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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Producing juicy tomatoes

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nothing beats having a nice juicy, ripe tomato on the dinner table.

Everyone has their favorite type of tomato. For me, nothing can compare to a Roma Tomato. Even though it's hard to agree on what is the best type of tomato, everyone will agree that it is awful when you end up with a bummer tomato crop.

To prevent a bummer crop, start by selecting disease resistant varieties. Some of the common problems which you can get disease resistance to include: Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and root knot nematodes.

Fusarium and Verticillium wilts are common wilt diseases of tomatoes where the lower leaves will yellow and the yellowing will progress up the plant. It is very difficult to distinguish between these two wilts. The good news is that you can select disease resistant varieties for these three common problems. When selecting your tomatoes, look for ones that have a V, F, or N following the cultivar name. Those letters signify which disease problem your variety is resistance to (V-Verticillium wilt, F-Fusarium wilt, N-Root Knot Nematodes).

Once you have your plants chosen, know it is time to worry about actually placing them in your garden. Ideally, it is best to rotate your crops around your garden every year. By rotating them, you will stand a greater chance of preventing a disease from surviving one year into the next. Try to maintain a pH of 6.2-6.8 (slightly acid soil) in your garden where your tomatoes are located. Before planting your tomatoes, prepare the soil by tilling or spading by hand. For optimum growth, try to ensure your tomato plants receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Plant small bush-type tomatoes 1-1/2 to 2-feet apart and larger varieties 3 to 4-feet apart (if leaving them unstaked).

Throughout the summer, try to ensure your tomatoes receive 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water per week,

You can apply some mulch around them to help maintain the soil moisture and prevent germinating weeds. Usually, you are safe to apply 2-4 inches of organic mulch (straw, hay, or bark chips) once the soil warms up in June.

If you would want to provide your plants with some added boost, apply a sidedressing of nitrogen fertilizer at specific times of the growing season. Ideally, you would apply one pound of ammonium nitrate (33-0-0) per 100-foot row when sidedressing. The typical times you can do this include (1) one-two weeks after first fruits are set, (2) two weeks after picking first ripe fruit and (3) six weeks after picking first ripe fruit.

Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and root knot nematodes are not the only problems you might be faced with in a give year. Some of the other problems you might face are environmental stress disorders, like Blossom-end Rot, Blossom Drop, Fruit Cracks, Sunscald and Catfacing.

Blossom-end Rot is a dry, black, leathery scar on the blossom-end of the fruit brought on by a calcium deficiency. To prevent this, try to ensure your plant always has proper moisture.

Blossom Drop is caused by extreme temperatures when fruiting, resulting in blossoms just falling off the plant. You might be able to prevent this by using hormone sprays.

Fruit Cracks will usually occur during hot rainy periods when the fruits are exposed to the sun. Sunscald is when the fruit will first develop a yellow or white patch that will later blister and dry.

The best prevention for sunscald is to cage your plants when possible. And finally, Catfacing is the puckering and scarring at the blossom end of the fruit. This is often caused by cool cloudy weather at blooming time or using some herbicides.

Diving into a plate of juicy ripe tomatoes is one of the best things about summer.

However, it takes a lot of preparation and care to ensure that you are able to produce some tomatoes for your enjoyment. If you have any questions about producing tomatoes or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture or natural resource topic, please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County or reach me directly via e-mail at smith535@purdue.edu.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Today -- Area Share the Fun contest, Edgewood High School,

* Saturday -- Livestock Enrollment forms due to Clay County Extension Office,

* Saturday -- Livestock Enrollment forms due to Owen County Extension Office, and

* May 22 -- State FFA and 4-H Livestock Judging Contest, Purdue University.