A website from UGA Cooperative Extension

By Jake Price

The desire for fresh homegrown tomatoes is probably the main reason homeowners have gardens.  Most plants are planted in late March and April, or when they are available at the garden centers.  Each spring, many homeowners run into problems with their plants.

Two newer, good tasting, disease resistant varieties are currently being sold by the Lowndes 4-H club to support the camping program.   The two varieties are Red Bounty and Bella Rosa which both have resistance to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. Call 333-5185 for more information.  Plants are $1.00 each while supplies last.

Tomatoes are susceptible to a lot of diseases.  Once infected, it is too late to stop most diseases from killing or limiting the production of the plant.   Tomatoes come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.   A few cultural practices and planting varieties that are resistant to disease can make for a more productive tomato harvest.

When selecting your plants look for varieties that have a lot of letters next to the name.  This means that plants have a built in resistance to disease.   An example would be a popular variety called Celebrity VFFNTA Hybrid.  The letters stand for the following:

V = Verticillium Wilt
F = Fusarium Wilt
FF = Fusarium Wilt race 1 and 2
N = Nematode
T = Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A = Alternaria (Early Blight)
TSWV = Tomato Spotted Wilt

Tomatoes are classified as determinate which means most of the fruit ripens over a short period of time, and indeterminant, which means that fruit will continually be produced.  Determinant varieties produce a lot of tomatoes early and once the tomatoes have been harvested the plants can be removed.                                                                                                   Popular determinant varieties include:  Bush Celebrity VFFNTA Hybrid, Bush Early Girl VFFNT Hybrid, Celebrity VFFNTA Hybrid, and Mountain Spring VFF Hybrid.  Popular indeterminant varieties are:  Early Girl VFF Hybrid, Better Boy VFN Hybrid, Big Boy Hybrid, and Beefmaster VFN Hybrid.

Cherry tomato varieties are: Jolly Hybrid, Sweet Baby Girl Hybrid, and Super Sweet 100 Hybrid.  Of course there are many more to choose from.  Cultural practices will also prevent problems.

Tomatoes like a well-drained high organic matter soil and a pH between 6.2 and 6.8.  I would recommend you have a soil test done for your garden and follow any recommendations.  A soil test can correct any pH problems.                                                                                 Tomatoes frequently have a problem with a condition called “Blossom End Rot”.  This is when the bottom of the tomato turns black.  Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the fruit and is made worse when soil conditions fluctuate between wet and dry.                                                                                                                                                       Additions of dolomitic lime, which raises pH and contains calcium and Magnesium, can help prevent the problem.   If your soil pH is optimal, but your calcium is low, apply gypsum at 1 pound per 100 square feet.  Foliar applications of calcium can help provide a temporary fix if the problem is not excessive.                                           Mulching around your tomato plants reduces soil moisture fluctuations and keeps the weed pressure down.  Layers of newspaper can be placed around plants and mulch can be added on top to further prevent weeds.  Pine straw, bark, leaves, or most any type of mulch will be ok.

Selecting disease resistant varieties, mulching, and following your soil test results should make your tomato season more productive.  For more information on tomatoes and varieties visit this website:  https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201271_5.PDF

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