The Shed Online – planting tomatoes

The Shed Online - planting tomatoes

Andrew Laidlaw, landscape architect for the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, and resident gardening expert on ABC radio, takes us through some great tips for…
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Question by Todd: Is this a Tomato Plant pest?
I keep getting these single, small red things on the leaves of my tomato plants. They are about the size of a pin head. They almost look like a small plant seed, but I feel that they are some type of bug egg case or something. Any help/ideas? I have been scraping them off, but keep finding more.

Best answer:

Answer by nepeta
I think it should be Scale (Common Scale, Oyster Shell Scale, Eulecanium Scale or Mealy Scale) or Red spider mites.

Scales are found on the underside of your leaves and on the stem of the plant for oval, shell or thread-shaped insects. They spend most of their lives stationary on the plant. Protected by a waxy scale which varies in colour from white to brown. A severe infestation will have the appearance of lumpy blisters on the underside of the leaves and on the stem; this will eventually result in the yellowing of affected leaves or fronds and they will drop off. The insects also excrete a sticky honeydew which could attract a black sooty mould.

Gently remove the scales from the leaves, fronds or stem with a small soft brush, (for tough plants an old toothbrush will suffice) then rinse the plant with clear tepid water containing a little liquid soap (approximately half a teaspoon per 4 litres). For heavy infestations, take the plant into a well ventilated area, preferably outside and spray the plant with an insecticide. When the spray has dried, rinse the plant with clear tepid water. Repeated applications may be necessary so check regularly for any signs of re-infestation. You can also use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol or use a systemic insecticide. If using a chemical control be very careful to follow label directions exactly.

Red spider mites is extremely small, barely visible with the naked eye as reddish or greenish spots on leaves and stems; the adults measure about 0.5 mm. Spinning a fine web on and under leaves. It lays its eggs on the leaves, and it poses a threat to host plants by sucking cell contents from the leaves cell by cell, leaving very tiny, pale spots or scars where the green epidermal cells have been destroyed.

Spider mites dislike humidity so misting the plant regularly may slow their reproductive rate. Adding a little insecticidal soap and methylated spirits to the water in your mister will also aid in the battle against this most persistent pest. Remove the webs and the spider mites by washing the plant in soapy tepid water, paying particular attention to the underside of all the leaves. Washing will not always remove all the eggs so repeat the treatment every 3 to 4 days until the plant is clear to ensure its success. For severe infestations spraying the plant with acephate or hexakis may be of some help but in order to prevent the contamination of any other plants, it may be best simply to destroy the plant.

PS : do not grow tomato plant on the same soil every year(crop rotation) to prevent disease.

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