Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tomato Troubles Solved! Prize-winning Tomatoes

Everyone grows a couple of tomato plants each summer, right? Home-grown tomatoes hot off the vine are one of the joys of summer in metro-Atlanta. Crabapple LandscapExperts explain that tomato troubles can be caused by diseases, insects, and cultural problems/nutritional deficiencies.

Start Right! Best Practices
  • To avoid troubles and maximize tomato production, plant in a sunny spot (9 or 10 hours of sunlight) 
  • Choose a spot where tomatoes have not been grown before. 
  • Dig lots of compost and organic matter into the soil beforehand. 
  • Get several different varieties and plant them deep- up to their first true leaves, because adventitious roots will form along the buried stems. 
  • Water the roots thoroughly and mulch with a 2-3 inch layer of straw, wood chips or pine needles to maintain even moisture levels.

Fungus Diseases
  • Tomato blight- black spots on the lower leaves, yellowing and sunken gray spots on tomato fruits, or girdling of the stem causing plants to collapse at the soil line. 
    • Early Blight = Alternaria 
    • Late Blight = Phytophora
  • Gray Mold. Keep water off of the leaves, provide lots of sunshine and space for good air circulation to reduce Botrytis. Pick up diseases leaves from the ground and bag them.

Bacterial Diseases
  • Whole plants wilt quickly. If tomatoes keel over in the space of 24 hours, bacterial wilt is probably clogging up the vascular system. No cure; just pull them up and bag them, wash your hands, then plant fresh, new tomato plants in another location.

Tomato Hornworm
  • Chewing Insects chew holes in the leaves. Pick off Tomato Horn Worms or other caterpillars and destroy.
  • Sucking Insects like tiny aphids or thrips attach on the underside of the leaves. Wash off with soapy water (repeating if necessary).  

Blossom End Rot
Cultural Practices/Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Blossom-end Rot. Tomatoes turn dry and hard at the blossom end (the end away from the stem). Add calcium in the form of pulverized or pelletized lime and dig into the root zone around the plants.
  • Yellowing leaves. Add fertilizers high in nitrogen, like alfalfa meal, well-rotted manure or Epsom Salts. 
  • Yellow leaves with green veins.  Spray the plants with iron chelate to improve the iron content.
  • Splitting fruit. Uneven watering is the culprit here, or sometimes too much rainfall.
  • Sun scorch. Leaves are not shading the ripening tomato fruits. Allow more leaves to grow.

How do you like your tomato sandwiches? White bread or toasted? Mayo or Miracle Whip? 

Call your Crabapple LandscapExperts Rep if you have questions, or post your questions on our Facebook Page and we will get them answered!

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