Tag Archives: tomatoes

Tomato Tips: Preventing Fungal Diseases

For many tomatoes are the highlight of the summer garden. The refreshing sweet yet acidic flavor of a garden tomato is world’s away from the bland, mealy supermarket tomatoes of winter. Unfortunately for those living in areas with hot, humid summers getting a good tomato harvest can be a struggle. Many times tomatoes can become afflicted with fungal diseases like Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt, or Alternaria.

Alternaria also known as early blight causes “bullseye” leaf spots and can causes lesions on the fruit. Fusarium wilt causes the plant’s leaves to wilt and turn yellow and then brown. It usually begins on the plants lower leaves. Like Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt begins at the bottom of the plant causes yellow spots to form on the leaves before the leaves turn fully yellow or brown.

There are also many other tomato afflictions you could be experiencing in your garden these are just a few common ones. 

Don’t handle your tomatoes when they’re wet.

Fungal diseases are passed through moisture. Avoid working with your tomato plants until after all the dew or rain had dried off.

Use drip irrigation.

Using drip irrigation is more efficient and can help limit the spread of fungal diseases because the water is going directly to the plants’ roots. For those with small gardens, it’s also possible to spot water the base of the plant. If you must use overhead watering water in the early morning so that the plant will have time to dry off during the day.

Tomato trellis of string weaving at Twin Oaks Community Farm

Prune, trellis, and weed around your plants.  

We all start each spring with the best intentions but often the summer gets away from us. It can be easy to fail to keep up with these important tasks when our garden is competing for our attention with work and family obligations. However, maintaining good airflow around your plants is vital to preventing fungal diseases.

Tomatoes can be trellised in a variety of manners like the “Florida weave” pictured above, on cattle panels, or some sort of homemade tomato cage.

Rotate your crops.

Many fungal diseases that afflict tomatoes live in the soil. To keep your tomatoes disease free you must rotate your crops. Don’t plant tomatoes or other nightshades (including potatoes, peppers, and eggplants) in the same space multiple years in a row. You should use a minimum of a four-year rotation.

Keep your soil and plants healthy.

Along with rotating your crops, you should also work hard to improve your soil’s health which will help you grow healthier, less vulnerable plants. Get your soil tested and add amendments as needed. Practice no-till agriculture. Use cover crops and good quality compost to add fertility and organic matter to your soil. Mulch pathways and around plants to add organic matter and habitat for beneficial fungi and microbes.

West Virginia 63 (Centennial) Tomato – resistant to late blight, Fusarium wilt race 1, Verticillium wilt, and sunscald

Plant disease resistant varieties.

Some varieties have been specifically bred to better tolerate these diseases. Check out our disease resistant selection.

Try a fungicide.

If all else fail you can find organic fungicides. Look for those that are OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed. Keep in mind that organic doesn’t always mean completely harm-free. Many fungicides will kill off your soils’ good fungus as well as the bad. Some fungicides like copper can even cause toxicity in your soil if used too frequently or in high quantities! Some gardeners have luck with products like Mycostop which are created from bacteria that feeds on the fungus.

Having tomato diseases ruin your harvest can take a lot of the fun out of gardening. Try following these tips to keep your tomatoes disease free this year.

 

Top Tips for Terrific Tomatoes

Georgia Streak Tomato

For many gardeners, it’s hard to picture a world without tomatoes. These productive plants steal the show in many backyard gardens with their wide variety of shapes, colors, and flavors. While the Aztecs grew tomatoes since before 700 A.D. they were not known internationally until the 16th century. Even then, they were regarded with some suspicion as a colorful member of the nightshade family. It’s amazing how quickly they’ve become important worldwide. 

Try disease-resistant varieties.

If you struggle with blight and other diseases wiping out your tomatoes before you get a proper harvest you may want to consider planting a few disease-resistant varieties. 

Plant them deep.

