St. Paul, Minn. (May 20, 1997)—Dreaming of a BLT made with vine-ripened tomatoes from your garden? Or how about colorful cherry tomatoes garnishing your summer salads? America's plant doctors, members of the American Phytopathological Society (APS), offer guidance for growing terrific tomatoes.
"Buy healthy tomato transplants to avoid disease and plant them in a sunny garden site. Water your plants as required by local soil conditions. Practice crop rotation by flip-flopping the garden site each year. These important practices can ensure a healthy and bountiful crop," Thomas Zitter, plant doctor and research scientist at Cornell University and an APS member, said.
Tomatoes can be infected by a number of different blights (early, late, and Septoria leaf blight) that limit the quality and abundance of fruits or sometimes totally destroy the plant. To banish blights, follow these tips from the plant doctors at APS:
- Inspect transplants and purchase healthy plants. Select wilt and nematode resistant varieties. Look for the capital letters V, F, and N following the cultivar name.
- Choose a range of varieties that mature at different times. The earlier the tomato matures, the more susceptible it is to early blight.
- Practice crop rotation by planting tomatoes and related vegetables in a different spot in the garden every year. Do not plant tomatoes and potatoes next to each other since they both are susceptible to early and late blight.
- Allow adequate spacing between plants. Remember, they grow pretty big late in the summer.
- Water only at the base of the plant and early in the day. Long periods of moisture on foliage encourage blight.
- Stake plants and remove suckers to increase air movement through the plant and to reduce moisture on the foliage. Staking also improves fruit quality and helps prevent soil rots.
- Mulch to keep plants evenly moist and to reduce watering, weeding and cultivation and to reduce blossom end rot.
- Monitor the leaves, especially lower ones, for the first symptoms of tomato blight. Remove infected leaves and begin application of a labeled fungicide.
- Remove all plant debris from the garden in the fall. Many tomato blight organisms overwinter on dried plant tissues.
The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a professional scientific organization of 5,000 members dedicated to the study of plant diseases and their control. For more information, visit APSnet.