Feb 9, 2013
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2 summers ago was the first time we had any sort of garden at our house. It was up near the house and was mostly tomatoes, which my husband tried to train to grow down into the basement stairwell. We had a few hornworms, but not many. I'm talking like maybe 5 total for 30 or so plants.
Last summer, we tilled up a nice big garden a little bit away from the house and added a lot more types of plants. Most of our tomato plants were in groups of 4 or so per tomato cage. We went a bit overboard, as between volunteers (through unfinished compost) and the plants in cages, we probably had close to 200 tomato plants alone. Obviously more plants attract more bugs, but there was an exponential increase in the amount of hornworms, especially considering it was in different soil. My husband had to walk through squishing hornworms almost everyday, and usually got at least one or two.
What are some good cheap things to do to cut down on the hornworms? If my husband got busy and missed a day or two of checking for them, we'd usually lose half a tomato plant.
My father-in-law suggested lightly shaking ashes over the plants, as the bugs don't like the taste of it, but we didn't have any excess ash to use last year. We also tried spraying the plants with some soap water, which did seem to help.
We're not going to have near as many tomatoes this year, and the garden is going to be in another area again.

TL/DR version - What do you do to keep hornworms off your tomato plants?