What is eating my tomato & cucumber plants?

Updated July 19, 2017

Many varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers are grown in backyard gardens across North America. Tomato and cucumber plants are easy to grow and reward the gardener with an abundance of fruit that is ready to pick shortly after pollination. Tomatoes and cucumbers are hardy but susceptible to a few blights and pests. Once you determine what these garden pests are, employ organic solutions and natural deterrents to deal with them.

Tomato Plant Pests

Hardy tomato and cucumber plants grow quickly, but both fall victim to garden pests that chew holes in the leaves of established plants and devour young plants in a single evening. The gardener is forced to wage a war against a host of beetles, caterpillars and slugs. Because it is never a good idea to poison your food plants, the garden arsenal for fighting back is limited.

Slugs and Snalls

A gardener can never completely win a battle against slugs and snails, but some organic deterrents work well. Diatomaceous earth, wood ashes and similar materials placed around plants help protect garden plants. Spray ammonia on exposed slugs and hunt down slugs after dark using a flashlight. Eliminate places where slugs and snails can hide during the day. Set traps by inverting melon rinds and leaving them out overnight. Snails and slugs will flock to the melon, which can be removed the next morning.

Tomato Hornworms and Cucumber Beetles

Tomato hornworms are caterpillars that feed on leaves and stems of tomato plants. These worms are large (3 to 4 inches) but blend in well with the plant. This caterpillar eventually will become a hawk moth. Just pick them off your plant. Cucumber beetles prize the cucumber. Adult beetles eat holes in cucumber leaves while larvae bores into vines. Pick off adults and remove from the garden. Introduce beneficial insects to reduce the number of egg and young. Employ botanical pesticides to treat plants when infestation occurs.


These tiny, soft-bodied bugs can suck the life out of plants. Eliminate aphids without the use of harmful chemicals. If you see a section of the plant covered in aphids, snip it off and place in a plastic bag. Purchase beneficial insects like praying mantises, ladybirds and lacewings at your local nursery to battle aphids.Treating garden plants with Soap Shield, an organic spray, will protect your plant from aphid attacks. Just mix with water and spray on your plant for a protective coating. Soap Shield also protects plants from other garden blights like powdery mildew and black spot.

Treating Through Prevention

One of the best ways to treat garden invasions is through prevention. Companion planting creates a natural barrier to thwart invaders. The tomato plant naturally emits a toxin that discourages many insects, so plant cucumbers with tomatoes, then companion plant with borage and marigold, which create a natural barrier to deter pests. Caging each tomato plant provides support for climbing cucumbers and reduces pest infestation by keeping cucumbers off the ground.

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About the Author

Lorri Amsden is the founder of Liminal Landscapes, a portal for dimensional living. By day she is the events manager of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she works with authors, hosting signings and writer's workshops. She maintains seven book blogs and writes monthly for "Om-Times," "The Booknews" and "Pagan Magic."