Q. Two years ago, you correctly diagnosed our tomato plants with spider mites from pictures we sent. Last year we got spider mites again. We started most of our tomatoes from seed last year but bought a few plants from a local nursery and planted them in each of the vegetable beds. Is it common to get spider mites from nursery plants?
A. I don’t know how common it is for pests to be brought in from plant nurseries but I know it is more common than I would like. I have personally witnessed and identified disease and insect problems coming from nursery plants (houseplants, transplants, fruit trees and landscape container plants) before they were planted.
Some plant problems are easy to see and others are not and don’t develop fully until later. Growing plants free of insect and disease problems requires knowledge about the pests, a clean growing area and a regular prevention and treatment program.
|Off-color leaves and spotting of leaves can be indicators that they are not healthy or they were poorly cared for.|
If possible, put plants in isolated areas until you are sure they are “clean”. This is a common recommendation when buying houseplants. Houseplants are frequently loaded with disease and insect problems and infest other plants once inside the house.
When bringing home plants, spray them with oils and soap and water sprays before planting. Don’t bring home “bargain bin” or dumpster plants thinking you’ve got a deal. You are asking for trouble unless you know what you’re doing. Don’t risk contaminating pristine plants by mixing them with plants unknown to you.If you must do it, keep them isolated from other plants until you are sure they are healthy.
As far as spider mites on tomatoes are concerned, inspect plants using the “white paper method” and a hand lens. Remove weeds growing in the containers, remove dying or damaged leaves, spray plants with soap sprays, and alternate with neem and other oils when you see them. Inspect plants