If you plant your tomatoes in the same spot year after year, there is an increased chance of pests and diseases. By moving your vegetables around, called crop rotation, the pests or diseases don’t have the same host plant in order to develop. Rotating your vegetables every year can significantly reduce these problems. When planting be sure to place them in a different location where a different vegetable family was, such as broccoli or chard. The purpose for crop rotation is not only to avoid pests and diseases, but also for soil health and nutrients that differ from plant to plant.
Crop Rotation Families:
- Allium: Garlic, leeks, onions, shallots
- Brassicas: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard greens, radish, turnip greens
- Cucurbits: Cantaloupe, cucumber, pumpkin, squash, watermelon, zucchini
- Legumes: Green beans, peas, peanuts, soybean
- Nightshades: Eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes
- Umbellifers: Carrots, dill, fennel, parsley, parsnips
What Kind of Tomato Do I Have?
Determinate vs. Indeterminate
Determinates are bush varieties and usually reach 3-4 feet tall. Use a tomato cage for support or plant in pots, depending on its mature size. These tomatoes tend to be good for canning and making sauces.
Indeterminate tomatoes will grow until frost and can get quite large where it will need tall stakes for support. This type of tomato can be prone to disease if left to grow along the ground. These varieties are great for salads and sandwiches.
Tomatoes love heat and sunshine, so a place in full sun will provide for best results and will help keep diseases at bay. A little bit of shade will be okay.
Tomatoes, unlike other plants and vegetables need to be planted slightly deeper than its pot, even up to the first set of leaves. This helps to keep them sturdy and thriving. When planting your tomatoes, add Espoma Tomato-tone to the planting hole. Please follow package directions with any chemical.
Watering…consistent moisture is critical while your tomato plants are developing and again once they start to fruit. If you allow the soil to dry and then soak it with water over and over again, it might cause the tomatoes to crack open. This also causes the plant to stress and will then remove the calcium from the tomato fruit and send it to the shoots. Always water at soil level to avoid splashing water on the leaves which can invite diseases. The best time to water is in the morning to allow ample time for the water to dry off the leaves in the event of accidental splashing. Mulching five to six weeks after planting can help to retain moisture in the soil and keep from evaporating. An application of two to four inches will work just fine.
Fertilizer such as Espoma Bonemeal or Tomato-tone can be added to the soil at planting time. When the tomatoes are about one inch big, add a liquid seaweed or fish emulsion. If you use Espoma Tomato-tone, pull the mulch aside and scratch the fertilizer along the drip line of the plant. The drip line is the perimeter on the ground around the plant where the farthest branches hang. Water in the granular fertilizer and replace the mulch.
To Pinch or Not to Pinch?
All tomatoes grow suckers between the stalk and its side branches, You do NOT want to pinch determinate varieties or you’ll only get a few clusters of tomatoes. However, you DO pinch indeterminate tomatoes. The best time to pinch is early morning when it is swelled from water retention. Pinching the lower suckers also helps prevent fungal problems – allowing air circulation to other levels of branches.
By now you know that tomatoes are susceptible to pests and diseases. Monitoring your vegetables is the best way to keep ahead of any issues that could occur. Rotating crops every year and mixing organic matter with the soil, ensuring that it is well-draining will help. We have very heavy, clay soil in our area that is dense and compact. By adding compost (soil amendment), this helps water to penetrate through, reach essential roots, and drain away any excess water. If any plants show signs of infection, destroy it and do not place in the compost. Small pests such as aphids or spider mites can be sprayed with an insecticidal soap. Larger insects such as tomato hornworms should be picked off immediately (with gloves) and disposed of in a bucket of soapy water.
Things to Keep an Eye Out for:
- Yellow curling leaves and white sticky residue (honeydew) – caused by aphids
- Holes in leaves – caused by flea beetles
- Defoliation – caused by tomato hornworms
- Sticky white residue – caused by whiteflies
- Tunnels or zigzag patterns on leaves – caused by leafminers
- Holes in fruit – caused by tomato fruitworms, stink bugs, and slugs
Diseases to Watch for:
- Blossom-End Rot – The bottom sides of the tomato develop dark, sunken spots that are caused by a calcium imbalance. Inconsistent watering is the main cause of calcium deficiency. Avoid over or under watering and try best to water evenly. If fertilizing, use one formulated with more calcium.
- Early Blight – Dark brownish-block spots on the lower leaves and stems, causing them to fall off. If caught early enough, you can destroy the infected leaves and it has a chance of survival.
- Late Blight – Gray, moldy spots on the leaves and fruit that will later turn brown. Late blight is spread and supported by persistent damp weather.
- Powdery Mildew – White, dusty spots on the leaves. This can be managed.
- Cracking – When the tomato grows too rapidly, the skin cracks due to uneven weather conditions.
Leave the tomatoes on the vine as long as you can. Pick them when they are firm and bright in color, regardless of the size. If you place tomatoes on a sunny windowsill, as I know many people do…use them up before they rot. Do not refrigerate fresh grown tomatoes as this spoils the flavor and texture, To freeze tomatoes, core and place them whole in freezer bags or containers with labels. The skin with slip off after it thaws.
Hopefully, you’ve been very successful with your vegetables and use them in a variety of ways. For next year, add a few new varieties and remember to rotate your crops!