Tomatoes are one of the most popular garden plants. Tomatoes are fairly easy to grow and come in a variety of sizes and colors. Preparing your garden plot properly helps you grow healthy plants that produce plenty of fruit. Knowing the early signs of infection keeps you from wasting time treating plants for the wrong disease.
Growing Tomatoes from Starter Plants
Growing tomatoes from starter plants is the simplest way to start them in your garden. Using starter plants avoids disease like damping off, which kills seedlings. Choose plants that look healthy and have dark green leaves and stems. On the plants labels may be disease resistance codes, which indicate what diseases do not affect the plant. Go to tomato-tips.com for a list and explanation of these codes. Select an area in your yard that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day. Tomato plants should be spaced about 48 inches apart to reduce the spread of disease should a plant become infected.
Enhancing Tomato Growth
Mulch prevent diseases like blossom-end rot and keeps fungus spores from splashing up from the soil and infecting plants. It also helps the soil retain moisture and warmth. Good mulches for tomatoes include grass clippings, wood chips, black plastic and buckwheat hulls.
Common Fungal Diseases
Leaves at the bottom of tomato plants that turn yellow and start to fall off indicate early blight, a fungal disease that thrives in rainy weather and cool spring temperatures. Left untreated, early blight will work its way up the entire plant. Verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt are also common fungal infections that affect tomatoes. There are several sprays available to treat fungal infections; your local county extension office can advise you on the most effective treatment in you area.
Common Bacterial Diseases
The three most common bacterial infections of tomato plants are bacterial canker, bacterial speck and bacterial spot. All three cause serious damage and can destroy large amounts of plants quickly. Bacterial speck and spot have initial symptoms of small, dark-colored areas on the leaves. Because the symptoms are so similar, a diagnosis frequently isn't confirmed until the disease affects the fruit. Bacterial canker does not appear that often, but is very destructive.
Tomato Fruit Diseases
Blossom-end rot comes from a lack of calcium in the soil and inconsistent moisture levels in the soil. It will start as a small black dot at the bottom of a tomato that spreads and can destroy the entire fruit. Avoid this problem by keeping soil moisture consistent and fertilizing appropriately.
Another common problem with tomatoes is catfacing. Catfacing refers to the scarring and deforming of the fruit. Heirloom tomatoes are particularly susceptible to catfacing; there are several varieties that are resistant. This is also caused by inconsistent soil moisture. Fruit affected by catfacing is safe to eat if you cut away the affected areas.