Protecting tomatoes from fruit fly

24 Feb

Never before have I had problems with fruit fly. So much so that I didn’t know what they actually looked like or how much of a menace they are. This year however I’m growing a larger variety of fruit, including large slicing tomatoes. I’m no longer so naive.

So for the past month I’ve been fighting a fierce war, which mostly involves a lot of stamping my feet and pouting.

I concluded that I can’t wait for the fruit to ripen on the plants – they get stung long before then. So I started to pick them green, just as they start to blush. That’s no longer working.

I tried harvesting them anyway with a view to cutting around infected flesh. But even the fruit with minor stings (even just on ripening) are well and truly gone by the time they are red enough to cut. These blighters ruin tomatoes – quickly.

I’ve learned my lesson – once the fruit is stung there’s no use keeping it on the plant.

So this evening I went out and discarded all fruit with stings. There was more than 4 kilograms, which would have been much more if I’d let it keep growing until ripe. A couple were extremely large Brandywines – maybe 400g each already. Heartbreaking.

The chooks are getting spoiled – they leave the green ones  on the coop floor until they start to ripen, by which time they are crawling with grubs. Bonus points! Funnily enough they’re not getting through the layer pellets very quickly – I think my eggs are simply tomatoes with added protein, rearranged.

But I did have a plan. I’ve done a lot of reading and concluded that baits and traps are helpful, but won’t prevent losses. What does seem to help however is exclusion.

So I bought these nifty bags. They are made of lightweight mesh, allow plenty of light and airflow, and can be reused for different crops over multiple seasons. Most importantly, they apparently stop the fruit fly.

I bought 10 of them as a start, and bagged whole trusses at a time. It would have been more efficient if I didn’t already have to throw out a significant portion of my crop, but I’m confident that the fruit I have bagged should be safe.

I’m going to see how they go and probably buy some more bags if they are successful. I’m going to need a whole bunch soon to protect my second crop of Anna apples – 14 fruit have set on my dwarf tree already, with many new flowers open now. Not bad for a follow-up crop. I think I will have to thin them, but we all know how good I am at that!

So who else struggles with fruit fly? Any other strategies I should know about? I’m I setting myself up for disappointment?

Tonight I planned Thin-sliced beef with sesame for dinner, but after getting home from work I really couldn’t be arsed. So instead, we had:

Can’t be arsed salad (that won’t stick to your arse)

  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1/2 an avocado, cubed.
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly diced
  • Handful of pitted kalamata olives
  • Small tin of Tuna in springwater
  • a few spoonfuls of baby capers
  • A handful of green beans
  • Japanese fat-free sesame salad dressing

Basically, I just grabbed whatever salad-type ingredients I had on hand and chucked them together.

I use this Japanese salad dressing constantly because I LOVE it, and it’s great for P’s diet because it has basically no fat and very low in calories. It’s just a mixture of vinegar, soy, rice wine, honey, and thickeners. There is quite a dose of flavour enhancers thrown in for good measure, but I’ve never been particularly afraid of MSG. In fact, I even add it to my cooking sometimes. I should be ashamed to admit that, shouldn’t I?

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15 Responses to “Protecting tomatoes from fruit fly”

  1. Liz February 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    You will be banished from the kingdom of foodies if you persist with that kind of talk young lady – flavour enhancers indeed…..he he he. Nah I reckon if you like them then use them – salt is my own personal vice. There have been some instances of fruit fly in Melbourne but happily I haven’t had an issues – doesn’t sound like fun!

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney February 24, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

      I’ve only ever pretended to be a foodie – I love all sorts of terrible things that would never befit a person of true foodie calibre 🙂

      I think I made a grave error in growing stonefruit unprotected right next to the tomatoes. I’ll probably never get rid of the horrible things.

      Lesson learnt!

  2. Gardenglut February 25, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    It has been a horror year for fruit fly in Sydney. This is the worst I have know. So much so that I have given up on growing large tomatoes now.

