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Root Awakening: Chilli plant may be infested with spider mites

I have been growing my tomato plant since June 2021. It now has brown spots around a few branches of the lower leaves. The first few sets of the older leaves are starting to turn yellow. What is happening to my plant? It has grown to more than 1.5m tall and is developing flowers.

Tan Chew Hwa

The brown spots may be signs of fungal disease. If you are growing this plant in an apartment or high-rise setting, ensure that it gets four to six hours of direct sunlight a day. Prune your plant and spread its branches to ensure the canopy has ample air circulation, which will reduce the likelihood of disease.

You can spray organic fungicides such as copper soap or lime sulphur as a preventive method. Always observe the withholding period between spraying and harvesting the fruit, and wash produce thoroughly before cooking or consumption.

The lower leaves could be yellowing due to a lack of water or nutrients such as nitrogen. When plants grow, they take up a lot of water. It is best to grow your tomato plant in a large pot with enough soil to hold water.

Water more frequently during the hot and windy season. Also, feed your plant regularly as rapid growth means it will have increased nutrient needs.

The yellowing of older leaves is expected of larger plants and is not a cause for concern. Make sure the plant gets enough light as the lack of it can cause leaves to die too.

However, if many leaves take on a lighter green or yellow hue, you may need to feed your plant with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser – for example, processed chicken manure or other organic fertilisers. Plant food that is rich in nitrogen promotes the production of lush leaves over flowers.

  • Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, an NParks-certified practising horticulturist, parks manager and ISA-certified arborist. He is the founder of Green Culture Singapore and an adjunct assistant professor (Food Science & Technology) at the National University of Singapore.
  • Have a gardening query? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to stlife@sph.com.sg. We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.
  • Join Dr Wong at two online talks: Edible Rooftop Gardening (Feb 26, 2 to 2.45pm, free admission, register at this website) and Gardening Q&A (Feb 26, 3 to 3.45pm, free admission, register at this website.)

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