There's nothing like a juicy tomato fresh from the garden. Whether it is salsa, soup or a humble sandwich addition, tomatoes seem to be everywhere. Growing these staples may appear easy, but getting the proper nutrients, such as copper, can take a little bit of thought and preparation. Under ideal circumstances, many tomato varietals will grow so rampantly that you'll have some left over for the neighbors.
Tomato Growth Requirements
Tomatoes grow best in a sunny area with well-drained soil. The pH should ideally between 6.0 and 6.7. They prefer warm weather between 70 and 80 degrees F, and moist, but not soggy, water levels. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and need continual application of fertilizer. Using a starter solution for transplants and a side-dressing two weeks before the first tomato ripens will be beneficial to the plant. Side-dress two weeks after the first ripe tomato. A fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 will work well. Repeat this process one month later.
There are 17 nutrients that are required for plant growth. Copper is one of these nutrients. Pulled from the soil through the roots, copper is a considered a micronutrient. Micronutrients, though equally important, are so named because of the amount required for adequate plant growth. Primary and secondary nutrients, such as nitrogen and calcium, respectively, are measured as parts per 100, while the micronutrients, are measured in parts per million. Copper aids in enzymatic reactions that are important to carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It plays a role in chlorophyll and vitamin A synthesis.
Excess copper can be highly toxic. Reduced growth and necrosis of the plant occurs when copper is supplied in high amounts. Generally, soils do not require the addition of copper unless a specific need has been established; therefore, it is wise to determine first whether there is a deficiency that needs to be addressed.
Copper deficiency in the tomato can be seen clearly on the leaf of the plant. Leaves curl and bend downward. Young leaves show a loss of turgor as well as chlorosis. Young, but fully mature leaves, display netted, green veining. Some areas look bleached. Necrotic spots soon develop.
Copper is often used as a fungicide to control a variety of plant diseases. In tomatoes, blight is a common disease where a copper spray may be indicated. Copper sulfate, or fixed copper, is mixed with hydrated lime to form copper hydroxide. Fungicides are generally in the form of a spray.
- Plant Physiology: Symptoms of Deficiency in Essential Minerals
- New Mexico State University: Tomato Plant Diseases, Planning for Next Summer
- "California Master Gardener Handbook"; University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources; Dennis R. Pittenger, editor; 2004
- North Carolina State University: A Gardener's Guide To Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs
- University of California: Vegetable Garden, Selected Vegetable Crops, Tomatoes