How to: fix your tomatoes
Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes are one of the great joys of summer.
The best way to ensure that your tomato-growing experience delivers baskets of delicious fruit is to keep plants healthy.
Healthy plants are better able to fend off diseases and pests than stressed or weak plants. To ensure plants are in tip-top condition, choose a position in full sun and add blood and bone, dolomite, cow manure, Dynamic Lifter, potash and Eco hydrate to the soil at planting time. Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season and provide a steady source of nutrients; we use Harvest and Seaweed solution.
If diseases, pests or environmental stresses do cause havoc with your tomatoes, use our handy guide to diagnosis and treatment.
Blossom end rot
1. Sunken, black areas on blossom end of fruit are a sign of blossom end rot. Although it looks like a disease, blossom¬ end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil, aggravated by drought or uneven watering, root damage and/or excess nitrogen. It usually occurs on just a small number of fruit, especially at the beginning of the harvest season. Prevent it by adding dolomite to the soil before planting, and providing sufficient water and mulch to plants to keep soil moist throughout the growing season.
Blossom end rot. Photo - Linda Ross
2. Yellowed, distorted and curled leaves may be a sign of an infestation of aphids. Check the undersides of leaves or hunt for them clustered on new growth. Aphids are easily controlled with a strong jet of water or an early morning application of Eco Neem or Eco Oil.
Yellowing leaves. Photo - Linda Ross
3. Distorted, yellowed leaves can also signal tobacco mosaic virus. To prevent tobacco mosaic virus, wash hands thoroughly after smoking or using other tobacco products before handling plants. Infected plants should be removed and discarded, not composted.
Mosaic virus. Photo - Linda Ross
4. Wilting foliage might be a sign of insufficient water, but if the lower leaves are wilted and plants are stunted and do not recover after watering, fusarium wilt is likely the cause. Infected plants should be removed and discarded, not composted.
Fusarium wilt is is serious, and other plants need to be protected from it. Control the spread by pulling the plant out and dispose of it in the bin - not the compost. Photo - Linda Ross
5. Small holes and wrigglers in fruit are the work of tomato fruit fly. These flies lay eggs into fruits that hatch inside the fruit. Once the larvae are in the fruit, the only remedy is to destroy the infected fruit. If fruit fly is a severe problem in your area, start the plants under insect netting and keep them covered, or use fruit exclusion bags. Alternatively hang up a fruit fly lure such as Ceretrap or Eco Natralure.
Female fruit fly
6. Dark, concentrically ringed spots that cover the lower leaves and stems are an early sign of blight. Prevent and control its spread by spraying with Eco Fungicde. Limit the spread of the disease by not getting water on the leaves when watering and not handling plants when they are wet.
Tomato leaf spot. Photo - Linda Ross
7. Cracks in fruit are generally caused by uneven watering. Use a soaker hose to apply water to the soil, moistening the entire root zone each time you water. Apply mulch to help retain moisture.
Tomato fruit split
8. Holes chewed in leaves and fruits can indicate the presence of a tomato grub. Use Success or Eco Neem to control green caterpillars.
9. Holes chewed in tomatoes can be the work of slugs. There is nothing worse than picking a tomato and finding a slug happily working its way through it. Slugs can be thwarted with iron phosphate-based slug pellets or a ring of crushed eggshells.