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I realize that this season has not been a good one for tomatoes…

Sally Asked

I realize that this season has not been a good one for tomatoes, but I have a disease problem. I have three raised beds, so my planting area is limited. Last year, I noticed the foliage on the tomatoes becoming spotted and finally drying up along with some stems. The plants still produced some fruit. I moved the planting to another area this year and had the same result. As I am in the raised bed situation, can the soil be treated with anything or will adding new soil on top help?

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The Gardener’s Answer

It certainly has been a challenging year for growing tomatoes. The extreme fluctuations of wet and dry conditions combined with cooler than average temperatures did not provide any of us with a bumper crop of tomatoes this season. As with any plant, each is more susceptible to insect and/or disease issues if they are stressed. Less than ideal growing conditions can cause plant stress and encourage insect/disease issues; once introduced, they can ruin your crop for several years.

This is why crop rotation is so important. Anything that is going to over-winter in the soil will not be remedied by adding a new layer next growing season. It really would be best to get a positive identification as to what you are dealing with. It may be verticillium wilt, but just to be sure you can take a sample to your county cooperative Extension service. The horticulture or agriculture agent(s) can give you specifics in terms of your tomatoes and prevention options. Each problem is treated differently so it is best to know exactly what is going on in your garden.

Since we can’t control the weather, we have to do everything possible to create optimal growing conditions for each plant. Tomatoes require a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight each day. They grow best in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Hopefully your raised beds are in a nice, sunny location and they were filled with quality soil and compost. Planting disease-resistant cultivars is essential to a healthy crop.

Click here for a list of disease-resistant cultivars for Kentucky gardeners. For now, keep the area around the tomato plants free of plant litter.

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