Vegetables and Fruit forum: Tomato cages and disease

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Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Feb 12, 2018 5:01 PM CST
Ok, I built some really nice 'mater cages last year out of concrete wire. We got rain last year, lots and lots of rain. We got so much rain the ducks were wearing life-preservers. We got a lot of rain.

Those wonderful tomato heirlooms made some wonderful plants growing past the top of the 5' tall cages. And...all the tomatoes rotted.<sigh>

Well, this year I'm trying it again but mostly going with hybrids. Maybe it was the soggy summer, maybe I wasn't holding my lips just right, maybe... I'm trying to get things stacked in my favor this year, thus mostly hybrids with noted disease resistance.

But, I'm curious about the tomato cages. They've been laying out beside the garden this winter just kinda bidin' their time. I mean, really, what can tomato cages do to pass the time during the winter other than just lay there? It's not like they can play canasta or something...at least I don't think they can. Blinking . Anyhow, I'm wondering if I should clorox them or something to kill any lingering bacteria or viri?

So, to clorox or not clorox, that is the question... Shrug!

Ed

South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
Sunset zone 22, USDA zone 10 A.
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California Plant Identifier
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ctcarol
Feb 12, 2018 6:00 PM CST
It couldn't hurt!
Name: Paul Fish
Brownville, Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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PaulF
Feb 12, 2018 6:12 PM CST
Pathogens will infect almost any style cage for a long time...from what I remember, years. I have done several methods of disinfection. The first was using a kids plastic swimming pool, filling it most of the way with water and adding chlorine bleach to make it about 10-15% ratio. Then dunking the cages and spinning them around. Later I used a sprayer at the same ratio of bleach to water.

A couple of years when I forgot to disinfect, pathogens got to the vines. Absolutely disinfect every year. And don't give up on good tomatoes just because of a bad weather year.
Name: Jason
Oregon (Zone 8b)
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TomatoTango
Feb 13, 2018 9:31 AM CST
If you get rainy summers don't do heirloom tomatoes. They need special care and absolutely hate getting wet, even for foliar feedings. You could always grow in a greenhouse. I don't clean any of my cages and I may lose a couple plants out of 30 each year. If you're worried about disease and rain then stick with hybrids.
Name: Paul Fish
Brownville, Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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PaulF
Feb 13, 2018 11:58 AM CST
TomatoTango said: If you're worried about disease and rain then stick with hybrids.


Having grown tomatoes for around 50 years, beginning with hybrids and moving on to OPs and heirlooms, I take exception to this statement. Disease does not differentiate between hybrids and OPs. It is more the growing methods used and cultural practices. A good mulching program and disinfection has more to do with disease control.

The worst years of tomato growing was when all that I planted were hybrids. Does that mean hybrids were the culprit? No, it was the way I grew tomatoes. Over those many years, the most disease free plants were OP/heirlooms. The old wives tale that hybrids are more disease free is a fallacy. Some are bred to resist certain pathogens, but that is only a delay and meant for large scale farming where two or three days means keeping the farm or not.

In the home garden a few extra days is not even noticeable. I have not lost a plant to disease in more than 15 years. Granted I only grow around 35 plants per year but my record is pretty good. It takes very little time and effort to disinfest cages. If your plants show any sign of wilt or blight by the end of the season, that is reason to use bleach on the cages. Pathogens are in every soil in every location and will cling to and move up a cage to infect plants. Strong plants will resist these diseases longer, most for the entire growing season. Plants with mulch to keep the leaves off the soil will be stronger and last longer.

Wet weather will adversely affect any tomato plant and the fruit it is trying to produce. Hopefully this year will be better. Grow whatever you like best; any home grown will always be better than a store bought. Personally I will never go back to round, red, boring, (and for me, disease ridden) hybrids. Sometimes it is an adventure, but always fun.
[Last edited by PaulF - Feb 13, 2018 11:59 AM (+)]
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Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Feb 13, 2018 12:26 PM CST
I agree fully with Paul but if you are going to go to the effort of trying to sanitize your cages, then buy top line sanitizer such as the one I use to kill mold on my garage.
The initial cost will be higher but you will be using a product that is more effective than bleach.
I have gotten, and now have several gallons of a hospital level killer that came as a freebie with my mold killer.
I have not used it but hearing the stories here I think I will at least give some of my tools a bath.
I use RMR86 but there are others that kill nasties far better than simple bleach.

