Identifying Tomato Curly Top Virus (CTV)-more info

Photo credits: curly top disease - photo courtesy of http://ucanr.org/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=3352

Curly Top Virus (CTV) on tomatoes
Last year, the Beet Leafhopper which transmits ‘Curly Top Tomato Virus’ was rampant in our gardens and devastated many of our tomato plants. I lost only 4 plants out of 74 to it but only because I take extraordinary measures to protect them. Here is some information on the beet leafhopper., how to identify it, symptoms and how to protect your plants.

The Beet Leafhopper flies in on the winds in early June through July, jump on the tomato plants and taste them. It is a big problem in the Southwest and inland in California where it is hot. They don’t even like to eat tomato plants but sample them, transmitting the disease in the process, then fly off to visit other plants.

Identifying Beet Leafhoppers
The beet leafhopper is very small-about 1/8 inch long, pale green to light brownish green and has wings that look like a tent when folded up vs spread out like a moth. See photo on left. They come when conditions are dry, hot and windy. Sound familiar? This is typical June weather here in the greater Santa Fe area.

I notice they leave after the monsoons come in July when it is cooler and wetter. You will know if they are in your garden as they come in and when you walk around your garden, you’ll see jumping little green bugs that fly off when you walk by. Then they leave—flying to the next garden. Because of this, you can’t really spray anything to get them because they hop so fast and only stay in the garden a short time—here today, gone tomorrow. By the time you notice something is wrong with your tomato plant, they are long gone. It takes about 2 weeks for symptoms to show up.

Symptoms

closup of leaves of curly top virus

Your tomato plant leaves will start to curl and the underside of the leaves and veins will turn a purplish color as pictured above.

 

curly top virus_helthy plant

Tomato Curly Top Virus-beginning stages and advanced stages


The leaves then start to wilt and the plant will look stunted. You might think it needs water but it doesn’t, it is sick and won’t recover. ‘Curly-Top Virus’ is only transmitted from bug to plant and is NOT transmitted from plant to plant hence you will see a healthy plant next to a sick plant. The pictures above show 2 plants with curly top. The first one is beginning to be sick with curly leaves and the veins will turn purple.  The second plant in the picture is advanced.

Now there are three cases where you may think you have curly top virus but may or may not have it.

Denver Downs Farm, Anderson, SC;  High temperature on black plastic; lower leaves only.

Physiological Leaf Roll-Photo courtesy Clemson University

The first condition that may not be Tomato Curly top Virus is Physiological Leaf Roll that can happen on some tomatoes and could be caused by various factors including stress and that is not necessarily curly top-if you plant has rolled leaves but no purple veins as shown above, it possibly has physiological leaf roll and look for why it may be stressed. It is getting enough water, too much water, too much nitrogen? Also drought, pruning, root damage and transplant shock can all be reasons for leaf roll. For more info on this condition go here.

purple tomato_purlple leaves

Phosphorus deficiency in tomatoes happen when the weather is still cold-not in June.

The second condition is early in the season, sometimes the leaves turn purple when it is still cold outside. This is a phosphorus deficiency. This never happens in June or later when it is warm but more in May if you plant early and it is still cold outside.

The third condition (no pic) is if you are growing a purple or black variety of tomato your plant may have purple veins so don’t pull it unless it start to looks sick with the curly leaves and looks like it needs water.

Remedies
There is NO CURE for this virus and if your tomato (or pepper for that matter) shows signs of the disease, you should pull the plant. You could leave the plant in BUT if another wave of leafhoppers come by and a healthy leafhopper bites your sick plant, it only takes 10 minutes in 90°F weather for it to be able to transmit the disease to one of your healthy plants. The best thing to do is pull any sick plant and dispose of it. I don’t compost ANY tomato plant that shows disease.

Here are some remedies:
• Leafhoppers do not like shade and if your plants are partly shaded, that may help keep them off but since most of us grow tomatoes in full sun that might be difficult.

