JOSH BLANEK

County Extension Agent

One of the most popular vegetable crops for Somervell County homeowners to grow is tomatoes. Our tomato crop this spring is looking pretty good for the most part. The warmer, sunny days and adequate moisture have helped most tomato plants.

However, there have been several reports of slower-growing plants related to the cool nights and humid weather we have had. In order to ensure a good fruit set and nice, red, plump tomatoes at harvest time, gardeners need to monitor their plants carefully for disease and insect infestation.

As the plants begin to grow, gardeners need to watch for disease infection on plants. Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot will damage the foliage. These can be controlled through the use of a fungicide such as Mancozeb and Chlorothalonil. As the plants set, gardeners should mulch around plants and use cages to keep the fruit off of the ground to prevent fruit rot.

Insects attacking the plant foliage and knocking off the blossoms are the soft-bodied insects known as aphids. These can be controlled with insecticides such as diazinon or malathion. A natural insecticide that can provide control for the aphids is nicotine or gardeners can simply wash insects off of the plants using high pressure water sprays.

As the fruit enlarges, the tomato hornworm and the tomato fruitworm will feed on both the plant foliage and fruit. Control of these insects can be obtained by applying Bacillus thuringiensis. The tomato pinworm also can cause damage to both fruit and plants. Carbaryl (Sevin) is labeled for the control of this pest.

Once the tomato has set fruit, side dress the plants with one level tablespoon of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) around each plant. This application of fertilizer is important in the final sizing of the fruit on the plant.

Try to maintain a constant water supply on your tomato plant. Donít allow the soil to become overly dry and then too wet. It may be helpful to mulch around the base of the tomato plants. This helps prevent the soil from drying out quickly. By maintaining a constant water supply, one can prevent cracked fruit and blossom-end-rot.

The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service is implied. Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.