February 21, 2009

1 - Manage weeds to reduce curly top virus this summer.

Yard and Garden February 21, 2009


Last year I planted 25 tomato plants and every one of them was infected with curly top virus. I harvested very few tomatoes. Is there something I can do to prevent this problem? I think I recall that you wrote something about this a few years ago. I wish I had kept that article?

- Tommy T.


Curly top virus infection is a problem for all tomatoes, chiles, and other common garden crops. The best way to avoid the problem is to remove the overwintering weeds from your garden before you plant tomatoes. The virus disease cannot overwinter in the soil; it remains in a plant that overwinters. Insects then spread the disease from the weeds to our garden plants. While there are many plants that may allow curly top virus to overwinter, some of the mustard weeds are considered to be major sources of this disease. Controlling weeds in the winter, seeing that they are gone before tomatoes, chiles, and other vegetables are planted in the garden, will help you avoid the problem.

Insecticide applications to kill the insects (beet leafhoppers) that spread the disease are not effective. However, physically isolating your plants from the insects that carry the disease is a good way to protect your plants. Row cover material (there are several types) that cover the plant and exclude the beet leafhopper will help reduce the number of infected plants. A good way to use this material is to plant the tomatoes inside tomato cages made of wire, and then wrap the cage with the row cover fabric. A light colored, woven or spun-bonded fabric is best for this use. These products diffuse our intense sunlight and they protect the young plants from wind and drying-out. These are benefits in themselves, but the fabrics can effectively exclude the beet leafhopper if there are no gaps in the covering (from ground to the top of the plant or tomato cage) to allow the insects access to the plants. Of course, you will need to remove the covering each time you harvest, and then replace it after harvesting tomatoes. In a home garden, that is a small price to pay for tasty, home-grown, vine ripened tomatoes.

2 - Yes, you can grow okra in New Mexico


Can I grow okra in New Mexico?

- Bob A.


Okra is a plant that is not commonly grown in New Mexico, but it can be grown here if you supply adequate water and perhaps some protection from drying winds. Okra is a plant that loves heat and sunlight. These are factors that New Mexico provides in abundance. However, the okra plant will not produce a good crop if it is not provided adequate water. This is the greatest challenge for growing okra in most New Mexico gardens. By the way, the bright yellow okra flowers with their maroon centers are attractive and can be used in the edible landscape where pretty flowers and vegetables are grown together.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!