Create a physical barrier with row cover

Put row cover over tomato plants

• The main thing I do is create a physical barrier between the bugs and the plants.  I now cover all tomato plants with row cover until the bugs pass. Wrap the row cover around your tomato cage and put a piece on top of the cage BEFORE they come.

• Lastly you could put out some tomatoes later in the season after the bugs leave but you’ll have to put in early season varieties so you can still harvest before the season ends. I buy gallon size at that point so as not to be too far behind. A couple of years ago when I was out at the Santa Fe Community Garden, I noticed many rows of sick tomato plants but one row of perfectly healthy plants and when I asked about them, it turned out they were put out about a month later than the rest of them and by then the leafhoppers were gone.

Dry, sunny, windy weather are perfect conditions for the leafhoppers so look out this summer-conditions are ripe again!

May 21-ALL TOMATO PLANTS IN

growfood,not lawns

It’s time to get growing!

Now is the time to seriously get into your garden. This is the busiest time of the gardening season with everybody wanting to get everything in their gardens. The day temperatures are now in the mid-high 70’s and the evenings are in the mid-high 40’s. PERFECT PLANTING WEATHER! Here is what’s been going on at my place. I feel I’m ahead so I actually have time to post something.

May 21-I waited to plant till after that last snow right after the May 15 date. All 120 tomato plants were in the gardens by May 21 with the help of Elodie Holmes, Lava Ewersmeyer, Mernie Ellessner and Janet Hirons and of course me! Many thanks to all my friends for their help! Boy, was I tired by the end of last week. This is the most tomato plants I’ve ever planted-hopefully it will be a great year and I will have many tomatoes to sell at the Farmer’s Market later this summer! I have 31 varieties this year. My favorites plus many new varieties. They are all in Wall of Waters (WOW) and I wouldn’t attempt to plant them at this date at our 7000 ft high altitude without them. Later the WOWs will be removed once the tomato plants reach the tops of them which will be sometime in June.

May 24-Meanwhile I’ve already put SEEDS in for Atomic Red carrots, Cosmic Purple carrots, Cylindra beets and Craupadine beets, transplanted broccoli-raab, Lacinto kale, Ruby chard, Argentata chard, Burgundy Amaranth and Zino fennel bulbs as of this week. All got row cover over them to give the transplants time to adjust in their new environment.

May 25-The peppers and eggplants are still inside, the little finicky darlings, basking in the windows as the nights are still too cold to plant them yet. If it stays warm I will put them in by the end of the first week of June.

May 26-I will NOW plant bean, corn, cucumber seeds, many flower seeds AND my giant pumpkins. I will also put row cover over them till they come up about 4 inches to keep the birds from eating them.

HAPPY GARDENING!!

Tent Worms

tent worms nest with small black eggs and tent worms on a Aspen tree

Tent worms nest with small black eggs and tent worms on an Aspen tree

So about this time of year tent worms appear in my apple trees, apricot trees and aspen trees. They are also known as web worms because of the web they live in. But unlike fall web worms which appear in the fall, tent worms appear in the spring. If left to their own devices, they will eat many leaves off your trees. I even saw them in my Currant plant. They leave the web in the day eating the leaves and go back to the web at night. They look like long skinny caterpillars.

I asked a landscaper friend of mine what’s the best way to get rid of them and they said to just cut off the branch they are on and put them in a plastic bag and dispose of them.  This year I’m on top of the problem so they can’t keep multiplying and it seems to be working. Keep an eye out for them. They can be anywhere on the tree branches-down low or up high.

No Giant Pumpkin This Year :(

Courtesy of pumpkin pic_history.org

Pumpkin picture courtesy of http://www.history.org

So disappointing. No giant pumpkin this year-not even a little one. I started with 3 plants. Two died of a wilt. I checked to make sure they didn’t have a squash vine borer in them-which they didn’t. I pulled both by the end of July. I just pulled my third and last giant pumpkin plant and sent it to the State Lab last week to see if they could diagnosis what disease it had. The leaves were weird – they were stiff and broke easily, the stems were weird with galls and the blossoms wouldn’t open or stayed small and dropped off—all of them. I didn’t even have one to pollinate. This is the first time since I started growing giant pumpkins that I’ve had this kind of trouble. Some years I’ve grown great pumpkins, some years not so great but I’ve always had at least one giant pumpkin. Not this year – nada and no annual pumpkin bash! What a bummer.

