Tomatoes are one of the most common crops grown in the home garden. They are an easy crop to grow, but sometimes they can have their challenges. Knowing the signs to look for before a problem occurs will save you a lot of time that would normally be wasted, along with the harvest.
Growing tomatoes for the home gardener is a real joy, and very rewarding when things are going well. But unfortunately, tomatoes can suffer for many reasons, such as diseases, pests and even climatic conditions. For the most part, these problems are something that is beyond the control of gardeners.
The choice of variety is one of the problems over which a gardener has control and is one of the main reasons why a crop could fail. Choose a variety suitable for your area, climate, soil conditions and their susceptibility to soil-borne diseases.
Tomato plants have specific requirements and must be planted in the right conditions to provide you with a thriving crop, location is one of these conditions. Exposure to full sunlight is very important with tomato plants. Something less than full sun can cause a slender plant and few fruits. Rotating the crop location on a 3-year schedule to return to the same location is also helpful. It will minimize the risk of insect and soil-borne disease problems.
Timing is another concern, never planting at the beginning of the season. Wait until all the danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool temperatures slow down the growth of a tomato plant.
The spacing of tomato plants is very important. They need space for both air circulation and sun exposure. Planted too close increases the risk of disease problems and can also reduce crops, preferring a 3-4 foot distance.
Soil structure is the key to any productive crop, including tomatoes. A good organic soil structure will provide your crop with readily available nutrients and moisture when they need it most. The soil structure preferred by tomatoes is a well-drained fertile soil, with abundant organic matter and a pH range of 5.8 – 7.0
Testing the soil of your garden with adequate calcium, phosphorus and nitrogen should be standard practice. Calcium helps prevent flower rot and phosphorus ensures healthy plant growth, along with the development of flowers and fruits. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for the prosperity of tomato plants, but too much can cause abundant leaf growth and low fruit productivity. Annual compost additions such as soil amendment and mulch will greatly benefit the soil structure of your garden helping to maintain good aeration, drainage, defense against disease and chemical imbalances.
by John Yazo