The Q&A Archives: Tomato Problems

Question: The leaves on my tomatoes are drying up from the bottom up the plant. What causes it and can anything be done to prevent it? Is it a tomato disease? Also what kills Japenese Bettles that eat bean leaves and almost everything?

Answer: It sounds like it is time to go on the offensive against early blight. There are several things you can do to minimize its spread. The disease affects both potatoes and tomatoes, so keeping these plantings far apart can help control the spread. Plant your tomatoes in a new location every year, and avoid planting them where potatoes have grown. Choose tomato varieties that have flat leaves as opposed to curly leaves, which take longer to dry off after rain and are thus more susceptible to fungal infection. When spots first appear in early summer, cut off the leaves and destroy them. Then spray the plants with compost tea. You can make the tea from aged compost that contains some manure. Add one part compost to five parts water in a bucket and let it sit in the shade for 2 weeks. Then filter and spray on a cloudy day or in early evening. Wet both sides of the leaves. Repeat every 2-3 weeks. Another strategy for managing early blight is to set out some plants in the spring while leaving space for more plants to be set out in early and midsummer. The older leaves are the most susceptible to the fungus, so if you have plants at different stages of growth, you are more likely to have some relatively free of the disease. Since plants under stress are more likely to be attacked by disease, be sure to keep your plants well watered (preferably avoiding overhead watering) and use mulch to conserve soil moisture.

Japanese beetles are a difficult pest to control. Your best bet is a two-prong approach: one to deal with the larvae, one to deal with the adults.

Japanese beetle grubs are best controlled by spraying beneficial nematodes on the lawn and
garden area. These microscopic worm-like creatures attack only the grubs in the soil and not plants,
animals or humans. Spray them in spring when the temperatures are above 55F and you should see a
difference this summer. You can buy the beneficial nematodes from, Gardeners Supply co, 128
Intervale Rd. Burlington, VT 05401 800-863-1700

For adult beetles, I'd try a new product called whole neem oil. This is different than the Bioneem in that it is a stronger concentration of this organic spray. It's available from Greenlight Co., Box 17985, San Antonio, TX 78217, 210-494-3481.

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