When it comes to growing disease free tomato plants, a little bit of planning can go a long way!
There is nothing more depressing than watching healthy, strong tomato plants turn into lifeless brown stems and foliage, with withering fruit. Whether its blight, blossom rot, mold, or infestation from pests – tomatoes are one of the most susceptible plants in the garden.
But no need to worry anymore! Armed with a few key tips and practices, you can grow healthy, disease free tomato plants every year.
5 Big Tips To Growing Healthy, Disease Free Tomato Plants
Grow In Soil With No Past History Of Disease
First and foremost, if your tomatoes have struggled previously from blight – you need to move to new soil! Blight is a soil-borne condition that can take 5,10 or 15 years and more to leave. That means every time you plant tomatoes in the same soil, blight is going to come back.
Find a new, unused area to grow your tomatoes at least 10 feet from the previous spot. Then, begin to rotate every year for at least four years to new soil to avoid future contamination. Crop rotation is one of the single biggest things you can do to promote overall vegetable health in your entire garden. See : Avoiding The 5 Biggest Garden Mistakes
If you grow in containers, this means using new soil each and every year. Put soil that showed no signs of blight on your tomatoes back in your compost pile to recharge at the end of each year. Then, use a new mix each season. If your tomatoes did show signs of the blight – discard the soil.
Give Plants A Boost When Planting
Tomatoes need lots of nutrients to grow strong and healthy. Two of the biggest they crave are calcium and nitrogen. When planting, add in a few crushed egg shells and a teaspoon or two of spent coffee grounds to each planting hole. The calcium from the egg shells can help prevent blossom rot, and the coffee grounds provide a boost of nitrogen.
If you really want to supercharge your planting holes – add in a handful of worm castings. Worm castings are our secret ingredient for all of our vegetable plantings. Worm castings are the perfect natural slow release fertilizer. See: Worm Castings
You can also add those same three ingredients around the base of each plant. Not only do they leach in nutrients to the tomato plants, the egg shells and coffee grounds can help kill slugs rolling across their sharp edges.
Mulch Your Plants
Once planted – mulch plants with straw, grass clippings, or shredded leaves. Extend mulch to line up beyond the edge of the leaf canopy of the tomato plant. Why? Because soil borne diseases can splash up on the lower leaves when it rains. By mulching, you keep splashing action to an absolute minimum. You also help to preserve the moisture level of roots, and keeping plants from drying out or needing watered constantly.
Remove Diseased Branches Quickly and Prune Those Plants!
It is critical to remove any and all signs of disease from your plants as they happen. Stroll through your garden daily and keep an eye out for browning leaves or damaged limbs. When a plant has a diseased or damaged stem, it starts using all of its energy to fix that problem, and not grow tomatoes. Remove and discard the diseased branches. Do not throw them in the compost pile, this keeps away any chance of contamination.
As plants grow, prune away the bottom stems and leaves to a minimum of 6″ above the soil line. This lets light strike the plants to allow for maximum photosynthesis. It also provides excellent circulation. Both are huge aids in keeping disease at bay, and developing strong, healthy plants.
Keeping branches off the ground also keeps pests from having easy access to your plants.
The easiest way to stress plants and invite disease or pests is to not provide water. Stressed plants are weak plants – and an easy target.
Be sure to give established plants a good 1/2″ gallon of water every few days if rainfall is not supplying those needs. Water slow so that the roots are soaked in. If you live in an extremely hot location, you may require even more frequent watering. A good rule of thumb is if plants are curling up on the end, its time to water.
If you are looking for more great gardening tips – be sure to check out our new Raised Row Gardening Book. You can order now and be one of the first to get a copy for it’s February 20th release date. It is FILLED with all of our top tips on how to grow an incredibly simple and productive Raised Row Vegetable Garden.
Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary
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