Wilts, Fava, Coffee Grounds! Favas for Nitrogen, add a tad of coffee grounds, wilts prevention practices! Here are some super tips on how to grow superlative tomatoes! Prevent diseases, give them gourmet soil!
- Plant tomatoes where you had dense fava patches. This year I was smarter, learned to chop the favas down for green manure while easy to chop when they started flowering. You can see all the Nitrogen nodules on their roots! Last year tomato plants I grew where the favas were, were robust and resisted the wilts longer. As the one reference online suggested, I cannot say they prevented the wilts, but they did feed the soil beautifully. I’m now letting some of the favas seed out for next year’s plantings.
- At planting time, I added a good dose of animal manures and compost, and my usuals – a huge handful of bone meal, a handful of non-fat powdered milk, worm castings, a tad of coffee grounds to the planting holes. This robust combo works well. As they decompose, coffee grounds appear to suppress some common fungal rots and wilts, including FUSARIUM! Go VERY LIGHTLY on the coffee grounds. Too much can kill your plants. In studies, what worked well was coffee grounds part of a compost mix, was in one case comprising as little as 0.5 percent of the material. That’s only 1/2 a percent!
- Plant on slightly raised mounds, with a well on top, for drainage, and plant only plants that need less water nearby. That means your basil goes elsewhere even though they are often said to be tomato companions.
- Top the area with a one inch layer of compost, then cover with a thin layer of straw mulch to prevent the splash factor. When water splashes up from infected soil onto the lower leaves, the plant is infected. Straw has air flow through its tube structure, allowing the soil to be drier even though straw is a mulch. Deep mulch keeps the soil cool and damp. No. Use only the thin 1″ layer of straw that allows more air flow, the soil to heat a bit. Replenish the straw monthly. Tomatoes like it hot!
- Plant resistant and tolerant varieties.
- Plant far enough apart so when they are mature their leaves don’t touch. It’s hard not to be greedy and jam them all together thinking you will get more per your space. But often that doesn’t pay if there are infestations or disease that spreads through the entire patch. Not only is it sad, but, ugly. And, it can reduce production since they shade each other out. When you struggle to harvest through dense foliage, breaking the foliage, those damaged areas are also then susceptible to disease and pests.
- Plant alternately, tomato, a pepper or two, tomato, a couple eggplants, tomato…. You see? That keeps diseases and pests from going from one plant they like right onto the next. Instead of monocultures, work the biodiversity principle. Take that further, and do separate plantings, two or three plants here, a couple over there, and a third group or plant in yet another place. That can save them from gophers too if you haven’t installed barriers.
- Trim the lowest splash-susceptible leaves away religiously, even if they have tomatoes forming on them. It’s a small sacrifice in behalf of the health of your plant, in favor of continued vigorous production. Remove infected leaves promptly. Don’t expect to stop the wilt, just slow it down, a LOT.
- Instead of long living indeterminate varieties, plant determinate faster producing varieties successively. Plant new plants in other areas when the previous plants start producing. Remove infected plants when production slows down. Sick plants will sometimes suffer along with low production, but replacing these plants is more effective and less disease is spread. The wilts are airborne as well as soil borne. Consider the prevailing wind direction in your area. Plant downwind first; work your way upwind with your clean healthy new plants.
- You can plant later. Rather than put young vulnerable plants in cool fungi laden soil, depending on the weather, you can wait until late May, even June, when the warmer soil is drier. In the past I have had volunteers come up in July and gotten healthy plants with good crops late August into September!
If you don’t have wilts in your soil, hallelujah! And pray you don’t bring any home on transplants from the nursery or it blows in from a neighbor. Keeping a clean crop is one good reason to do seed saving, buy organic seeds from a reliable seed house, and grow your own! If you are not a tomato eater, ok. If you are, enjoy every ‘licious bite!