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Vegetable Gardening Hints, June/July 2015
June 11, 2015

Road trip - Still looking for gardens to visit in southern states.

I am currently on my Veggie Garden road trip across the USA; follow me along the way. ROAD TRIP

Join my facebook group at ttps:// for more info as well.

SOME QUESTIONS AND MY ANSWERS about growing Tomatoes

QUESTION 1: I was wondering what type of soil blend you recommend as I have poor success with my tomatoes recently. I have a blight issue almost annually. I am in upstate NY. I do have a composter but due to the lovely winter my supply is limited.

ANSWER: A basic garden mix is what I have used in the past. If you can get one with some organic materials that's even better, however not necessary. As for tomatoes, they have to be planted in a different area of the garden every year, a 3 or 4-year rotation is best. Blight can live in the soil for several years; so once you get it do not plant in that same area for at least 3 years. They do not like to get their leaves wet either so do not overhead water tomato plants, water at the base of the plant giving them lots of water less frequently. I live in western Canada, if we get a rainfall at the end of July or early August tomato plants will very often get blight, I lost all my tomato plants one year so now I grow them under the protection of plastic.

QUESTION 2 : What may be causing the tomato roots to disappear? I grow primarily heirloom tomatoes from seed. This year plants are dying and when dug up there are no feeder roots only a woody bare taproot. the soft green outer sheath and all feeder roots and root hairs are missing. Should I solarize next years patch before planting.

ANSWER: It sounds like you have a boring insect like a wireworm in your soil. The solution I would recommend is not to grow tomatoes in that area for 2-3 years. Make sure the soil is tilled well once or twice a year, that way birds will eat any exposed larva or worms that are exposed and they will not have plants to feed on. You can grow other vegetables in the area, just not any nightshade varieties such as peppers, eggplant, potatoes, which the insect could feed on. You could grow peas, beans, or lettuce. Rotating your vegetables is essential to keep your soil more fertile and free of pests.

QUESTION 3: Our tomato plants tended to get very brittle & the tomatoes have a big problem.

ANSWER: With what I can see from the pictures your tomatoes have blight. This is where the plant leaves, stem and fruit start turning black. On the Westcoast this is often caused by the plant leaves getting wet and then the blight (blackening of the plant and fruit) sets in. This is common here and the way we prevent it from happening is to keep our plants covered especially the end of July onward as any rainfall in early August will cause the blight to set in, usually plants will be totally blackened within days. Never compost plants that have blight and make sure you plant your tomatoes in a different area next year.

Blight can also be caused by overhead watering, moisture getting on the leaves from high air humidity or the plants are not getting good air circulation around them - usually a combination of all three. If some of your plants are still looking okay, pull any diseased ones out, immediately place them into a garage bag so the spore will not spread, cut back all the bottom larger leaves from the plant to make sure the plant gets lots of air circulating around it. If the plant is looking blackish and the fruit is still looking green and without blemishes harvest all the green fruit and ripen it in a warm room, check the fruit every few days, as some may still turn black and you do not want to have those contaminate the healthier ones.

QUESTION 4: Last year I had a tomato plant in a large garden box on my balcony. Many tomatoes appeared. So, this year I placed another there. The plant grew twice as large, wide and high. IT IS ALMOST 4 FT HIGH. Not one single tomato fruit is appearing. It appears beautiful and vigorous and happy to be growing. Doesn't this seem impossible ? It is making me very disappointed and angry. WHY WON'T IT MAKE TOMATOES ?

ANSWER: A few questions for you.... Has the plant produced any flowers yet? Do you know the variety you planted? Did you put new soil into the garden box or just plant it into the old soil?

If it has not flowered yet it could be a late blooming variety. Since the plant is healthy, just be a bit more patient as some tomato varieties do not produce fruit until late in August (depends on the variety and when the seed was first planted). For some varieties 4 feet high is still a young plant, some can reach over 6 feet high.

If the plant is flowering but not producing any fruit the soil may need more phosphorus and potassium to help produce fruits, adding bonemeal or a manure tea may help the plant. If the plant is flowering another reason fruits may not be forming may be that the flowers are not being pollinated by the wind or bees, perhaps plant more flowers around the garden to attact bees.

QUESTION 5: I seem to have an annual issue with my tomatoes. The dreaded blight seems to hit every year and the growth seems to hit a wall after about 60 days. I have resoiled my entire garden last year, boxed about 6 inches deep, A mixture of compost and topsoil, added more compost this year. The tomatoes have been in about 2 weeks (upstate ny) and seem to be ok, so far. What is the best type of fertilizer and how much"? HOW CAN I KEEP LEAF BLIGHT FROM RETURNING? I have basil for a neighbouring plant. I also seem to have an issues with my bell peppers since new soil last year (small and stalky plants without much yield)

ANSWER: Firstly, make sure you rotate where you plant your tomatoes, they should not be planted in the same spot for at least 3 years, unless you are replacing the soil each year as the blight will stay in the soil. Secondly, the way I prevent blight (I live in western Canada) is to grow them under cover. I use either a plastic tunnel or a greenhouse. If tomato leaves get damp either by rain or humidity they will most likely get some blight. If you are growing under cover make sure there is good air circulation by not planting them too close together, growing them upright using string or cages, and removing all the lower leaves from the plant.

Basil is a good companion plant, however does not prevent blight.

Your Peppers may need a little extra potassium and perhaps more phosphorus as well to produce really nice fruit, your soil may be low in these. You can try adding a little greensand (for potassium) and bone meal or rock dust (for phosphorus) to the area you are planting the peppers in. Peppers like tomatoes need lots of heat and sunlight so make sure the area is getting at least 8 hours of direct sun. They grow well for me in plastic tunnels or greenhouse as well.

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