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Hartselle Enquirer

Taking care of tomatoes

By Katie Nichols

Tomatoes are by far the most popular plant in the vegetable garden, but can also be the most problematic. Eliminate the questions and begin the official summer season with proper tomato care.

Weather, garden insects and environmental disorders–as well as viral, fungal and bacterial problems–are all challenges every gardener faces when growing backyard tomatoes. An awareness of potential problems before they arise is one way to make sure the backyard tomatoes thrive.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System Regional Home Grounds Agent Mallory Kelleysaid there are many things to watch for when growing tomatoes to ensure a healthy crop. As the hot and humid summer starts up, Kelley provides the following tips to keep plants healthy.

Watering and Mulch

When it comes to water, Kelley recommends starting with drip irrigation or hand watering only at the surface of the soil to avoid splashing. Then prune all lower limbs off the tomatoes that are touching the soil and apply mulch.

“Mulching your tomatoes keeps the plants moisture level consistent and will help prevent blossom end rot,” she said. “Applying mulch also helps control weeds where insects like to overwinter and eliminates competition for the fertilizer you have applied.”

Mulch also creates a barrier between the plant leaves and the soil to suppress many of the fungal problems that come from the surface of the soil.

Scout for Disease and Insects