Rain, humidity plague tomato gardeners

Rain, humidity plague tomato gardeners

I’ve read somewhere that tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown by home gardeners in America. I don’t know if that’s really true, but I do think of it as one of the most popular vegetables in East Texas.

I’ve been asked recently about some problems with our local garden tomatoes. Recent rains and our typical humidity are starting to cause problems on tomatoes for area gardeners.

Three different types of issues have been brought to my attention so far this season. Fungal disease, physiological problems, and herbicide injury.

We see a world of fungal problems on years like this one where we get so much extra rain. Early blight is the fungal problem that I’ve seen the most. Early blight, like its name suggests starts it’s appearance on the older leaves at the bottom of the plant nearest the ground. As the disease progresses, the lesions expand, becoming darker in color with concentric black rings giving a bulls-eye appearance. Left unchecked, this can spread to the cover the fruit and stems to the entire plant.

Blossom end rot is the common physiological problem that we see most years. Often mistaken for a disease, blossom end rot starts just like the name suggests, a rotting of the tomato fruit at the end where the bloom has fallen off. Not a disease at all, this condition is caused by two conditions working in tandem: low calcium and frequent swings in soil moisture.

If blossom end rot is found on your tomatoes, I’ve had good luck stopping the progression by spraying the plants with “Tomato Rot Stop”. This product is readily available at most garden centers and feed stores. It’s really nothing more than calcium fertilizer that you can spray on the plant.

To prevent blossom end rot, you can prevent both of the triggering conditions. First mulch your tomato plants to keep them from drying out. Secondly, be sure to add lime or some other type of calcium containing soil amendment to the soil.

My friends Tommy and Lynn gave me some crushed eggshells that I put in each hole that I planted tomatoes this year. Egg shells have a tremendous amount of calcium in them and serves as a slow-release calcium fertilizer. To date, I haven’t seen any indication of blossom end rot in my tomato patch.

Last week a gardener from Zavalla called to ask why her tomatoes had a curling, cupped leaves near the top. Commonly, this is from using a broad-leafed herbicide in your garden. The worst case of this that I’ve heard of happened years ago. A couple new to gardening was sold a “weed and feed” product that was supposed to both fertilize their garden and reduce weeds. Don’t ever do this to your garden or you will have a disaster. Weed and feeds are made for your lawn and should only be used in a lawn.

Using this product in a vegetable garden would leave only the grassy weeds that typically creep in and would then kill every kind of vegetable you have except maybe corn. You see, everyone of your vegetables is a broadleaf plant.

There is a disease called curly top virus that could also be the culprit of curly leaves at the top of the plant. It affects a number of vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, potatoes, peppers, all the cucurbits as as well as spinach and beets.

Curly top and other viruses can only be controlled by stopping the insects that spread the disease. It’s a tiny leafhopper insect that spreads the disease in most gardens.

If growing tomatoes is indeed your favorite vegetable to grow, it may hurt you to hear this but one of the simplest and most effective methods to control diseased plants is to simply remove them entirely from the garden to keep the rest of your tomato patch healthy.

I’ve got 4 of my original 6-pack of Celebrity tomatoes still doing well and 5 of the original 6 pact of my Sweet 100 tomatoes are very healthy. I hope you are doing as well as well

Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu