The Perfect Tomato

Below is the dreaded Red Spider Mite. The Scourge of all gardeners who want to grow a decent tomato. There are two explanations of its rise.
First, it’s not indigenous to Southern Africa, which means no natural predators. Second, it has always been here, and its natural predators were wiped out by the overuse of pesticides. For years I’ve watched helplessly as unseen thousands colonized my tomato plants, turing them into disfigured, wrinkled and barren bits of foliage. After much time at local nurseries and hours spent following directions of this or that, Google turned out to be my friend.

One suggestion I found was to plant later in the year, outside the Mite’s main growth season. Usually, here in Southern Africa, we plant somewhere in November, and expect a crop in late January. Inexorably, however, the Mite won out. The Google link brought me back to the last, and only time I had decent tomato plants -- one year when I was preoccupied, and only got them into the ground in late March. It was a mild winter so those plants were still producing that November when I pulled them out of the ground to make way for the new recruits. So this year, at the end of February, I ripped out this season’s already withered plants, waited a couple of weeks, and got the last batch of seedlings. They are now tall, green and full of fruits. It’s not the same as plucking a fresh vine tomato on a hot hot day and taking a bite and thinking of a bowl of gazpacho, but probably for making sauce and soups they’ll do just fine.