Category Archives: Plant Diseases

Tomato Wisdom

Yummy Sun Gold Tomatoes

The Mission of the Capital City Organic Gardeners is to collectively share, learn and teach organic vegetable gardening methods to each other. That is what we did at our last meeting. We took some time to share our ‘Tomato Wisdom” and here is what we learned…

Favorite Varieties of Tomatoes:
Juliet is Laura’s favorite tomato. It is a small oval shaped tomato like a paste tomato, but not fleshy. It cooks down well into sauces, tastes good sliced up and dries well in the dehydrator. It is a great tomato for roasting in the oven. The plants are very prolific and bear tons of fruit throughout the season.
• Claudia loves her Garden Peach tomato. It is a small, yellow tomato that has a velvety skin much like a peach! It is a low-acid paste tomato that is blight resistant . The best thing about the Garden Peach is it’s beauty, it’s simply gorgeous! Claudia also made a pitch for the heirloom, Cherokee Purple because of it’s beautiful purple color and great, rich taste.
• Steve enjoys his German Johnson heirloom tomatoes because they rarely split before you are ready to pick them.
• Nikki claims that Brandywine heirlooms are scrumptious and her personal favorite.
•Everyone agreed that no cherry tomato tops Sun Gold. Sungold tomatoes were developed at UNH at the Kingman Farm. Claudia dries her Sun Golds by simply cutting them in half and putting them in the dehydrator. They dry down to wafer-thin disks that are crunchy and taste like tomato candy. Simply amazing!

Planting Tomatoes:
• Nikki plants her tomatoes very deep. She digs down about 1 1/2′ and puts a quart of composted manure at the bottom of the hole. She takes off side leaves and plants the tomato as deep as she can leaving a few leaves above ground. The tomato will make roots all along its buried stem.
• Steve takes some chicken wire or hardware cloth and makes a circular cage. He puts rotted horse manure in the cage and then plants tomato plants around the perimeter of the cage. He waters the manure and the water washes down through the manure to water the tomatoes and fertilize them at the same time.

Tomato Diseases:
Unfortunately, there are so many tomato diseases that it was hard to pinpoint any one treatment for a particular disease. However, we did come up with a strategy for combating diseases. First, at the first sign of any sort of disease on the plant, cut off the bad parts and throw the diseased parts away (do NOT compost). If you think you have blight, then spray the plants with a copper fungicide. If the tomatoes  seem to be rotting before ripening, then pick them at the first hint of red. They will ripen up on their own. Next year, plant your tomatoes in a new spot. That helps lessen diseases from being spread year to year.

-Here is a link to identify Tomato diseases: Vegetable MD On-Line
-Here is a link for common tomato problems and some solutions: www.colostate.edu
-Here is a link for planting tomatoes: Organic Gardening Magazine

Dealing with excess tomatoes:
– Lorna doesn’t have much time to process her tomatoes during the summer so she simply throws them whole into big plastic bags and puts them in the freezer. Then, in the cooler weather, she just pulls out the tomatoes and let’s them defrost a bit. The skins slip right off and she can make a sauce or throw them into soups and stews. Easy!
• Laura shared a recipe for Crockpot Tomato Sauce which is easy to make and uses up a lot of tomatoes all at once. The Crockpot does not heat up the kitchen and the sauce freezes well. Here it is…

Crockpot Tomato Sauce for the freezer
An easy way to process a ton of tomatoes without heating up your kitchen or slaving over the stove all day!
1. Saute one onion and two or three garlic cloves until soft. Put into the crockpot.
2. Deglaze pan with about a half a cup of water and add to crockpot.
3. Cut tomatoes in half. Squeeze out seeds. No need to peel. Throw into crockpot until crockpot is full or you have run out of tomatoes.
4. Optional: Add in diced carrots. Two or three.
5. Cook all day. Puree sauce with a stick blender or regular blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you like a sweeter sauce, add in a touch of brown sugar.
6. Freeze. This is a good basic tomato sauce to use as a base for your winter recipes.

So there you have it! Lot’s of “Tomato Wisdom” shared with the group. Collectively, we all learned something new!

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Planning Crop Rotation

Keep your plans all in one place, a garden journal is a wonderful thing!

When I first planned my garden, I created four beds so I could rotate my crops from year to year. I  spent  a lot of time and effort figuring out what to plant together.  Now that  I have my plan, it’s no big deal to figure out where and what to plant from year to year. I just remember where the tomatoes were the year before and shift over one plot. Easy as pie!

There are several reasons why you should rotate your crops. First, certain plants deplete the soil and others build nutrients in the soil. Second, it’s supposed to confuse the pests (Ha!). Third, replanting a plant in the same place where diseased plants were the year before may recreate that disease. (For example, you don’t want to plant tomatoes in the same patch where there was tomato blight the year before.)

There are so many different options for rotating crops. My advice it to pick one, run with it and don’t sweat the details. You can make adjustments over the years if you come across a plan you like better. Here are two plans that Ayn Whytemare of Found Well farm suggests…

Super Simple:

• Root (Onions, garlic, turnips, carrots, radishes)
• Leaf (Lettuce, spinach, herbs, cabbage, broccoli)
• Fruit (Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers)
• Legumes (Beans, peas)

Here is a good link from an organic gardener using this method.

Crop Rotation PDF


Crop Rotation using Plant Families…

• Tomato (Tomatoes and Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes)
• Legumes (Peas and Beans)
• Cabbage ( Broccoli, Cabbage, ,Kale, Pac Choi, Kohlarabi, Brussel Sprouts, turnips, radishes, rutebega)
• Grass (Corn, Sorghum, Grains)
• Squash (Cukes, Pumpkins, Melons, Gourds)
• Carrot (Carrots, Celery, Parsley, Parsnips)
• Onion (Onion, Leeks,  Shallots)
• Sunflower (Lettuce, Sunflowers, Jerusalem Artichoke)
• Bitter Greens (Spinach,  Chard, Beets)



What to do with Powdery Mildew?

Powdery Mildew on a squash leaf

Powdery Mildew on a squash leaf

Powdery Mildew looks nasty but it generally won’t kill your plants. However, it may reduce the yield. Once you get it, you can’t get rid of it, but you can control it with a couple of simple measures.

Spray with diluted cow’s milk. Mix 1 part milk with 9 parts water and spray the stems and tops of leaves with the solution. Skim milk will tend to be less stinky since it doesn’t have any fat in it, but any milk will do. Reapply after rain.

• Spray the leaves with baking soda. Mix 1 teaspoon in 1 quart water and add a tiny squirt of dishwashing detergent to help make it stick. This raises the pH, creating an inhospitable environment for powdery mildew. Reapply after rain.

At the end of the season, do a thorough garden clean-up. Dispose of the worst plants/leaves and do not compost because the spores may overwinter. Next year, try and space your plants a little farther apart. High humidity (gee…what’s that??) and crowding don’t allow your plants to dry out during the day which contributes to the spreading of the disease.

To read more about powdery mildew, check out these links…

Organic Gardening Magazine

“Using Milk to Control Powdery Mildew” at gardenguides.com

Late Tomato Blight has come early!

There was a good article in the paper on Sunday regarding late tomato blight. Apparently the intense amount of rain we have had is causing the blight early in the season. Check your plants for blight and if they have it, throw away the plants and do not compost them. Also, disinfect your garden tools and wash your gardening clothes in hot water to kill the spores.

Here is a link to the article, “Season’s been just rotten” by Anika Clark of the Keene Sentinal.

More on late blight is available at the following websites…
Vegetable MD On-Line

UNH Cooperative Extention