Gauteng Smallholder December/ January 2018 - Page 37

IN THE GARDEN How to manage your tomato plants T tomato is “xitomatl,” which means “plump fruit with a navel.” Sometimes the tomato plants in our gardens get so large and so unwieldy that we begin to wonder if we should prune them. Some people firmly believe that pruning tomato suckers improves the production and health of a plant. Others claim that pruning tomato suckers damages the plant unnecessarily, opens the plant to disease and does nothing attracted to areas with lots of to consume their prey. prey species. They will feed After about two weeks of on aphids and other soft- continuous feeding, the larva bodie d insects such as mites, spins a silken, pearl-sized scale, leafhoppers, thrips and cocoon on the underside of a mealy bugs, as well as spider leaf and remains in the pupal larvae, insect eggs and case for approximately two caterpillars. weeks before emerging as an The larvae are voracious, adult. attacking other insects of Some of the adults of this suitable size, especially soft- family of insects live on nectar bodied ones, other insect or pollen and it is the larvae larvae and insect eggs. When that are voracious hunters. they touch a potential prey object, the larvae grasp it. As with many other pest Their upper jaws are hollow predators, they will be and inject a digestive secretion into the prey. The organs of an aphid can be dissolved by this in 90 seconds. Some lacewing larvae hold debris (including the bodies of their victims) on their backs with hooks or bristles. This camouflage allows the lacewing larva to surprise its victims and also protects it from enemies. Thus lacewings play an important role in maintaining the balance of bio-diversity on our plots. omatoes originated in the Andes, in what is now called Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador ~ where they grew wild. They were first cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 AD. The Aztec word for From page 33 INSECTS 35 to help the plant. So the choice is yours. However, you should only prune indeterminate varieties, which produce new leaves and flowers continuously through the growing season. Indeterminate plants need extra-tall supports of at least 1,5 m. Because indetermi- nate varieties throw out so many shoots, gardeners often prune them for optimum- sized fruit or train them on a very tall trellis. Continued on page 37