Friday, 15 August 2014

A Tomato Issue

This post was originally posted in August two years ago (August 8th, 2012), but I decided to re-post today as the issues are very pertinent to this year's tomato crops, as well.

Yay, tomatoes are now starting to put on fruit. Finally! After a long, cool, wet spring here on the Pacific West Coast...

Here are some Common Issues you might encounter this year, due to this type of weather pattern...


Blossom End Rot = the bottom part of your tomato (or pepper) develops a dark spot at the end of the fruit..
This is a common problem and is even more common for tomatoes that are grown in pots. That's because in ground tomatoes can form deeper roots and go after their own water while potted ones are dependent on you to be consistent with your watering. Tomatoes need regular watering, if there are fluctuations where they go dry for a bit, you will likely get some blossom end rot. This is not a really big deal, however, just correct your watering, try to be more consistent, remove the blemished in-edible fruits, and it will quickly correct itself. Generally the first fruits will have this issue and then the plant adjusts and corrects itself and the following fruits will be just fine.
Cure- consistent watering.

Cracking Tomatoes = cracks appear in the sides of the fruit.
This is also a watering issue... inconsistent watering, that is. Too much heavy watering followed by lovely hot spells, can cause cracking of the fruit. The fruit loves the moisture and then the heat, perfect conditions for quick growth! However, the fruit grows quicker than the skin can accommodate, and thus it cracks. This is more common with in-ground grown tomatoes, and often occurs if there is a heavy rainy spell followed by a sunny period while the fruit is ripening. Not much you can do about that one! The fruit is still edible but it will not store long, so eat it right away.
Cure- try to prevent large fluctuations in the amount of water your plants are getting.

Lumpy green heirloom tomatoes with cat-facing

Cat Facing = miss-shapen fruits with scarring and indentations.
The misshapen fruits are caused by cool temps during fruit set. Meaning this, while your tomato is flowering (setting fruit), if the air temps are cool, less than 10 C, it may disrupt the pollination of the fruit. It is a pollination problem that occurs with the cooler temperatures and is more common in heirloom varieties than in hybrids. Which still does not make me want to ever grow a hybrid, lol. However, I think we should be prepared for some cat-facing this year :(
Cure - None, pray for better weather, any fruits that set in warmer temps will be fine. The fruits are still edible, just cut away any scarring.

These above issues are not biggies, not devastating, while the problems listed below are nasty!

Bigger Issues

Early Blight - Symptoms vary a lot, can show up as stem rot, leaf blight, cankers, and fruit rot. However, usually it begins with circular spots on the leaves, it will start on the bottom leaves of the plant and work it's way up to the top. The leaves will wither and fall off the plant.
The spores will live on in the soil, so do not plant your tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, etc... in that area next year or you will have the same issue. If it is a potted plant, discard the soil with the plant, do not compost! The spores will be passed to other plants by wind, rain and insects, so remove immediately when you notice an issue.
Cure- prevention! Water in morning so plant foliage is not left wet into the cool nights. Do not water the foliage, water at the soil level only. Feed your plant, keep it healthy, this is the best preventative for most problems. Do not grow your plant in shady and cooler areas of the garden. Avoid working in the garden on wet days. Remove bottom leaves as they yellow, wilt, or look 'off' and this may prevent the problem from spreading and save your plant. Burn or garbage that foliage, do not compost.

Late Blight - Brown or black lesions on the stem of the plant. Leaves become splotchy with dark areas usually closer to the margins. On dewy mornings or humid days, one can often see a mould on the under sides of the leaf lesions and on the stem lesions. Fruits will be greasy and darker looking in areas while green and then turn brown or black as the tomato ripens.... this is NOT just on the bottom like blossom end rot, but may be anywhere on the fruit. 
Again, this blight is spread to other plants through the spores being carried by birds, wind, rain, or insects. The soil will contain the blight spores and so will not be suitable for tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplants. This is a big problem on the Pacific West Coast. If you have infected plants, please remove immediately as it will spread through the neighbourhood quickly! Seal them in a plastic bag and bring to the landfill.
Cure - none! Prevention is key. Grow plants in sunny, warm, dry areas. Do not water the foliage, only at soil level and watering morning so foliage has time to dry before nightfall. Plastic or paper mulch and/or sandy soil helps to raise temps and prevent moisture problems and back splash. Grow plants under a cover of some sort to keep the foliage dry ... under the overhang of the house eave's, on a covered patio or deck, build a hoop house with sides that roll up but the roof stay in place, etc..   

More Tips for healthy plants...
Feed your plants regularly to prevent most problems. I alternate my feedings with a foliar liquid seaweed spray one week (Reindeer Liquid Seaweed) and an organic fertiliser (Gaia Green Tomato Food or compost tea) every other week.

Epsom Salts - sprinkle a tablespoon full on top of the soil, around the base of the plant. The watering's and rains will carry the nutrients to the root system. Can also be applied as a foliar spray. This can be used on pretty near any types of veggie and roses, also. I think this is especially helpful with potted veggies. I apply Epsom Salts two or three times/season!

As mentioned above.. try to be really consistent with your watering schedule. Water at soil level, never on the foliage of the plants. This means all plants, including, shrubs, roses, perennials, etc... It will help to prevent powdery mildew, black spot, and blights.

Also, always remove any spotty or yellow leaves immediately. They may not be a problem, might just be natural bottom leaf die off, etc... but if they are harbouring disease, you just removed it and it does not ever become an issue. Burn or garbage these leaves, do not compost. If they are diseased the spores will be carried on in your compost! This also apples to all plants, especially veggies and roses, though. It is just a really good preventative measure.

Tomatoes growing in the hoop house.

Happy tomato growing everyone! Hope you have a fabulous growing year, with no issues whatsoever!

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