I do trim my plants to keep air flowing through and treat them with Serenade.
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Feb 13, 2018 2:30 PM CST
I think I had the "perfect storm" for a bad garden last year. We had constant rain, high humidity, and high temperatures. South Alabama can be pretty tough humidity-wise. A regular incubator for bacteria-size to giant hornworm size anti-garden critters.<sigh>

What would be a sanitizer that would be better than bleach?
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Jason
Oregon (Zone 8b)
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TomatoTango
Feb 13, 2018 2:45 PM CST
When I said I lost a couple of plants last year to blight or whatever, they died because I pulled them. I've never lost a single tomato plant to anything other than heat vaporization in a greenhouse. Been growing tomatoes 6-7 years and haven't sanitized anything other than trimmers. I could go to the trouble of spraying down 40 cages or whatever but to me that's work that won't pay off. I simply haven't had enough problems with tomatoes to bother. I amend the soil 10 times a year and don't bother worrying about disease.
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Feb 13, 2018 3:19 PM CST
TomatoTango said:When I said I lost a couple of plants last year to blight or whatever, they died because I pulled them. I've never lost a single tomato plant to anything other than heat vaporization in a greenhouse. Been growing tomatoes 6-7 years and haven't sanitized anything other than trimmers. I could go to the trouble of spraying down 40 cages or whatever but to me that's work that won't pay off. I simply haven't had enough problems with tomatoes to bother. I amend the soil 10 times a year and don't bother worrying about disease.

I'm glad that you've had such wonderful success with your tomatoes. Unfortunately last years crop was a disaster for me and I *will* be disinfecting my cages. As for losing a plant, I lost one plant last year and the rest of the large tomato plants outgrew the 5' tall plants by probably a couple of feet. I had great plants. Just no crop.
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Jason
Oregon (Zone 8b)
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TomatoTango
Feb 13, 2018 3:40 PM CST
If your plants looked perfect except for the tomatoes and had several feet of height, that almost sounds like too much nitrogen or some other type of issue. How much rain are we talking about here? Like every 3-4 days? Did you take any pictures of the tomatoes or the plants as this was happening?
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Feb 16, 2018 6:53 AM CST
How about this ZEP product?
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Zep-C...
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: James
Fabens,TX (Zone 8a)
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Txtea
Feb 16, 2018 8:04 AM CST
I used ZEP products before but not this one. After I read Spec , I think this would work
Name: Jim Goodman
Northeast Louisiana
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Jim41
Feb 16, 2018 5:21 PM CST
I set out about 75 tomatoes each year. I plant hybrids because where I live the blight just about wipes out anything else. I stack my cages and leave them alone until the next planting season. I haven't lost a tomato in years to disease. Last year was a super wet one for us as well. I had trouble with a fungus that almost defoliated my tomatoes before I realized what was happening. It didn't hurt my yield but did make sun blistering a problem. My hybrid of choice for the hot humid weather in Louisiana is Bella Rosa.
Jim41
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Feb 17, 2018 9:24 AM CST
Jim, James, thanks for the replies. I'm going to go ahead and pick up some of the Zep today, hopefully it won't hurt anything using it. My situation last year was that I grew some really nice, healthy-looking vines that probably grew to 6.5-7 feet tall (surpassed the 5' cages easily). I kept the bottom leaves and limbs pretty well pruned off (probably 1 to 1.5' off the ground) and mulched with pinestraw. Very little disease noted on the leaves. Plants bloomed nicely, put on scads of tomatoes. BUT...every-single-one-rotted!!!!!!!!!! They'd grow to be big tomatoes but before they'd start blushing with some red they'd start rotting. Out of the 15 or so plants that I had I did not harvest a single tomato. I took a bite off the end of a couple of Roma's that were only beginning to show some rot, but I was desperate for a tomato taste out of the garden. Sad The varieties were Brandywine (pink and red), Mortgage Lifter, and Roma. I may plant one each of the Brandywine Red and the Mortgage Lifter *just* to see what happens with them this year. The vast majority of my tomatoes will be hybrid. Seeds are somewhat cheap so I've got a variety. I'll probably go with two, maybe three, of each kind...probably for a total of 12-14 plants. I really wanted to save seed and start tailoring plants for my specific garden, but...I like to eat, too. Crying Thus, heavying up on the hybrids this year.

I'm hoping I get good results out of the hybrids, Jim. It's encouraging to hear you results with them!
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Kristi
east Texas pineywoods (Zone 8a)
Winter Sowing Cat Lover Dog Lover Vermiculture Birds Bulbs
Canning and food preservation Butterflies Composter Bromeliad Bookworm Greenhouse
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pod
Feb 17, 2018 10:53 AM CST
@Jim41 ~ Your post from last summer inspired me to order Bella Rosa seeds which have germinated. I also ordered a couple more types to try in our heat and humidity. Creole and Dixie Red. The Creole has me excited. The seedlings are the most sturdy and healthy looking seedlings. All the seeds were a bit expensive but the germination is excellent and I'm still looking for that 'magic' tomato that will deliver through summer here.

