Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > June 2013 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--What in the World is Wrong With My Tomato?

BONNIE'S GARDEN--What in the World is Wrong With My Tomato?

      It was a chilly damp spring but summer is here and my veggies are finally growing well. I come home from work and walk around my little garden, admiring the new leaves opening and the new little fruits on the tomatoes and peppers. However, as I’m admiring my plants, I’m also keeping an eye out for trouble. I’m looking for brown spots on the leaves, deformed leaves, wilted new shoots, yellowing—anything that doesn’t look completely normal. 
 
Unfortunately, our commonly grown garden vegetables are prone to certain diseases. Tomatoes can get Early Blight, Late Blight, Southern Blight, Gray Leaf Spot, Septoria Leaf Spot, Verticillium Wilt, Anthracnose, Fusarium Wilt, etc, etc, etc. Cucumber family members (cukes, squash, melons, pumpkins) can get Wilt, Powdery Mildew, Downy Mildew, Alternaria Leaf Spot, Mosaic, etc, etc. etc. Get the picture? Our best defense is knowledge and good cultural practices.
 
Since most of the common diseases that affect our vegetable gardens are not treatable, it’s best to garden defensively. 
 
            1: There is a valid reason for crop rotation. So many diseases can linger in the soil for up to three years so tomato family members (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants) should not be grown in the same spot more than three years in a row. Same for cucumber family members. Rotate plants sooner if diseases appear.
 
            2: Keep your garden free of weeds and debris—summer and winter. Weeds and dead leaves can host diseases that then attack our vegetable plants. They also force the veggies to compete for water and nutrients—which stresses the plant. And they can provide cover for insects to hide and lay eggs.
 
            3: Allow for adequate air circulation around your plants. When you have a limited amount of space, it’s tempting to try to squeeze in as many plants as possible. But with our famous Virginia humidity, we are just asking for fungal diseases to strike. Planting too close together also allows insects and diseases to transmit more easily from plant to plant.
 
            4: Try to avoid wetting the foliage when watering your garden. With our humidity already setting us up for fungal problems, why aggravate the situation by getting water all over our plants? A soaker hose not only puts the water right where you need it, but less evaporates so, ultimately, it’s better for your water bill, too.
 
Despite our best efforts, sometimes our plants still get sick. So what can we do? If we are fairly certain it’s a fungal disease then garden sulfur may help. Fungus is common early in the season, particularly when we’ve had a cool, damp start to the season (like this year). It’s also common in later summer when humidity has been off the scale. 
 
For most other diseases, however, the only thing we can do is to remove the infected plant as soon as possible and dispose of it. DO NOT compost it. Put it in a plastic bag, tie it up and toss it before it has a chance to spread. And don’t plant another member of that same vegetable family there again for several years.
 
Next week, what’s “bugging”you…
Posted: 6/17/2013 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: BonniePega, Bonnie'sGarden
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