In late summer and early fall I get many inquiries about spots on tomato fruit and foliage. Dark spots on yellowing leaves, black spots or sunken areas on the fruit…”What is wrong with my tomatoes?” people ask. These are usually fungal problems and although it’s usually difficult to diagnose which tomato disease people are dealing with, the way it gets dealt with is the same.
1. Don’t get discouraged! Don’t let the fact that your plants or the fruit don’t look like the ones in the movies set you back. Since when was real life ever like a Hollywood picture? Don’t give up: you can still harvest tomatoes even as vines have one of the fungal diseases, and you can have that great fresh tomato flavor even if some of your tomatoes have spots or sunken areas of rot.
2. Use this approach to growing tomatoes: Mulch around the plants as soon as you put them in the soil in the early summer. This will help to prevent fungal spores from splashing from soil onto plants when you water or it rains. Start spraying early with an organic fungicide if you’ve had fungal problems in the past. There are several available, so ask at your local garden center. I’ve had good luck with Actinovate: Natural Industries LGAV02 Actinovate Fungicide for Lawn and Garden, 2-Ounce. Water deeply less often – use a soaker hose and water every four or five days depending on the temperatures. Don’t hand water (you get bored before the plants are deeply soaked) and don’t water in the evening.
3. Clip off yellowing or black spotted leaves as you see them and throw them away. Cut off spotted or rotting fruit and don’t let it stay on the ground in the garden. Harvest fruit that has spots forming and cut off that part of the fruit – it’s still edible or can be cooked into sauce.
4. Did I mention not to get discouraged? Here’s the truth about vegetable gardening: every year there are some problems and some great successes. Different veggies perform differently each year depending on the weather and how they are cared for…just because a crop doesn’t do well one year doesn’t mean that it won’t thrive in the next season. Keep planting because it is worth it!