As far as the tomato cages, I use bamboo and reuse without anything being carried over. Most of the fungal diseases live in the soil. In my area, they commonly call it cotton root rot. Tomatoes will be just fine one day and dead the next. Usually after a good rain. My solution is raised beds, Ed. I also grow some in large containers also, all with good soil and that way I am insured to have a tomato crop albeit not a massive crop.
Be content moving inch by inch because, by days end, the inches, will add up to feet and yards.

Fulfilling ambitious objectives is usually done one step at a time.
Name: Jim Goodman
Northeast Louisiana
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Jim41
Feb 17, 2018 11:33 AM CST
I hope you have better luck with the Creole than I had, Pod. They made but I was disappointed in the size and flavor.

I think you will like the Bella Rosa. They have a good taste and will keep making with a little water. I ate tomatoes until frost got them this winter. Another thing I like about them is that will stay firm after they are ripe than any tomato that I've tried. I sell a lot of tomatoes and it isn't unusual to have 400 or 500 pounds of tomatoes on hand at one time. If they don't hold that firmness, I'd have to toss a lot of tomatoes.

Wishing you much success.

Jim
Jim41
Name: Kristi
east Texas pineywoods (Zone 8a)
Winter Sowing Cat Lover Dog Lover Vermiculture Birds Bulbs
Canning and food preservation Butterflies Composter Bromeliad Bookworm Greenhouse
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pod
Feb 17, 2018 10:17 PM CST
Wow Jim! You do some large scale tomato raising. I am impressed.

I am only trying five of each type of tomato this year so nowhere near the volume you do.

I look forward to trying them and again, I appreciate your suggestion of a tomato to try.

Thanks much! I tip my hat to you.
Be content moving inch by inch because, by days end, the inches, will add up to feet and yards.

Fulfilling ambitious objectives is usually done one step at a time.
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Feb 17, 2018 10:22 PM CST
Jim, Totally Tomatoes lists the Bela Rosa as a determinant plant. From what you've written it sounds like they're a bit of a semi-determinate plant. For my home garden I've been looking at indeterminate plants in hopes they'll make all through the summer. Do you find that the determinate tomatoes actually have a longer harvest period or do they mostly ripen all at once? I was thinking that with a determinate plant I'd find myself suddenly wrapped up in ripe tomatoes.
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Paul Fish
Brownville, Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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PaulF
Feb 18, 2018 11:51 AM CST
Not Jim but determinate tomatoes ripen in a short period of time and indeterminates go all season. Determinate tomatoes are for those who want a quantity at the same time, like commercial tomato growers and gardeners who want a bunch to can or make sauce, etc.

We like tomatoes available to eat all season long so indeterminates are the varieties of choice. With 35 plants we also have enough to freeze some and make juice or sauce.
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
Image
Intheswamp
Feb 19, 2018 7:42 AM CST
D'Oh!
There are great bonuses to living in a rural area, I couldn't see myself living in even a small city or town. I know that other people can't see themselves living where there isn't a Starbucks or Olive Garden a few blocks away. We've all got our personal likes and dislikes. But, a negative to living in a small, rural area is lack of supplies. I drove 30 miles to a Lowes Saturday to get a kitchen faucet. The *one* unit like we wanted that they had in stock had been ransacked by a previous buyer...no instructions, no parts-list, badly bagged parts. A casual inquiry about the state of the packaging brought out the Mr Hyde in the salesperson...another story sometime. I then drove another 40 miels to the next nearest Lowes.<sigh> They had several boxes of the model we were looking for and all of them were in nice packaging with plastic strapping still wrapping around both directions of the boxes (unlike the one in Troy). Rolling my eyes. While I was at both Lowes I figured I'd pickup some of the Zep disinfectant...nada at either of the store. Thumbs down

Yesterday afternoon I started to install the faucet but found, of course, that I needed one very small part to install the tee for the refrigerator's ice maker hook-up...a 3/8" barrel/joiner/combiner/whatever fitting. Sheesh...another 30 mile ride to Lowes. Guess what?...most of the popular sizes of any kind of compression fitting was out of stock. Plenty of the obscure "what the heck would that fit" fittings. Fun. Grumbling Wasted time, wasted gas, wasted...??? Living rurally has it's benefits...and its faults, like doing plumbing projects on a weekend when the small local stores are closed.

The rest of the story... Old pipes, corrosion and rust, short supply stubs sticking out of the bottom of the cabinet (house built around 1950), no cut-off valve, plastic flange nuts to hold the old faucet wouldn't not spin past the patina (read that "green corrosion") on the stubs of the faucet (had to cut them off with a Dremel), etc., etc.,. But, things really went pretty good...no leaks. Thumbs up BUT, without the barrel connector fitting I couldn't install the tee for the ice maker. I hope to pick up the fitting today locally and be done with the project tonight!!!! Blinking

...as for the tomato cages, I guess I'll just use some bleach and soap on the tomato cages.<sigh>
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling

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