are essential for insects breathing.
It is very useful against adelgids, caterpillars, aphids, leafhoppers, mites, mealybug, scale, thrips, spider mites or whiteflies. It is also useful against powdery mildew and other fungal diseases.
Preparing Homemade Horticultural Oil:
Step 1: Mix two tablespoons of liquid soap with two cups of cottonseed oil. (You can alternatively use safflower oil, vegetable oil, or soybean oil as an alternative to cottonseed oil.
Step 2: Mix three tablespoons of your oil mixture for every two cups of water.
Step 3: Now shake the mixture well and directly apply to infected tomato plants.
Here is the readily available Horticulture Oil for you-Bonide (BND212) – All Seasons Horticultural and Dormant Spray Oil.
What Actually Causes Holes in Tomato Plant Leaves?
Holes on tomato leaves are usually caused by several types of worms, insects, diseases, and also physical or chemical damage.
Holes in leaves can dramatically reduce the photosynthesis rate and as a result, the plant becomes weak. This can make the plant more vulnerable to other insects, pests, or diseases. It can reduce your production rate and even destroy your tomato garden entirely.
In order to get rid of this problem, at first, you have to identify what the main culprit is behind it.
So let’s start and identify them:
1.Tomato Cabbage Worms
Cabbage Worms begin its life as tiny green, yellow, or white, rocket-shaped eggs that are laid separately on the downside of leaves. If you have a magnifying glass, you will be able to find these eggs.
If you find them, then do your plants a favor and exterminate those eggs immediately.
Larvae: It looks green or fuzzy and can grow one inch in length. Sometimes it has a pale yellow stripe on the back with broken yellow straight like along the sides.
Pupae: They are kind of spotted brownish grey. The chrysalis looks like the leaves and is often found along the mid-vein.
Adult: At the adult stage cabbage worms look like white or off-white with 1-4 black spots on their wings.
Damage Caused by Cabbageworm
As soon as those eggs hatch, fuzzy green caterpillars begin feeding. They begin by eating their own eggshell and then chew round-shaped holes in leaves at a shocking rate.
The first hint of cabbage worm infestation is random, round-shaped holes in your tomato leaves. If this is not prevented then the healthy plants can turn tattered within a few days.
That’s all it can do?
No! As the cabbage worms remain active year-round in the USA, they can make extensive destruction. A single grown-up cabbageworm can fly over 6-7 miles in a day. So you certainly have to be very aware.
How to control cabbage worms?
Unlike other pests, cabbage worms actually have many natural enemies already. Tachinid flies with some other parasites feed on cabbage worm eggs and larvae.
Speaking from experience,
I can assure you that these natural controllers will not be sufficient once cabbage worms have found your crop garden.
So, you will have to take other steps as soon as possible.
Take action with-
- Bacillus Thuringiensis.
- Hand-picking strategy.
- Remove nearby weeds.
Tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) can easily be identified by their very large size (up to 4 inches) with the horn-shaped tail.
Separated from their close tobacco-loving cousins (Manduca sexta) who contain white V-shaped signs, this tomato hornworm variant has got a single slash like sign.
They can make holes in your tomato plants of foliage, leaves, and even in fruit. However, both of these species are hard to find until the harm is done.
Damage Caused by Hornworms
The first hint of hornworm infestation is stripped leaves, little holes, and losing smaller stems of tomato plants.
They like younger, new growth leaves, but hide under bigger leaves. Their sharp green pigments render excellent camouflage.
Hornworm caterpillars also like to eat all members of the nightshade family including peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and even jimsonweed.
In spring, the big (4”-5”), heavy-bodied brown hornworm lay light green, oval-shaped eggs on both the upper and lower surfaces of leaves.
These eggs hatch and then tiny caterpillars born, and the cycle continues ever again. In suitable environments, tow generations can arise within a single year.
How to Control Hornworms?
This is not so difficult to control hornworms from your tomato garden. You just need to be careful.
Take action with-
- Handpicking process.
