Tomatoes are one of the most common crops grown in the home garden. They are an easy crop to grow, but can have their challenges at times. Knowing the signs to look for before a problem occurs will save you a lot of time that would normally of be wasted, along with the crop.
Growing tomatoes for the home gardener is a true joy, and a very rewarding one when things go well. But unfortunately, tomatoes can suffer for many reasons, like diseases, pests, and even climate conditions. For the most part, these problems are something that is out of a gardeners control.
Variety choice is one of the problems that a gardener does have control over, and is one of the major reasons a crop could fail. Choose a variety that is suited for your area, climate, soil conditions, and their susceptibility to soil borne diseases.
Tomato plants have specific requirements, and need to be planted under the right conditions to provide you with a thriving crop, location being one of these conditions. Exposure to full sunlight is very important with tomato plants. Anything less than full sun can result in a spindly plant and few fruit. Rotating the location of your crop on a 3 year schedule to return to the same location is also beneficial. It will minimize the risk of insect and soil borne disease problems.
Timing is another concern, never plant to early in the season. Wait until all the danger of frost has past and the soil temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool temperatures will slow a tomato plant’s growth.
The spacing of tomato plants is very important. They need room for both air circulation and for sun exposure. Planted too close together will increase the risk of disease problems, and can also reduce yields, 3 – 4 foot spacing is preferred.
Soil structure is the key to any productive crop, including tomatoes. A good healthy organic soil structure will provide your crop with readily available nutrients and moisture when they need it the most. The soil structure that is preferred by tomatoes is a well-drained fertile loam, with plenty of organic matter, and a pH range of 5.8 – 7.0
Testing your garden soil for adequate calcium, phosphorous, and nitrogen should be standard practice. Calcium helps to prevent blossom end rot, and phosphorous ensures healthy plant growth, along with flower and fruit development. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient that is need for tomato plants to thrive, but too much can cause an abundant leaf growth and a low productivity of fruit. Annual additions of compost as a soil amendment, and as a mulch will greatly benefit the soil structure of your garden by helping to maintain good aeration, drainage, defending against disease, and chemical imbalances.