We’re beginning to pay the price for last winter’s mild weather, in the form of pests and diseases in the garden. Many local gardeners may have already seen evidence of tomato spotted wilt virus on tomato, potato, and pepper plants—a disease spread by thrips. Thrips are tiny (1-2mm long) slender brown insects, that look like very small splinters of wood. In spite of their diminutive size, thrips can bring a whole host of problems to the garden, including tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). Control the thrips; control the disease.
Stunted growth and rings on leaves and/or fruit may be the first signs of TSWV that are apparent to the gardener. Leaves will become brown and wilted. It’s important to destroy affected plants as soon as the disease is positively identified, as it is highly contagious, and could affect an entire garden—or neighborhood!—in short order.
The first line of defense is to eliminate the elements that create a conducive environment for thrips. Good weed control means you have taken away their primary food source; hence, they’ll seek a better meal plan elsewhere. Be vigilant about eliminating weeds and you may save your vegetable garden in the process!