Transplanting tomatoes properly is a little different from many other vegetables. Rather than bury them at the same depth as they were in the pot you can bury them deep enough to cover their bottom set of leaves. You’ve probably noticed how the bottom of a tomato stalk is covered in little bumps. Those bumps are nodes which send out roots when they’re covered in soil. Burying them deeply so they can quickly produce more roots will help your plants thrive. 

Tomato trellis of string weaving at Twin Oaks Community Farm

Set up a large, sturdy trellis. 

Store-bought tomato cages may be sufficient in far northern climates or for some determinant varieties but for the most part, especially in the southeastern United States, your tomatoes will quickly outgrow them. Many people opt for the “Florida weave” technique pictured above which requires stakes and twine. Another great option is cattle panels. 

Provide good compost. 

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and providing them with plenty of nutrition can help them do their best. Add a scoop of compost to the bottom of your transplant hole and watering them in with compost tea can help them do their best. Once they flower you can side dress them with more compost or water them again with compost tea. 

Use mulch. 

Using some sort of mulch around your tomatoes is highly recommended. It will help block weeds and ensure your tomatoes have good consistent moisture, needed to fruit. 

Try succession planting.

Often when people think of succession planting they think of crops with a single harvest like carrots and beets or a relatively short harvest like sweet corn. However, there’s no reason you can’t do it with tomatoes if you have a long enough season. At SESE we transplant some of our tomatoes as late as July so that we have a wide selection available for our August open house and the Heritage Harvest Festival in September. 

Transplanting Tomato Seedlings

You can also grow storage varieties so that you have fresh tomatoes in winter too!

Every plant comes with its own challenges and tomatoes are no different. These six tips can help ensure you get an awesome tomato harvest this year.

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3 Storage Tomatoes You Can Grow to Eat Fresh Tomatoes Next Winter

Eating local comes with a plethora of benefits. When you eat from your backyard or even local farms you get healthier, fresher ingredients. You also lower your environmental impact because eating food from close to home saves tons of energy that’s typically used to transport and refrigerate food from all across the globe.

But eating local can also be really tough. Most have us have become accustomed to having easy access to fresh produce whenever we want it. No matter how much we can, dry, and freeze during the summer months that fresh, grocery store produce starts to look really tasty each winter, even if we know those pale mealy tomatoes will never come close to our backyard slicers.

While there’s no real replacement for sinking your teeth into a freshly picked tomato, still warm with the summer sun you can still enjoy fresh homegrown tomatoes in the winter. Southern Exposure offers three tomato varieties that are good for fresh winter storage.

Garden Peach Tomato

Garden Peach Tomato

This indeterminate tomato is ready to harvest in just 73 days. If harvested green just before the frost the Garden Peach is an excellent storage tomato. It also has outstanding flavor, vigorous vines, and is split resistant.

Long Keeper Winter Storage Tomato

Long Keeper Winter Storage Tomato

Though it’s quality doesn’t quite match a fresh, summer garden tomato most find it to be superior to supermarket tomatoes. Plus it allows you to eat fresh, local food well into the winter. Some customers even report storing Long Keeper for 4-6 months! The Long Keeper is a semi-determinate tomato that’s ready to harvest in 78 days and ripens 6-12 weeks after harvest.

Reverend Morrows Long Keeper Winter Storage Tomato

Reverend Morrows Long Keeper Winter Storage Tomato

The Reverend Morrows Long Keeper is a determinate Louisiana heirloom. It’s 83 days to harvest and has good storage qualities.

If you intend to use any of these varieties for winter storage it’s best to plant them in late spring or midsummer depending on how long your season is. You should plan to be harvesting them just before your first frost if you want them to keep into winter as long as possible.

Once harvested these tomatoes should be stored at room temperature with air space in between each tomato. They won’t last as long if they’re touching. Only unblemished tomatoes should be stored. You should also go through the tomatoes weekly to check for ripe ones that can be used and remove any that are rotting.

Adding one of these awesome varieties can help you add more local food to your diet on a year round basis. They’re well worth a little extra effort!

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