Tomato plantings are hardly in the ground yet already the leaf miners are at work. They produce the opaque squiggles in the leaves of these and many garden plants. Now here is something interesting - these plants are growing in a screened area. How did the leaf miners find them?
Take the time to check out a picture of the adult on the University of Florida web site so you know what you are battling. The adult insect is about the size of a gnat. It can fly into screened areas or at least live with plants already in the area. Good news - the damage they cause to most plants is minimal. But they make my young tomato leaves look bad and may reduce their vigor. There is also good news that a natural control of spinosad found at independent garden centers keeps them under control. Just follow the label.
Gardeners adding young tomato plants to the garden can also look forward to lots of caterpillars. These pests build up large populations during the summer by feeding on ornamentals and weeds. Keep the spinosad or another natural spray of Thuricide handy to control these pests. If only a few, they might be tracked down and put under foot or in a jar of rubbing alcohol. Most are the immature stages of a moth.
If the rains continue into the fall, fungal and bacterial leaf spots could also be a problem. These often start at the bottom of the plants and work upwards. Since the organisms can spread through the plants quickly, you may want to start control when problems are first noted. Use of a copper fungicide controls many leaf spot organisms. This is often considered a natural control too and used by many organic gardeners. Keeping the plants in open areas with good air movement and the foliage as dry as possible also helps.
- Feed every 3 to 4 weeks or use a slow release product as directed
- Make sure the soil pH is around 6.5.
- Maintain a uniformly moist soil
- Maintain a one to 2-inch mulch over the soil surface
- Stake all tomato plants
- Stay alert for whitefly pests that carry viruses to cause plant decline; control as needed