What’s Wrong With Your Tomatoes?

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And so our plant-care checklist for growing a better tomato grows — starting with the rotation of the tomato bed, mulching and consistent watering. Also remember to inspect plants regularly and remove infected parts. Then, at season’s end, clean up thoroughly.

If you save your own seed, it’s best not to harvest from diseased plants. Not all diseases can infect seed, but some can — including anthracnose fruit rot and early blight, as well as some bacterial diseases. Likewise, self-sown tomato seedlings that pop up in the garden next spring could carry certain pathogens, including Septoria. Pull them.

Speaking of seed: Shop for prevention. Drawing on insights from any serious issues occurring this year, scan the descriptions on Cornell’s list of resistant varieties before shopping for seed next time. And pay attention to the tags alongside each variety name in the catalogs — the series of letters like VFN (for Verticillium, Fusarium and nematodes, three more tomato troubles) — to figure out what kind of “resistance package” each variety offers, Dr. Wyenandt said. But breeding in resistance while retaining good fruit quality and other desired traits isn’t easy, he noted, and for some troubles, including late blight, there are few choices; there are still almost none for diseases like Septoria.

This harvest season, practice some proactive picking, too, especially with crack-prone varieties like certain grape, cherry and heirloom tomato varieties, which are vulnerable when their full-sized fruits take in more water from a hard rain but the skins can no longer expand. The popular Sun Gold cherry gets special treatment against cracking at the Holmstrom garden.

“If we know it’s going to rain,” Mr. Holmstrom said, “we pick anything that’s starting to change color before it’s fully ripe, and let it ripen inside.”


Margaret Roach is the creator of the website and podcast A Way to Garden, and a book of the same name.

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