THE TROUBLE WITH TOMATOES
Tomato fruit consists of 94-97% water. For a good crop, keep watering the tomatoes! It is easy to be a zealous gardener in the spring when it is pleasant to be outdoors. Hauling out hoses in dry weather does not seem like such a chore when the days are pleasant.
However, as the summer progresses and the heat and humidity set in, your motivation to get water to the thirsty plants all but disappears. Wet followed by dry not only damages the plant, it damages the fruit as well. For a good crop of big, juicy tomatoes, you still have to pull out the hoses to keep the soil moist.
If your tomatoes get sunken, squishy spots on the bottom of the fruit, then you have blossom end rot. The problem is usually a lack of calcium getting to the plant. This could be due to a low soil pH. (Have a soil test done.) If it is low, add lime to your garden in the fall to make corrections for next year's garden. It is too late to help this year, it is slow to react in the soil.
Too much rain followed by dry weather (or an enthused gardener followed by a heat-struck gardener) can damage the small roots that feed the tomato plant. Cultivating too closely to the tomato plant can also damage the feeder roots.
An easy fix is to use a calcium spray to boost the plants' absorption of calcium. You mix the product according to label directions and spray the leaves of the plant, actually drenching it. Just keeping the tomatoes consistently watered will overcome any calcium deficiency.
The worst scenario is that root-knot nematodes have invaded your garden, causing damage to the roots. Solarizing the soil helps to rid the garden of root-knot nematode pests. You should do this in the very hottest part of summer. July and August usually fit this description. To begin, remove all of the garden plants and weeds from the area to be solarized. Dig it up either with a tiller or by shovel. Water it deeply.
Solarization needs full sun to "cook" the soil Stretch a clear plastic tarp over the area to be solarized. Either bury the edges or hold them down with rocks or bricks. Leave the tarp on until the weather turns cool in the fall.
You will most likely find it difficult to rid your garden of root-knot nematodes. You may have to repeat the solarization of your garden soil another year or more. When you return to planting in this soil, purchase seeds to grow plants that are resistant to nematodes.
One of the best ways to keep a pest from building up in the soil is to rotate crops. Move the garden area and do not replant in the same area for three years. Alternatively, rotate the rows of vegetables and do not replant the same vegetable in the same row for three years.
Planting marigolds throughout the garden is a home remedy that might be of some help. Using fish emulsion fertilizer is supposed to help. These are old remedies. I would use them to help prevent a problem. I doubt they would make a cure.
NOTE: Root-knot nematodes are easily visible on the roots of tomato plants. If the plant declines, the leaves turn yellow, and it struggles along, barely setting any fruit, dig it up and look at the roots. The nematodes usually show up as swollen parts of roots.
**Beneficial nematodes are available to control some garden pests. These are good guys; they do not attack vegetables.
---Posted by Anne K Moore July 8, 2007---
NASA Seeds in Space
"If you are looking for a challenge with great rewards, if you love to garden and do not relish the routine, if you can accept heartaches and failures, and if you can burst with pride at success, then choose a garden by the sea," Dr. Ed Givhan, Flowers for South Alabama Gardens.