Fall cleanup of tomato cages and vine supports can prevent diseases.
Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot are two major fungal diseases that tomato growers battle every year. They attack the leaves resulting in a decrease in the amount of fruit produced. Paying attention to fall cleanup and a little planning can help minimize infection next year.
First, clean cages and vine supports thoroughly, then store them out in the open. Disease causing spores hibernate on rusted wire surfaces, wood crevices, or bits of remaining vines left on the cages and can infect next year's crop. Spores can be killed by subjecting them to the disinfecting properties of sunlight and winter weather extremes. If you store your cages and vine supports indoors in a garage or garden shed, it is best if you spray them first with a disinfecting solution. To make the solution, mix one part laundry bleach with 10 parts water. Spray or soak each cage with this solution so that the entire vine support is wet.
Next, be sure to thoroughly remove all dead tomato plants and plant material from the garden. Do not place the debris in the compost pile and do not work it into the soil. Disease organisms can carry over from year to year and attack next year's harvest.
Finally, till deeply to ensure any leftover residue is turned into the soil. Small pieces are always missed during the cleanup process, and by tilling deeply you can bury those small pieces.
Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in the home garden. Unfortunately, they have many disease and insect problems. However, proper sanitation practices can greatly reduce the amount of disease problems encountered from year to year.
-- The Garden Calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County office and written this week by Bruce Chladny, extension agent in horticulture. For more information call the extension office, 843-7058, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.