- Use soapy water.
- Use wasp.
- Let your chicken eat them.
- Keep your tomato garden weed-free.
- Spray organic pesticides.
3.Tomato Cabbage Loppers
Cabbage looper larvae are one of the common summer garden pests.
Nocturnal brown moths fly at night and lay tiny hemispherical shaped eggs, separately or in clusters, on both the upper and lower surfaces of leaves.
Adult moths live around 10-15 days. Females can lay 400 – 600 eggs within that time.
Damage Caused by Cabbage Loppers
After 2-10 days, fade white larvae emerge and start feeding on the leaves of tomato, and other plants of the brassica family.
As the loppers grow bigger, they move to the upside of leaves and start feeding heavily, leaving big irregular holes. The adult cabbage loppers look brown.
How to Control Cabbage Loopers?
Well, this is easy to control. At first, identify them and then take proper action.
Take action with-
- Neem oil.
- Diatomaceous Earth.
- The organic pesticides.
4.Tomato Flea Beetles
Flea beetles are pests hop from plant to plant-eating and creating tiny holes in leaves. Typically, they don’t cause a lot of damage. After all, each of them is only from 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch in length!
But If there are enough of them on your plant, the damage can be very high. So don’t ignore them.
Flea Beetle Life Cycle
Flea beetles lay small eggs in weeds, plant debris or in the soil surrounding tomatoes. After the eggs hatch, the tiny, pale white larva phase begins above or under the ground.
After a month or so, the larva phase turns into a pupate in the soil. When they grow as adults, they use their large jumping legs to move plants to plant wherever they want to feed.
Damage Caused by Flea Beetle
Small, pitting, irregular holes in plant leaves may combine to create a tattered area. Fruits and roots can also be affected by flea beetles.
How to Control Flea Beetle?
As pesticides aren’t so effective against flea beetles, other control measures must be used, if control is really needed.
In most cases, you will not have to take serious steps. However, If an infestation begins to cause serious destruction then,
Take action with-
- Use basic sanitation.
- Remove bushes and weeds.
- Reflective mulching.
- White sticky traps or light traps.
- Use Diatomaceous Earth.
- Covering row for other crops.
5.Tomato Shot Hole Disease
Does it look like somebody fired on your plant with a shotgun? If your plant’s leaves contain like BB-sized holes then it is possibly the shot hole disease
Shot hole disease is also called Coryneum blight. It is a fungal disease that can create holes on tomato leaves.
Symptoms of Shot Hole Disease
Shot hole disease generally appears in spring and attacks new growing plants. The harm first looks like small (1/10” to 1/4”) reddish and purplish-brown spots.
There may be either light green or yellow rings surrounding the holes. These spots grow a little bigger, dry up and finally, the affected tissue falls away, creating BB holes.
The fungus keeps spreading leaf to leaf, plant to plant resulting in more tissue damage and holes until the leaf falls.
Serious infections can decrease the photosynthesis rate that makes the plant weak and decrease fruit production.
The fungi can also damage the fruit, leaving toughened scars on the skin. Branches may grow concentric lesions if infected.
How to Control Shot Hole Disease?
Shot hole disease is mainly caused by fungicide. So try to prevent fungus growth. And use an appropriate fungicide.
Take action with-
- Avoid heavy watering.
- Remove the infected part.
- Use horticultural oil.
- Use the Bordeaux Mixture.
To make Bordeaux mixture-
- Take 10 part of the water
- 1 part of copper sulfate
- 1 part of slaked lime.
- Mix them and spray on the affected area.
In this article, I have tried to provide everything you may want to know. You just need to identify what is the causes of those holes on leaves and then take proper actions.
I have described some most effective solutions that are widely used and effective to treat plant leaves as well as to treat tomato leaves. Just select one or more of them and try it.
We all know preventing is far better than cure. So be careful after planting tomato plants. Observe them regularly if there are any unusual things you can find.
However, if you get a cure by applying any other methods, don’t forget to share that with us. Happy Gardening!