Today's Common Gardening Questions -- Answered!
FAQs for Terrific Tomatoes
What is blight and how can I protect my tomatoes against it?
Late blight is a condition caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans. While late blight has received substantial media attention, in our area gardeners were more affected by various other leaf blights, such as early blight, septoria leaf spot, anthracnose and others. These are quite common during conditions of rain and humidity. Using a fungicide (such as copper, sulfur and daconil) BEFORE symptoms appear can be effective at controlling the degree of infestation. These fungicides provide a “protective barrier” against fungal infection. Fungicides may still be used after infection is present, -- they will protect the healthy tissues and new growth. If spots appear on the bottom leaves of your tomato plants, carefully remove and discard the affected leaves in the garbage – not in the compost pile! Once infected leaves have been removed, apply the fungicide to the remaining leaves and entire plant. Always follow product label directions carefully to ensure the best result. Even though some fungicides are considered organic or natural, such as sulfur and neem, always wash your tomatoes before eating.
Other cultural methods may help in reducing infection, too. Muchling your tomato plants with straw or hay, using supports to allow for air circulation, watering in the morning so plants dry quickly, rotating the planting location from year to year and selecting resistant cultivars, will help to reduce the risk of infection.
You can read more about the use of fungicides and tomato blight at the UW-Extension’s sight.
When is a good time to mulch my tomatoes?
Mulch after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Mulching helps conserve water and prevents the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants, but if you put it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil. Try using plastic mulch for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers.
When should I remove the bottom leaves of my tomatoe plant?
Once the tomato plants are about 3' tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 1' of stem. These are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. They get the least amount of sun and soil born pathogens can be unintentionally splashed up onto them. Spraying weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungus diseases.
Is there a good time to water my tomato plants?
Water deeply and regularly while the plants are developing. Irregular watering (missing a week and trying to make up for it) leads to blossom end rot and cracking. Once the fruit begins to ripen, lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.
How do I get more tomatoes out of my plants?
Pinch and remove side shoots that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes. Determinate varieties of tomatoes, however, don’t really need much pruning as they tend to be more compact. They reach a certain height and then stop growing. They don’t usually set their fruit until the branches are pretty much fully grown and then they set their fruit all at once. Since no new fruit will be developing after pruning, nothing is gained by pruning.
I just bought some trees and shrubs for my lawn, when is the best time to plant them?
New trees & shrubs? See The Bruce Company Planting Guide for recommended planting instructions. Don't forget to use MYKE® transplanter and get a 5 year gaurantee!
When do I move my seedlings outside?
As the weather warms and planting time approaches, start putting your seedlings outside during the day, and taking them back inside at night. Start off by placing them in a shady, protected spot for a few hours. Gradually place them in more sun each day. After one week, they should be ready to plant outside. Visit The Bruce Company Garden Center for supplies, fertilizers, soil testers and amendments and more. For information about planting & harvesting specific vegetables, check out The Bruce Company Vegetable Planting & Harvest Guide.
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