Hopefully you’ve got all of your tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and herbs planted and have seen a lot of growth in the last few weeks. I know that every time I walk my garden I am amazed at how fast plants grow when put into good soil and we have great growing weather like we’ve had this spring.
We’re in the middle of a much needed rain storm now, so I’m out of the garden and behind the computer. With the holiday weekend coming up, there is plenty of time to work in the garden. If you’re not sure what to do to keep those plants healthy, here’s a few tips:
- Support your plants: Now is the time to install cages over your tomatoes and to put stakes next to your pepper and eggplant plants. Put these supports in now while the plants are small so you don’t disturb the roots too much. Make sure you use a STURDY cage for tomato plants as they get very big. Concrete wire cages or Texas Tomato Cages are my preferred method of supports.
- Mulch Mulch Mulch: Suppress weed growth, retain moisture, and keep your soil from cracking by mulching around your plants. I prefer to use the plastic silver film for mulching my tomato plants as it retains moisture well, stops weeds in their tracks, virtually eliminates insect problems, and keeps fruit from cracking in the summer. You can use straw, grass clippings, or other materials, just make sure you apply it thickly (3-6 inches) and don’t let it touch the stems of your plants.
- Prune: Do not let ANY foliage of your tomato plants touch the ground. I use a pair of scissors or shears to snip off any branches that droop down to the ground. If any branches or leaves show signs of disease or lose their color, trim them off too. Check your plants every few days and carry a pair of scissors to maintain your plant throughout the summer.
- Fight fungus!: We’re headed into the humid part of the year and fungal diseases like Septoria and Fusarium thrive in these conditions and can attack your plants, weaken them, and eventually kill them. A weekly spraying regimen of a fungicide is a good idea to fight off or slow down the spread of these diseases. I use Daconil in the form of Ortho Garden Disease Control. You mix it in a pup sprayer and spray your plants once a week. If it rains, you need to re-apply it as soon as the rain ends. If you want to stay organic, there are other products out there to use, but I can’t vouch for their effectiveness.
- Water: Plants need even moisture in the soil. Mulch helps to maintain moisture levels. If we don’t have regular rains, you’ll need to irrigate somehow. I have my entire garden set up with a drip irrigation system which makes my watering chores super easy. You can also hand water or use soaker hoses. Whatever you do, do not water the leaves of the plant (wet leaves are fungus magnets!). Water at the base of the plant, directly on the soil and preferably in the morning. Container plants may need watering daily or maybe twice daily if it is very hot and windy. Tomato plants in the ground or in raised beds should only be watered every 5-7 days at the most.