Shelby County continues to experience a surge in new gardeners because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Advice on growing fruits and vegetables has become a priority for many apprentice gardeners. Growing tomatoes, one of the most popular fruits in the home garden, is often the incentive. Let us review two of the most common tomato plant diseases and discuss ways to manage them.
Early blight is a major foliar disease of tomatoes. Spots first appear on the lower leaves as small brownish lesions. Those leaves then start to yellow and dry up This blight can totally defoliate the plant leading to low-quality fruit. Early blight spreads by wind and splashing rain and it favors warm, rainy weather. This fungus has the ability to overwinter in crop debris.
Crop rotation, practicing good sanitation such as removing plant debris, and choosing resistant varieties are good cultural practices to control early blight. The irrigation method utilized on the tomato plant is also important. Watering at the base of the plant is preferred. Drenching the leaves and flowers of the plant encourages disease. Fungicides can be used depending on the frequency of rainfall. They will help to slow the spread of the fungus. Fungicides containing copper or chlorothalonil perform the best. Please read and follow the directions on the label.
Blossom end rot (BER) is a physiological issue that affects tomato production. BER is related to inadequate calcium levels in the developing fruit. You will see the decay at the flower end of the fruit. Maintaining a proper soil pH can reduce the risk of BER. Lime (calcium carbonate) supplies calcium to the soil, which increases pH, thus enabling the plants to take up the calcium, which is vital for fruit development. It also helps to provide uniform soil moisture to the plants by using proper irrigation and mulch around the plant. Calcium must be dissolved in soil water to be taken up by the plants.
These are two of the most frequently asked questions about tomatoes that I have addressed recently. If you have any questions about other tomatoes, please give me a call at 901-752-1207. I am more than happy to help!
Enjoy your garden and plant tomatoes. There is nothing like a delicious, ripe, and juicy tomato from your own garden! Be safe out there!