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Composting tomato plant

Westminster, CO(Zone 5b)

I was wondering if it was ok to compost tomato plants, since the leaves are considered toxic. Are other garden vegetable plants ok to compost?

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

I was wondering if it was ok to compost tomato plants, since the leaves are considered toxic. Are other garden vegetable plants ok to compost?


The leaves have very low toxicity and not one person has ever died from eating tomato leaves. I mean who does eat tomato leaves? LOL

Green fruits also have toxic alkaloids and those toxic substances disappear as the fruits ripen. Yes, it's OK to eat fried Green tomatoes.

But there's another reason why you want to be careful about using tomato debris in your compost pile and that's if the plants were in any way diseased, and that really means foliage diseases, primarily.

Not all compost piles heat up to temps necessary to inactive the fungal spores that can cause disease.

Most folks I know prefer to just get rid of the tomato debris and don't compost it.


Westminster, CO(Zone 5b)

Carolyn, Thank you for the very good explaination.

Algonac, MI may want to till them under for the next year. Tomatoes LOVE to be planted where last years maters were. It stimulates growth. Before you follow for a third year, make sure no diseases have infested your soil which will infect the maters.
I use my tom plants in my compost pile, but the temp gets hot enough to make unwanted iris bulbs grow in the dead of winter here in Algonac, MI.
My tom plants are producing tremendously this year. I will send pics ASAP.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

I always compost my green cornstalks. They make great compost, and a big pile of them really cooks - you can see the heat waves coming off the pile.

I never compost tomato, bean, cucumber, pepper, and melon plants because of the foliage diseases they can carry to next year's garden. They go in the burn pile.

Even so, I got sloppy last year and let my old plants stand in the garden all winter before I got rid of them. That, and a lot of rain, gave me a good dose of leaf fungus this year, which I'm spraying for. I won't do that again.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

oooooooooooooooo Ozark, thanks for that tip about leaving the old plants where they are too long. I'm cutting back the vines in my EBs for rooting, and the old ones are just hanging on in the EBs. I need to pull them up ASAP. Thanks again! You, too, Dr. C!

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Leaving the garden plants standing through the winter caused another bad thing that I hadn't intended.

In the middle of winter, I had an Eastern Wood Rat (pack rat) move into the engine compartment of my tractor, which was in my metal barn next to the garden. Those are actually a pretty animal, not at all what you'd think of as a rat. Normally they live in the woods and avoid humans and buildings.

It chewed up some tractor wires and made an awful mess, and I had to set a trap and kill it. In cleaning out the nest it made, I found it full of dried up beans and tomatoes from my garden. That pack rat was fixed for the winter, and if I hadn't left all that food hanging it would have stayed in the woods where it belonged.

Warren, PA(Zone 5a)

Same thing happened to my wife, 20 years ago. A pack rat moved in. And I'm still here today!

Edited to say: Sorry, Ozark, didn't mean to make light of your problem with the tractor. What a mess!

This message was edited Jul 18, 2007 1:03 PM

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Quite all right, my wife calls me a pack rat, too.

I rewired the tractor, and it wasn't a big deal. I just felt kinda bad about the rat, which was a surprisingly clean-looking attractive gray-and-white animal that didn't even have a bald rat-tail. I sort of caused his demise by leaving all that food in the garden.

But he had it real good for a while. lol

Richmond, VA

I never compost pepper and tomato plants. At the end of the season, I pull up all the plants, bag them, and put them in the trash. I turn the soil over and plant turnip greens as a cover crop. You avoid many plant diseases by being selective about what goes in your compost pile.

Hopkinsville, KY

Arias - do you plant turnips to put nutrients back in the soil or just for the turnips or both?

Algonac, MI

Pepper plants are perrenials and need not be trashed; just protected from winter in cold climates. I have a thriving jalepeno bush which is doing great from last fall which I dug and brought into our kitchen. In fact it produced 2 more jalapenos before going Christmas. It also had flowers long before my new pepper plants. I plan to dig and winterize all of my pepper plants again this year instead of trashing them.
I will also till under my tomato plants for next year. This year's tomato crop is VERY bountiful. I had to pull up 1 tom-plant because of blossom end disease which does not spread, but the seed may have come to me by error. My other 37 plants are thriving with the first (8) planted near ripe stage. I stagger plant dates to give me tomatoes into fall.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

(I had to pull up 1 tom-plant because of blossom end disease which does not spread, but the seed may have come to me by error.)

Lost Indian,

Blossom End Rot ( BER) is not a disease.

It's a physiological disorder and seeds have nothing to do with it, so it wasn't necessary at all to pull up that plant b'c as plants mature they become more able to withstand all the many stress factors that can induce BER.

If you'd like to know more about BER go to the Sticky thread posted by Terry at the very top of this Forum and go down several posts until you come to the one IDed as member's favorites and there you'll find an article which explains all about BER.

And while it's true that peppers are perennials, that means in the area where they are native to. The same is true of tomatoes in the area where they are native to in South America.

But I think you'll find that trying to winter them over will keep the plants alive but production is low and if you plant them outside again in the Spring when the weather is more favorable I thinlk you'll also see that they don't do all that well.

But if you have the room to keep them happy inside , then by all means continue to overwinter them.


Richmond, VA


I plant the turnips mainly for the greens [ to eat] and to feed the rabbits I keep. I leave some of the greens to overwinter, and in the spring I till them under. They add nitrogen and trace minerals to my soil. Plus they keep the soil loose and friable. Turnip seeds are cheap, and you can begin harvesting the greens within 30 days of planting. They make a nice change from summer vegetables. I will sow the seeds about the end of September and harvest right on through Jan.


This message was edited Jul 19, 2007 12:02 PM

Westminster, CO(Zone 5b)

This has become a very intresting and informative thread, eventhough not pertaining to tomato plant composting.

I think I may take my hot pepper plant inside for the winter since I am growing it in a container anyway.

Algonac, MI

Thank You, Carolyn, for your info on BER, but every tomato (about 20) showed BER, therefore; pulling it out was a necessary event.
I will go to the forum you suggest now to learn more.

Algonac, MI

Carolyn, I just read your article on BER and found it quite interesting. It compares to other articles I've read on the Internet .
I did, in error, refer to BER as a disease instead of phyislogical. None the less, the blackening of the tomatoes gave way to my pulling the plant. I also put another plant in the same place and for now, it is growing very well. This avoided other problems which would stem from the continued BER.
Thanks again for your help.

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