July 16, 2008
The weather is a funny thing when it comes to our gardens. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were dealing with almost too much rain. Now we need to be watering our plants almost every day.
The changing weather has created problems in our gardens. One of the most common customer problems we have seen in the store is a problem with leaf curl on tomatoes. The leaves actually curl over themselves. This leaf curl is caused by a fluctuation in moisture levels in the soil. Whenever you have weather conditions where we get a lot of rain followed by a period of lack of rain, you will probably see leaf curl on tomatoes. Tomato plants need a consistent level of moisture in the soil. This can be particularly hard to do when you are growing tomato plants in containers. As the plant grows, so does the root system. Over time, the roots fill the container and there is less area in the soil to hold water. The same thing can happen in the garden when tomato plants are growing too close to each other. The roots compete for available moisture in the soil. As the plants get larger, there is less moisture available as each plant pulls more moisture from the soil. Your job is to keep the moisture levels even. In container grown tomatoes, you may have to water each day. As the plants get really big, you may have to water several times per day just to keep up with the water demands of the tomato. Tomatoes in the garden should also have evenly moist soil. Hopefully, your soil is of sufficient quality that you don’t have to water every day. However, you are the only one who can determine how often you will need to water the garden. If you take your finger and push your finger into the soil, you should feel moist soil about 2 inches down. If the soil feels dry, then you need to water the plants.
Keeping the moisture levels consistent also helps to prevent the condition called blossom end rot. If you have ever had tomatoes that have a black leathery patch on the bottom of the tomato, then you will have seen blossom end rot. The easiest way to control this problem is to keep up with the watering. Soil that goes from wet to dry and back again will usually start blossom end rot. This diseases starts when the tomato is forming. Once the tomato develops the problem, it is too late to do anything about it. Prevention is the best “cure”. If you have had the problem in the past, you can spray the plants with a product called Rot Stop. The spray will help to prevent the problem. Watering properly is the best solution. Remember that any plant should be watered early in the morning. This allows the plant to take up water before the heat of the day. Early morning watering also allows the leaves to dry out before the sun sets. Leaves that are wet at night are a magnet for all kinds of fungus diseases.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.