    I only grow the small ones (excpet my attempt with some zebras this year which failed). I do find that the non-red ones are safer from the fruit fly than the red opnes. So for instance the little broad ripple yellow cuuant had no problems, the brown berries had a few more issues and the worst effected were the little sugar lumps.

    I do find that they are always worse late in the seasoin – thus now.

    I used glue traps this year – they are just sticky sheets of yellow plastic. The DID capture lots of fruit flies but they did have some unintended victims. Not many but sad nontheless – the odd lady bug, a skink or two. But the traps also caught white fly and lots of house flies too. I would use them again.

    I’d love to see how you get on with your bags and look forward to that repoort.

    Glad your chooks are getting the benefit!

    • Susan November 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      Hi there I have tried to reply to the writer who talked about the bags, but couldn’t figure out how to. I would really love to know where he/she got the bags i would love to try them

  3. Linda Woodrow February 25, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Here in northern NSW, I’m well used to being in fruit fly territory. I’ve tried baits and traps and bags, with some success but it’s a lot of work, and I get crazy busy for weeks at a time and can’t give my garden more than an hour or two here and there. The strategies that work for me are mostly ones that have been mentioned: grow resistant varieties, especially late in the season. I was getting some beautiful Brandywines up until recently but in autumn I rely on cherries and Romas. I get some very early stonefruit, but I’ve cut down all the later fruiting varieties. Feed affected fruit to the chooks. They stop them breeding, and convert stung fruit into eggs. Cage chooks under trees that are dropping fruit, or or allow them to free range there. Provide habitat for predators like frogs, and don’t freak out about spider webs. Look on the bright side – if it’s warm enough for fruit fly in summer, it’s probably warm enough for tomatoes in winter.

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney February 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

      Oh thank you Linda- I was hoping you would read and share your thoughts! My Brandywines were delayed by the rain and the unwise decision to grow them in pots. They have thrived since planting them in the garden bed. I’ll remember to get them in early next year.

      I might put the potted stonefruit trees into the chicken coop for a few weeks, but I hope the girls don’t destroy them!

      I already have my winter tomatoes in – I grow ‘stupice’. Is there another variety you think I should consider?

      • Linda Woodrow February 26, 2012 at 9:42 am #

        It’s a bit of an experiment to find what works in your climate. My staples are yellow and red cherry tomatoes, Principe Borghese (one of my favourites) and San Mazano, and I can get them right through winter. The only other tomato I routinely grow is Brandywine, because they taste so superb, but I only get them planted from late July/early August, bearing from late October through to about January. But just about every year I plant a few other varieties, just because I can never resist a good seed catalogue!

  4. Sydfoodie February 26, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    Why don’t you use the tomatoes green, cutting around the affected parts?

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney February 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

      I just don’t like green tomatoes very much. I’m happy to be pointed in the direction of a great recipe for something, but anything I’ve used them in has been a bit *meh*.

  5. L from 500m2 in Sydney February 26, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Linda, I tried San Marzano this year, and I desperately wanted them to work. I love canned (bottled) whole tomatoes, and I wanted to grow boxes full of San Marzanos because they are so good for that purpose. Unfortunately the variety was sad and sickly for me this year – I pulled the last out today. Where do you get your San Marzano seeds? I wonder if the batch I have are just not so good.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Harvest Monday – 27th February 2012 « 500m2 in Sydney - February 27, 2012

    […] only 3 kilograms were viable. The other 5 were thrown to the chickens, stung by fruit fly. So disappointing. I’ve bought more exclusion bags to better protect the remaining […]

  2. Fruit Fly Battle 2012-13 / Episode 1 « 500m2 in Sydney - September 18, 2012

    […] year I waged an almighty battle against them with exclusion bags, and had some limited success in the apples and tomatoes. I had […]

  3. Top 5 – Organic ways to limit damage from pests | Suburban Tomato - November 20, 2012

    […] Whether it be elevating your pots to avoid carrot fly as Mark does, bagging your fruits as L from 500 m2 in Sydney does to protect tomatoes from fruit fly or netting entire plants to prevent bird attack as Bek […]

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