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Farming Techniques: How To Plant & Grow Tomatoes (3)

Common Problems & Solutions • Cat-facing

This is when irregular shapes and lines, especially at the top of the tomato, are caused by temperature shifts and incomplete pollination in cold weather at flowering time. There is nothing you can do about it. The tomato will still taste great. Next time, don’t plant too early, or select varieties that resist catfacing.

• Blossom-end rot

This is caused by poor calcium uptake due to inconsistent moisture. If you currently have this problem, remove any rotted or diseased tomatoes, provide consistent moisture, and keep a layer of mulch on the soil. If you live in a super hot area, you need to mulch   around your tomatoes to keep them from drying out. They like nice even moisture.

• Sunscald

This can happen any time there is a real spike in the heat. If the fruit is far from ripe, chances are that the entire fruit will rot. Remove damaged tomatoes.

• Split skin or cracking

This can happen any time the plants experience accelerated growth, which can be brought on by a sudden increase in moisture after being too dry, like summer rains after dry periods. To fix, provide consistent moisture, or look for varieties that are resistant to cracking. Another reason you may see splitting or cracking is that the fruit is overripe. There is nothing wrong with these tomatoes, they are great to eat, just keep them picked. In addition to this, many cherry tomatoes crack with the slightest shift in weather, and after heavy rains, and there’s not much you can do about it. If you can, try and pick all the ripe ones before it rains.

• Flowers form, but few or no fruit develops

Tomato flowers fall off prematurely when there is a sudden change in the weather because it is too cool, or too hot, or the soil is too dry. Improve the growing conditions. Mulch to keep the soil moisture even. Use Blossom Set, which is a product that is all-natural, and environmentally friendly. It’s a natural plant hormone that helps blossoms set fruit in spite of poor weather conditions, and produces larger, meatier tomatoes with fewer seeds. Use early in the season and get tomatoes up to three weeks earlier. When tomato flowers are fully open, spray regularly for bigger yields all season. It can also be used to increase fruit set on cucumbers, melons, eggplants, strawberries, and peppers.

• Green shoulders

Some tomatoes are unimproved old-time varieties and end up with “green shoulders.” That’s just the way they grow, and there’s not much you can do about it.

• A thick, tough skin develops on the fruit

This can happen for a couple of reasons.

• Varietal differences

Many of the more common hybrids have tougher skins bred into them for shipping purposes. So varieties like Roma or Plum tomatoes genetically have thick skin.

• The Weather

Dry or very hot summers tend to produce thick skinned tomatoes, because of extreme heat fluctuations. Even if you’re watering the garden regularly, when the sun is hotter, and the air is hotter through the days, it can result in thicker   skins as the plants try to conserve moisture. Inconsistent moisture levels in the soil or excessively high air temperatures contribute to the problem as the plants try to conserve moisture. So weather and varietal issues are the main causes, and there really isn’t much that can be done, except grow more tomatoes next year and hope for cooler temperatures.

• Early blight

This is caused by a fungus that survives during the winter on old vines. To fix, remove and destroy all diseased foliage. In the future, avoid overcrowding by planting farther apart, and prune for good air circulation. You’ll also need to rotate tomatoes with unrelated crops, such as corn, beans or lettuce.

• Late blight

This is caused by a fungus that is favored by wet weather. Their spores travel great distances and can infect large areas. Again, avoid overcrowding, and if the infection is severe and widespread, remove and destroy all affected plants.

• Wilts

Fusarium and Verticillium fungi cause parts of the plant to wilt, and can kill it over time. Fusarium wilt causes leaves on one branch of infected plant to turn yellow. Verticillium wilt first appears as yellowing between the major veins on mature leaves. To help this problem, look for resistant varieties to plant, and rotate unrelated crops, such as corn, beans or lettuce.

• Southern Bacterial

Wilt results in sudden plant death; leaves droop (wilt) while plant is still green and otherwise healthy. There is nothing you can do except remove and destroy all debris, and do not plant tomatoes where the disease has occurred in the past.

• Root-knot nematodes

This is caused by microscopic eelworms that live in the soil. In the future, plant resistant varieties, and try rotating tomatoes with marigolds. Select a French variety such as ‘Nema-gone’, ‘Golden Guardian’, or ‘Tangerine’. Plant the entire affected area heavily with the marigolds, and grow them for at least three months. After three months, till them into the soil.

-Isaiah Onwunanumba, in this piece, continues with the series on farming techniques in the area of Tomatoes planting

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