Tips for Terrific Tomatoes, by Cathy Hanson, Sargent’s on 2nd
- Buy or grow disease resistant varieties. Look for varieties labeled with VFN on the tags. Vstands for Verticillium Wilt, a fungal disease that causes wilting and leads to poor quality fruit, if the plant survives. Another fungal disease is Fusarium Wilt, F, producing similar results. Root-knot nematode resistance is signified by N. Root-knot nematodes are microscopic roundworms that attack the roots and decrease nutrient and water uptake.
- Plant your tomatoes deep. When planting tomatoes, if they are tall or spindly, carefully break the lower branches off and set your tomato in your planting hole up to the branches that are left. All of the tomato stem that is buried will become part of the root system, creating a strong, sturdy plant.
- Mulch tomatoes- Using grass clippings, straw, marsh hay or other mulch helps retain moisture, and keeps weeds from growing that will compete with your tomatoes.
- Water at the root zone. Tomatoes should be watered only at the root zone; watering the leaves and the entire plants can cause spreading of any fungus spores that may be present.
- Water deeply. When watering your tomatoes, if possible water in the morning and soak the ground thoroughly. Your plants should get at least an inch of water each week, allowing plants to dry out between waterings.
- Cage, trellis or stake tomato plants. Growing tomatoes vertically and off the ground will ensure less rotting, disease, and pest problems. It will also provide better sunlight, air circulation and ease of picking.
- Use a calcium enriched fertilizer. The tomato disease Blossom End Rot occurs when your tomato plants cannot take up enough calcium from the soil. Fruits get a soft, black area on the bottom. Using a fertilizer that contains calcium when transplanting seedlings and also later in the season will give them the nutrients they will need.
- Rotate tomatoes in your garden. If you are planting tomatoes every year in your garden, it is best to rotate the location of where you place your plants. If plants have had pests or diseases the previous year, this will ensure soil that is free of these problems.