The tomatoes took us by surprise this morning. They were all OK on Wednesday when we last checked them. This morning the leaves of one of the big plants were all patchy yellow. We checked in one of our books and it looks like this might be a virus called mosaic virus. This virus is not treatable and the only solution is to destroy the plant. What is not clear is whether the virus is infectious. We don’t know if the other plants are at risk or if the soil is contaminated.
We decided to do a thorough inspection of all the plants. The second of the big tomatoes turned up quite a few surprises. I found greenfly, whitefly (right) and blackfly (left). I picked small white eggs (possibly whitefly) from the soil of the pot. I picked live green fly from the leaves and I found this mother blackfly nurturing her young on the underside of one of the leaves. This was all from the plant which still looks quite healthy.
We know that we have greenfly in the garden because they have been eating the strawberry leaves and last week I caught one ‘green-handed’ eating a basil leaf. Until now we have not taken any action against them as there are also plenty of ladybirds in the garden. Considering the state of the tomato plant today we decided it is time to do something so we sprayed the leaves of all four plants quite thoroughly with a strong solution of soapy water. This is supposed to deter them without harming any wildlife.
The second thing we did was cut all the infected leaves off the plants. One plant was stripped almost bare of the lower leaves while the second plant only had one or two to be removed. It is possible that it is too late to salvage the first plant but as we do not have another seedling to replace it with right now we might as well give it a chance to recover.
While we were treating the plants we decided to go all out. Adam made up a mixture of tomato food from the solution we bought a while ago. All the plants were given a feed of this, especially the smaller plant which has yellow leaves. The yellow leaves are a sign of nutrient deficiency. This is not ideal but should be easily cured with fertilizer. We also moved the pots to a sunnier spot beside a south facing wall.
The amazing thing is that the flowers on the large plants are really coming along now. By the look of it we will be getting flowers blossoming soon from them. I would like all of our plants to survive but I think that we need to be realistic. It is not too late now to either try to sow some more seeds or at least to buy a seedling from a garden shop.
This is how the plants looked after treatment. The pot on the left is the infected plant with the leaves removed. The other two are the smaller plants in their new location beside the wall, with the courgette.
I feel like we still have a lot to learn about vegetable gardening. We realised today how exposed we are by having four of the same variety of tomatoes growing. In fact the four tomato plants account for about half our crops at the moment. We planted four of the same because those were the only seeds we had but I realise now that next year we should plant a selection of varieties. Depending how much space we have we might not plant so many either. I think we will plan to split our risk a bit more carefully in the future, so as avoid potential disappointment.