Thursday, 27 December 2007

We Have A Problem!

Tomato Russet Mite
I have discovered a major problem with my Tomatoes this year. I now realise that this is also the reason for the main crop failure last year. Although I did notice this problem earlier I didn't realise what it was and how bad it had affected the plants until this week.

Know Your Enemy: Tomato Russet Mite:
  • they are sap suckers
  • they live on the underside of the leaves
  • they are microscopic, so you can't see them
  • they thrive in dry conditions
  • lower leaves brown off first and die
  • fruit will be effected if not treated
  • plants will die

Things To Try - Early
  • keep plants actively/healthily growing
  • apply seaweed extracts for plant health
  • remove affected leaves early
  • remove badly affected plants and destroy them
  • mist plants during dry weather
  • companion planting with garlic/onion tribe
  • encourage predator insects - ladybugs, lacewings
  • use yellow sticky traps to catch the mites

If This Doesn't Help
  • If you wish consider sprays - soft options first by the time this pest is evident the plants will be fruiting and any pesticides will have withholding periods that will inhibit using the fruit. Carefully read the labels on commercial products and use according to the instructions.
  • Keep in mind that any sprays including misted water and seaweed extracts must cover the backs of the leaves where these creatures live.
  • milk spray equal milk and water
  • garlic spray
  • soap or oil sprays in cool weather only

If This Still Doesn't Help...
Consider Pyrethrum but remember to use this very carefully as it will harm the beneficial insects, earthworms and soil microbes that you try so hard to encourage into your garden.

What I'm Doing
I have already made a second planting in a different area of the garden.
I'm doing the 'early things to try' including:
  • Misting with a hand pump-spray (as we can't use a hose anyway) with a very dilute seaweed extract daily unless it's raining.
  • I've planted a clump of Society Garlic near each plant - garlic doesn't grow in summer here, the onions have finished and I had 2 big pots full of society garlic that had been rescued from another bed earlier.
  • Keeping a careful watch on the new plants.
  • I have removed the worst affected plants from bed 10 (all the Pacesetters and some Black Russians) the remaining ones I have trimmed all affected leaves from and am starting these early intervention ideas. The Society Garlic is in pots here.
  • I have some Pyrethrum and 'Beat-a-Bug' (a commercial pre-mix of pyrethrum, garlic and chilli) on hand to try if needed.

Sources
The Australian Organic Gardener's Handbook by Keith Smith
The Organic Garden Problem Solver by Jackie French
Carrots Love Tomatoes

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