There is simply no going past the delicious taste of home grown tomatoes. However, they can be subjected to disease and pests. Follow these simple guidelines for taking care of your tomatoes.
Begin with a Healthy Plant
Certain tomato varieties are able to withstand disease better than others. Depending on your location and which diseases or pests are more problematic, there will still be varieties which handle these problems better than others. Finding out which are best for your garden is a matter of trial and error as well as finding out through friends and neighbours what works best.
Ideally, choose a diverse selection of tomato varieties known to be disease resistant. Grafted tomato plants provide extra vigour and disease resistant roots. Early ripening varieties offer a crop before the worst disease and pests can become problematic.
Promote Vigorous Growth
Regardless of variety, a vigorous, well-watered and well-fed plant has a far better chance of resisting attacks from pathogens and pests than a poorly-maintained one. Healthy plants require healthy soil to thrive. Dark, deep and spongy soil, replete with organic matter ensures nutrients and water are easily accessible to your tomatoes and, regardless of the way in which you feed them, they require a continuous supply of water and nutrients to support rapid, ongoing growth.
Infrequent soaking promotes young roots to expand deeply into the soil where there is a plentiful supply of nutrients and moisture. Regular shallow watering promotes shallow root growth that is more susceptible to struggle in a dry spell. Ensure the water is applied directly the soil. Avoid sprinklers wet leaf surfaces promote disease. Mulching with a layer of fine bark or straw will help keep the water in the soil it is required.
Tip: Plant seedling tomatoes a few centimetres deeper in the soil than where they were in their pots to promote new feeder roots for nutrient uptake and extra anchorage.
Fresh Air is Imperative
Tomato bugs multiply and thrive in warm, damp humidity. Keeping the above ground parts of the plant well aerated and dry is essential. Provide plenty of space for air and keep them weed-free. Too much air, however, is detrimental as wind damage is a great place for disease to thrive.
You want to avoid planting tomatoes and their relatives (capsicum, eggplants, chillies, potatoes) in the same spot ever year. The longer a garden bed has a break from any one plant variety, the better. If it is too difficult to change the planting location, think about planting tomatoes in containers or changing the soil.
Be cautious as disease spores can be transferred between plants via fingers or tools. Also, do not prune tomatoes on a humid or wet day as moisture promotes disease entry. Furthermore, seed saved from an infected tomato crop may transfer the disease to your new crop. Ensure that your source is clean or purchase fresh seedlings from a respectable supplier.
When lower leaves begin to display signs of disease, remove them. Do this with sharp, clean tools. It is often necessary to take out the entire plant. Refrain from placing infected crops to your home compost heap, as they may not get hot enough to kill off all the insect eggs and disease spores.
Look After Nature
Each and every pest has natural predators. Carefully consider before spraying pesticides and attempt planting a variety of flowers and herbs to attract a variety of predatory insects.
Know Who You’re Going After
Regardless of the crop, awareness and early intervention are imperative to taking on bugs. Close observation can be an incredibly effective weapon so keep a look out for the first signs of infestation. This is especially so for when the weather gets warmer. It is easier to produce creative solution when you know how your pests thrive/how it breeds and lives.
Spraying the crop with protective fungicides including copper provide efficient control against fungus diseases. Apply them early in the season before a possible disease cycle can take ahold. If this hasn’t work, there are plenty of low-toxic (harmless to humans and even for some insects) that can save your crop from disease. Mesh crop fabric cover is great for keeping out unwanted pests.