When it comes to growing tomatoes, a great harvest all begins with keeping your tomato plants healthy all season long.
Nothing can be more depressing than to watch your tomato plants wither away from blight and disease.
And, plants that are weakened from disease then become an easy target for pests. It can be a downward spiral that leads to total garden and gardener frustration!
However, there is no need to despair! There are some very simple tried and true methods that can keep your tomato plants healthy all year long.
5 Simple Tips To Keep Tomato Plants Healthy
#1 Rotate Where You Plant Your Tomatoes
Growing tomatoes in the same garden space year after year is inviting disaster. Tomatoes are one of the most susceptible vegetable plants when it comes to soil-borne disease. By planting over and over again in the same location, soil easily becomes infected with tomato blight spores and more.
By rotating where you plant every year, you instantly minimize the potential for blight and disease. Try to never grow tomatoes in the same space for a minimum of 3 years, 4 is even better.
#2 Start Them Off With A Calcium Boost
Black rot and blossom rot are two of the most common tomato issues gardeners face. They are caused by a lack of calcium in the soil.
Rotating crops will help this problem some, because it gives the plants new soil new fertile soil each year. However, you can go one step more by adding in a few crushed egg shells at planting time.
The eggs shells provide much-needed calcium to the tomatoes as they break down. This is a huge help in eliminating black rot and blossom rot. Just crush two or three egg shells up in your hands, and mix into your planting hole around the roots.
We even add in two teaspoons of coffee grounds at planting time for a boost of nitrogen. Coffee and eggs – just like us, tomatoes benefit greatly from a little breakfast!
#3 Mulch Your Plants
Mulching your plants does a whole lot more than just prevent weeds, it also prevents disease! Many of the soil-borne diseases that can affect tomatoes are splashed up on the leaves directly from the soil. Every time it rains or you water, those spores can find a home on the bottom leaves.
By mulching, you can reduce or even eliminate that problem entirely. We use a combination of compost and straw as our mulch, making sure to not leave any soil bare for at least 18″ around each plant.
#4 Prune Your Plants As They Grow
As your plants grow, keep the bottom of each plant trimmed up to at least 6″ above the soil line. This allows light and circulation into the plants – a key in keeping mold and fungal disease at bay. It also makes it harder for many insects to find a ride up onto the plants.
Be sure as well to prune off any foliage that shows signs of blight or disease. By walking through the garden each day and trimming back, you can keep disease from spreading quickly to other parts of the plant or adjacent plants.
#5 Clear The Plants When The Season Ends
As a final tip, be sure to clear out your tomato plants (and all vegetable plants) at the end of each growing season. Allowing old plants to over-winter is inviting disease and insect problems to take hold in the garden soil.
Pull up your plants, roots and all, as soon as they are done producing. We do not compost our tomato plants. There is simply too much chance to pass on disease. We actually burn ours in the fire pit to kill off any spores, bacteria or insects, and then add the ashes to the pile. This process also eliminates hundreds of volunteer tomato seeds from coming up in our compost the next year.
Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary. If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. This article may contain affiliate links.