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Tomato Problems We Can Prevent

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Tomatoes are by far the most popular vegetable planted my gardeners. Tomato fruits come in a variety of sizes and colors these days to fit our varied taste buds and uses. They can be well developed hybrids or heritage types. As we continue to plant tomatoes in the garden and on the patio and balconies in containers, there are a couple of conditions that tomatoes get. I call them conditions because they can be temporary or permanent, but not really detrimental to yield in a big way.

The first one is blossom end rot that normally happens first thing in the spring with the first fruit set. This is a condition of a lack of calcium usually. Calcium is used in the formation of tomato skin cells and when lacking, those cells do not form correctly near the blossom end and at first appear grey and sunken. Later those areas turn a darker color and a rot can form and move into the fruit itself. Blossom End Rot typically goes away after the root system develops more and the successive fruit sets are fine. If this continues to happen, then the addition of finely ground limestone dust side-dressed around the base of the tomato plants will provide the calcium needed to fix the problem. Be watchful for this in containers as the root system is limited in size and can only obtain whatever nutrition is available the soil media the tomato was planted in. During fruit development, water is also critical and container grown plants can dry out quickly and that will also influence how much blossom end rot occurs. Tomatoes grown in the garden will not have those same water issues.


The second condition which happens as the season warms up and more obvious on caged and staked tomatoes later in the growing season is called Physiological Leaf Roll. The tomato leaves roll or curl up in an effort to lessen moisture loss through the leaves, especially on the lower portion of the plant. There is nothing to do with this situation as it is a natural reaction of the plant. Tomatoes grown "on the ground" do not seem to have this condition very often.

There are foliage and vascular diseases that can impact yield that we can also do something about. The vascular diseases are Fusarium and Verticillium Wilt. In hybrid tomato plants resistance is built in for us by the plant breeders. In our heritage varieties, we can now purchase "grafted" tomato plants. By themselves, Heritage varieties are susceptible. By grafting a seedling rootstock having resistance, that resistance prevents the susceptible varieties from contracting the disease easily. Resistance can limit the infection and or delays the eventual death of the plant, allowing us to harvest tomatoes. Foliar diseases will lessen the plants ability to supply the needed energy to produce the tomatoes we expect. For the hybrids, breeders have also provided us with resistance. We will have to treat the heritage types. This foliar disease starts at the base and interior of the plant, so check them out early and often and start to treat at the very earliest signs.

Proper watering will lessen tomato foliar diseases as will mulching. Avoid splashing soil onto foliage while watering and water so the leaves are dry by early afternoon. The mulch lessens the splashing of soil during rain events.

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