The results just came in from the State Lab. They had to send  it to an independent lab to confirm their diagnosis. They both came to the same conclusion-CURLY TOP VIRUS!! No. no. I know Curly Top Virus is transmitted to tomato plants via the beet leafhopper but didn’t know it could transmit this virus to giant pumpkin plants as well. And I even had it covered with row cover until July but I guess that wasn’t long enough as it only takes one leafhopper to infect plants. 😦

Row cover everywhere!

row cover in early summer

My main vegetable garden is basically divided into three sections-Section 1, Section 2 and Section 3-each section being around a 1000 square feet. So as I look at what I call ‘Section 3’, all I see is row cover everywhere! Looks like I laid out my laundry all over the ground but this is temporary. Row cover is used for extending the seasons and for protecting crops.

When I plant new transplants such as eggplants and peppers, I find our winds horrible on them, whipping them around and drying them out-totally stressing the poor little things so I put these mini hoops over them and put row cover on that protecting them from the ferocious winds we’ve had. When I plant seeds, I also cover them with row cover to protect them from the birds and other animals eating the seedlings as the germinate. Birds love bean sprouts, corn sprouts and cucumber sprouts but when I cover them, the birds don’t know what’s going on underneath when they germinate. So the garden looks like hell for a couple of weeks but will save me time and frustration of replanting more seeds later. This year after I planted the corn, bean and cucumber seeds, I put straw around them to help keep the soil moist and since I waited to plant later, an added bonus is the soil is pre-warmed  and the straw will help hold in the moisture when I water.

Grasshoppers are here!

grasshopper:photo credit: ncsu.edu

Grasshopper: Photo credit: ncsu.edu

Whoa! The grasshoppers are here in the Santa Fe area now.  I read last month an article in the Albuquerque Journal (after Poki from Gaia Gardens warned me about them) about the ‘moving sidewalk’ of grasshoppers in west side Albuquerque. Sounds like they are there in Biblical proportions this year.

Looks like it’s going to be a bad year for us too. I’ve noticed more of them now – not so much in the garden but in the outer regions outside the garden (and on the pavement-go figure that one out). So yesterday I put out some ‘NOLO’ bait after noticing a few more of them around than usual (but not the ‘8 grasshoppers per square yard’ that were in the directions for use). It probably blew away with all this awful HOT wind that came in last night but I can always put out more. I checked this morning and the piles are still there on the outside of the garden.

5lb_NoLoBait_thNOLO bait are bran flakes that have been laced with nosema locustae, a  protozoan bacteria that kills the baby grasshoppers when they eat it. Then the adult grasshoppers eat the dead babies (horrible) and they get sick and die too. That’s what they get for being cannibalistic!  Bastards! Now the one downside of all of this is it takes some time for it to start working-about three weeks so get some soon and get started in controlling this out of control pest that can devour your garden. It must be noted this does NOT provide immediate elimination of  grasshoppers and is most effective when put out when the grasshoppers are little-about 3/4 of an inch long. This is a more long-term solution to them. It is organic and does not hurt the bees, birds, animals or us-only grasshoppers.

In the meantime I’m going to put row cover over everything until I see less of them.  You should call and see if the local nurseries still have some. You may have to go on the web to get some NOLO bait as I think they are almost sold out around here. Ah, the joys of gardening!

PS: More on the dreaded squash vine borer

I just posted about the squash vine borer and a gardening friend, Gene, mentioned that his squash is smaller than in the video in a comment in the earlier post on squash vine borers. I forgot to mention that while the squash is small before they blossom, I keep them covered with row cover which keeps both the SVB and the squash bugs out but once the plants are bigger and blossoms, we have to take the row cover off for the bees to be able to pollinate them-that’s when we should use the foil.