The Q&A Archives: Tomatoe Plants

Question: When I first started my tomatoe plants about 6 years ago, they would thrive and grow as tall as my fence. The past 2 years they have been scrawny. Last year I added a healthy amount of compost thinking that maybe the soil was lacking something, but they still didn't do well? Do you have any advice? Should I have my soil tested?

Answer: If you have been growing tomatoes in the same garden spot for 6 years, there may be some pathogens lurking there, ready to pounce on your new plants. If you've been moving your plants around to different spots in the garden each year, this is probably not an issue. You might try growing one plant in a container filled with potting soil just as a test. Then you can compare the two plants. If they are identical in growth and symptoms, there's nothing wrong with your soil. Tomato plants are subject to various maladies, some weather related, some because of variety. I think amending your soil with organic matter should help make the soil hospitable to the roots of your plants; choosing disease resistant varieties will also help. Be sure to check the days to maturity, too. I find that the cool season or short season varieties produce fruits faster and are less susceptible to late season diseases. Other than the above, be sure to water deeply but infrequently. The soil should dry out slightly between waterings to encourage deep root growth and more robust plants. Hope this information is helpful.

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