Tomato Plant Maintenance and Disease Prevention

It looks as if we’re headed into the hot and humid part of the growing season and that means that fungal problems will likely start to show up on your plants.  If you start to see any yellowing on your lower leaves, trim off the entire branch immediately and dispose of them.  Keep all foliage from touching the ground also to avoid more diseases form creeping up your plants.
Here’s a video I made a couple of years ago on pruning tomato plants

In addition to pruning your plants, I highly suggest a weekly regimen of spraying fungicide on your plants.  You have several options ranging from home-made remedies such as baking soda or store bought organics like Serenade or Liquid Copper.  You can also go the non-organic route with Daconil or Mancozeb.  Whatever you use, spray once a week and again if it rains.
It’s time to mulch your tomato plants as well.  There are many options available including straw, grass clippings, paper, and plastic.  Whatever mulch you choose, make sure your mulch does not touch the stem of the plant.  I personally prefer to use silver reflective mulch film and have used it for many years with awesome results.  The silver film reflects light under the leaves which repels insects reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides.
It is also a great idea to grow your tomato plants vertically instead of letting them sprawl on the ground.  Use  sturdy stake, the Florida Weave, or a sturdy tomato cage to support your plants.  If you tie them to a stake, use a stretchy material to tie them instead of twine s twine will cut the stems.
For cages, you have two basic options…concrete reinforcing wire or Texas Tomato Cages.  Do NOT try using those little cages they sell at the box stores as your plants will bend them like a paperclip!  The concrete cages take a lot of work to build and are very bulky to store, but they are a fairly cheap investment that will last you 20 years or more.  The Texas Cages are very expensive, but are simple to install, and easy to store as they fold flat.  I use both of these cages in my garden and am very happy with both.
Visit your plants a few times a week if not once a day if possible to keep them supported, check for disease signs, and to watch them grow.  Gardening isn’t just about the end result of ripe fruit, it is a journey of growth and learning throuhgout the year.

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