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Beating Spider Mites – Tammy wrote into Ask Gardenerd this week: "How do I get rid of spider mites?? They are driving me CRAZY!!! Taking over my eggplants now, and oftentimes my tomatoes...HELP!!!" Spider mites are tough. Luckily there are several ways to eliminate or drastically reduce the problem. 1) Feed your tomatoes with worm castings - they contain chitinase, an enzyme that dissolves the exo-skeletons of soft-bodied insects. Plants take up chitinase into their leaves, the spider mites ingest the chitinase when they eat the leaves (or suck on the leaves, that is), then they wonder why they're falling apart. That's the non-scientific explanation of how chitinase works. 2) Apply compost tea - good quality compost tea and a sprayer are your best friends here. Mites are part of the Soil Food Web and there are natural predators that exist within that Soil Food Web. We like the Solo Backpack Sprayer for the job. It allows you to spray microbe-rich tea on the leaf surfaces - tops and bottoms - to coat the leaves with predator microbes that consume spider mites. 3) Get mite predators - Phytoseiulus persimilis
is a predatory mite that eats spider mites but not your food crops. You can import them into your garden to handle the problem for you. Use this in combination with feeding and compost tea for the most effective result. Air circulation is key. Clear away overgrown vines and jet blast any shrubs that serve as housing for these mites. Open up your garden to good air circulation and you'll also reduce instances of powdery mildew and other fungal infestation.