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Silvery, winding trails on my young tomato plants - leaf miners?

by Jeanne Marie
(Jacksonville, FL)

Q. What is the best way to treat my seedling Campari tomato plants? I have just transplanted them into larger pots from the starter peat discs and I noticed silvery trails. Are the plants too young to pluck infected leaves from them? Can they be treated with insecticide? We ordered these seeds because we love the tomatoes we buy in the store and I would hate to lose them. We live in northern Florida, in Jacksonville. Thanks for any help you can give.

A. Leaf miners are difficult to control using a contact insecticides. The miners are protected underneath the leaf membrane. A systemic insecticide will control them, but will enter the fruit ... not something you'd want to eat. Probably the best way to handle leaf miners is to do nothing!

You can pick off and destroy the worst affected parts of the plant to prevent further infestation. Believe it or not, a tomato plant can survive with just half of its foliage in place -- without affecting the fruit or its growth.

After harvesting your crop, work to eliminate leaf miners for next season. Till or aggressively cultivate the soil twice. Repeat the process a couple of times over the winter. This way, you can help "bury" the larvae, making it extremely difficult for new leaf miners to successfully emerge next season.

Good luck and happy gardening!
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