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Maskotka tomatoes in hanging baskets - trouble with birds

Posted: Mon May 24, 2010 8:57 am
by ProStuart
Hi guys I'm new here & hope you can help!

I planted some Maskotka tomatoes in some hanging baskets as they were recommended by the garden centre. They have grown to about 6" high now but when I checked them this morning, one of them has been stripped of all foliage, with just the stalk remaining!

I'm in the UK so I'm thinking this can only be birds doing this as the baskets are around 5 feet off the floor. Obviously chicken wire (or equivalent) will work OK whilst the tomatoes are in the basket. What do I do when they start to overflow the basket (as intended) to protect them?

All the best.


Posted: Mon May 24, 2010 1:45 pm
by rainbowgardener
Very odd... I never heard of birds stripping the foliage like that. Birds will take bites out of the tomatoes, but generally have no interest in the leaves.

I would look very closely for insect pests. Insects can do an amazing amount of damage in a short time, if you have an infestation of them.

Posted: Mon May 24, 2010 2:23 pm
by ProStuart
Well, I noticed a couple of dents in the remaining stalk and assumed it was birds. I then covered both baskets with clear cellophane wrap (like the kind you get from the dry cleaners).

The foliage hasn't disappeared since I did that so I'm thinking it's got to be birds!!

I'll take a picture tonight if I can and see if it explains more.


Posted: Tue May 25, 2010 1:56 pm
by ProStuart
Has nobody come across this before?

Posted: Tue May 25, 2010 2:33 pm
by Cirtes
Yes. It is likely a hornworm infestation. A couple of worms can strip a plant of foliage overnight.

They are green worms pencil thick and a couple inches long with horns on them. They are a larva stage of a large moth and are nocturnal.

Look for signs and the worms themselves attached and well camouflaged in the remaining plants.

They leave a trail of excrement that resembles peppercorns all over the place.

Best method of control is inspection and hand removal.

Alternate method is chemical control. Many folks like Neem Oil sprays. I do not use this method since it kills everything including bees and other beneficial insects.

Google some more info on tomato hornworm for pictures and such.

Posted: Wed May 26, 2010 9:21 am
by ProStuart
OK, I'm pretty convinced this isn't an infestation of anything. Ever since I've covered the baskets with clear cellophane wrap, the plants haven't been touched. Also, the one remaining tomato plant in the same basket as the stripped one has not been touched.

This is weird that nobody has come across this before!!!


Posted: Fri May 28, 2010 3:01 pm
by Cirtes
ProStuart wrote:
This is weird that nobody has come across this before!!!

We have seen this before and in the US it is likely hornworm or cutworm. Both are larvae of flying insects so wrapping the plant will temporarily fix the problem.

There is no bird out there that eats tomato foliage. The stuff tastes nasty and is mildly toxic to a lot if creatures.

In Europe, there is also a brown beetle that likes to snack on tomato and potato leaves but it rarely strips the whole plant. Can't remember the name.

Either way, it looks like you have solved your problem for now.

You may want to consided replacing the celophane with something a bit more breathable like a netting so that you do not encouage a fungal dissease.