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Seeking your advice: best preventative care for tomatoes

Grosse Pointe Shores, MI(Zone 6a)

Hello all,
For the past five or six summers, I have experimented with growing tomatoes in containers after I landed in a wheelchair. I have tried a number of different varieties, but still stuggle to get a "bumper crop".

2009 was the worst year...all my plants got blight and powdery mildew. 2010 was not as bad but it still happened, probably because I didn't know what to do and therefore did nothing.

2011 was much better. I treated the soil in the spring with Actinovate, and then used a copper fungicide when I started to see some decaying leaves. Later I used Serenade against powdery mildew which had already started. It was contained to just one plant, but I lost that plant.

I've also be experimenting with varieties. For the past few summers, I've used a couple Russian varieties, considering our sometimes short season here in Michigan. However, we also get some really hot days, and I lost at least a couple flushes of blooms to the heat. I basically ended up with really tall plants with only a few tomatoes on them. :(

This year I'm going to grow the following 5 varities: Black Cherry; Black from Tula (2 pots) (I've grown both these blacks before and simply love the tomatoes); Bradley; Pantano Romanesco; and Gigantesque. The last three I selected because they seemed to have good fruit set despite fluctuating temperatures.

What would you suggest as a good preventative routine to guard against blight and powdery mildew? What products work best for you? And do you have any tips to help improve productivity? How frequently do you fertilize and with what?

Sorry for so many questions...wish I had found this forum a few years ago!

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

I know very little about growing tomatoes (I've grown them once, in a container last year, that makes me an expert, right? LOL!!), but I will share the little bit that I do know.

Tomatoes are VERY heavy feeders, they like to be fed a LOT. I have heard that you should NOT feed them until they put out their first little baby fruits, because feeding them before that only encourages leggy stem growth. (someone correct me if I've heard wrong, please). But, once you get your first fruits, use a good organic fertilizer to feed about every 2 weeks.

Be sure to water consistently. Letting the soil dry out between waterings is what leads to blossom end rot. And, water at the soil level, not with a sprinkler system that will douse the leaves.

Make sure they are spaced far enough apart to allow good air circulation.

Prune/pinch/nip off little side shoots (suckers) from the main, big, stems (in the center); this will not only concentrate the plant's energy onto the remaining fruits, (making them bigger, faster, stronger... WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY!!... oh sorry. =/...), but it also keeps the plants 'thinned out', allowing for better air circulation, which is good for preventing fungus and mildew problems.

Each year that you have a fungus/mildew/disease problem, make sure you change out/or effectively treat, the soil so that you're not starting a new year's crop with the old year's disease problem.

That's all I can think of, but I hope it's been of some help to you! =)

Grosse Pointe Shores, MI(Zone 6a)

Speedie, my tomatoes really responded to regular feedings...too well. I got really tall, leafy plants but few blossoms and even fewer tomatoes. I think I need to be very cautious about feeding, as they quickly got to over 6', and when in a container they became unwieldy and prone to tipping over in a storm, sending dozens of little green tomatoes all over the yard.

I religiously pinched the suckers for the first couple years, but last year I tried an experiement and did not pinch them on one of two plants...and got a lot more tomatoes on the unpinched plant. Contrary to what I had read, the suckers did blossom and bear fruit. Although I do see the wisdom of keeping enough room, especially on the interior of the plant, to promote air circulation. I like to take out most of the leaves that are on the "inside" of the plant anyway.

Watering is not an issue, as I'm out with them every day. And I have changed the potting material and cleaned the pots (actually all new pots last year), so I don't think that is where the problem is coming from.

I'm hoping to get some advice on a schedule for spraying and/or treating the plants, with recommendation of products, that will help me head off the blight and powdery mildew problems. I've reached the point that I think prevention will be my best defense.

Thanks again...

Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

koshki, stick with the low nitrogen fertilizers. Peas will also do this with too much nitrogen. Call your county agent about the correct fertilizer for containers. We grow them in the ground here and fight weeds . Some varieties are more susceptible to blight and mildew than others. Good luck with your tomato growing. Luciee {;^)

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