1) Prune out Suckers
– Tomato suckers, or side shoots, are the growth that appears in the crotch between the stem and a branch. If left to grow, they will become another main stem with branches, flowers, fruit and more suckers of their own.
– As long as there is a strong main stem, it’s fine to leave a few suckers on the plant. The general recommendation is to leave 2 or 3 suckers to improve yield, but not to let every sucker grow. After that there is no general agreement.
– The earlier you prune out the suckers, the easier it is. Small leaves and 2-4″ stems can be snapped off with your finger. Stems thicker than a pencil should be cut out with pruners, to avoid damaging the plant.
2) Give Support to the Plants
– When tomatoes enter the growing season, try to tie its main stem to bamboo stick. Keep the plant growing straightly, and avoid the plant and fruits to fall to the ground.
3) Leaf Diseases
– Early Blight can affect the foliage, stems and fruit of tomatoes. Symptoms: Dark spots with concentric rings develop on older leaves first. The surrounding leaf area may turn yellow. Affected leaves may die prematurely, exposing the fruits to sun scald. Management: Remove affected plants and thoroughly clean fall garden debris. Wet weather and stressed plants increase likelihood of attack. Copper and/or sulfur sprays can prevent further development of the fungus. The biofungicide Serenade lessens problems.
– Gray Leaf Spot affects only the leaves of tomatoes, starting with the oldest leaves. Symptoms: Small, dark spots that can be seen on both the top and bottom surfaces of the leaves. The spots enlarge and turn a grayish brown. Eventually the centers of the spots crack and fall out. Surrounding leaf areas will turn yellow and the leaves will dry and drop. Fruit production is inhibited. Management: Warm, moist conditions worsen gray leaf spot problems. Remove all affected plants and fall garden debris.
– Late Blight affects both the leaves and fruit of tomatoes. It spreads rapidly. Cool, wet weather encourages the development of the fungus. Symptoms: Greasy looking, irregularly shaped gray spots appear on leaves. A ring of white mold can develop around the spots, especially in wet weather. The spots eventually turn dry and papery. Blackened areas may appear on the stems. The fruit also develop large, irregularly shaped, greasy gray spots. Management: Copper sprays offer some control.
– Septoria Leaf Spot is sometimes mistaken for Late Blight. With septoria leaf spot, the papery patches on the leaves develop tiny, dark specks inside them. Older leaves are affected first. As the disease develops, the spots will get larger and may merge together. If you view them under a magnifying lens you may see the fruiting bodies of the fungus, which look like dark brown pimples, as shown above. This is one of the symptoms that distinguishes Septoria leaf spot from other leaf spotting diseases. Although the symptoms usually occur on the older, lower leaves, the disease can develop at any stage in the tomato plant’s life. They may also appear on the stems, as shown in the photo on the next page, as well as the blossoms and calyxes. They rarely affect the fruits. Management: Avoid overhead watering. Water aids the spread of Septoria leaf spot. Keep it off the leaves as much as possible by watering at the base of the plant only. Copper sprays and Serenade are somewhat affective at halting the spread of symptoms.
– Southern Blight manifests as a white mold growing on the stem near the soil line. Dark, round spots will appear on the lower stem and both the outer and inner stem will become discolored. Southern Blight fungus girdles the tomato stem and prevents the plant from taking up water and nutrients. Young plants may collapse at the soil line. Management: Crop rotation seems to help. There has also been some evidence that extra calcium and the use of fertilizers containing ammonium offer some protection.
– Verticillium Wilt. This name can be misleading, as sometimes the leaves will turn yellow, dry up and never appear to wilt. Verticillium wilt is caused by a soil-borne fungus and it can affect many different vegetables. The fungus can persist in the soil for many years, so crop rotation and selection of resistant varieties is crucial. Symptoms include: wilting during the hottest part of the day and recovering at night, yellowing and eventually browning between the leaf veins starting with the older, lower leaves and discoloration inside the stems. Verticillium Wilt inhibits the plants ability to take in water and nutrients and will eventually kill the plant. Verticillium wilt is more pronounced in cool weather. Management: Remove affected plants and choose resistant varieties.
1) Weeding around the young transplants is essential. Weeds will outcompete eggplants until warm summer temperatures come. So stay on top of weeds by regularly hand-pulling or carefully weeding with a hoe or cultivator. Once the soil is warmed up, a mulch of straw or compost can be used. Grass clippings, too, make a good antiweed barrier, but make sure the clippings are from untreated lawns.
2) Flea beetles—skittish, tiny black or brown insects—chew small, shotlike holes in the leaves of eggplants. Larger plants tolerate this damage, but the beetles usually strike in early summer, when the plants are still small and vulnerable. Planting arugula or mustard greens nearby can lure flea beetles away from eggplants, as the pest prefers to feed on the greens. Colorado potato beetles can cause significant damage, chewing large holes into the soft green, somewhat fuzzy foliage. Remove them by hand. Neem-oil spray is a good multipurpose defense if applied routinely.
3) Remove eggplant suckers. Examine the plant and determine what stems need to be pruned. An eggplant should only have two to three stems per plant. The smaller stems that appear on side stems are often called suckers. Extra stems take away vital nutrients that can be used for producing a smaller number of strong healthy fruit. During fall, the fruit remaining on the plant requires as many nutrients as possible to mature during the cooler days and nights. Snip off the larger stems that are not needed, getting as close to the main stalk as possible. Leave only two to three stems branching from the main stalk. A clean, close cut will allow the plant to heal faster. Examine the remaining stalk and stems. Snip off any tiny suckers or shoots that may be growing off the main stems. These small suckers live up to their name by “sucking” nutrients from the main stems and fruits. Cutting off the suckers provides a direct path of food for the eggplant.
1) Water. The most important thing you can do for your peppers is to make sure they get regular water. Drought stress will cause their flowers to drop. They will also drop their flowers in prolonged cool weather, extreme heat and low humidity.
2) Staking. Some pepper plants are sturdy enough to stand on their own, without staking, but when you have a heavy set of fruit, the plants can break from the weight. Staking when planting will also keep the fruit from touching the ground.
3) Diseases and Pests. Chile peppers are generally quite healthy. Pests are an occasional problem. Tiny green aphids sometimes cluster on the tips of branches. In large numbers, they suck plant juices, which deform the leaves and steal energy from the plant. Aphids can also spread deadly viruses. A strong spray of water from the garden hose can knock aphids off the plants. Caterpillars, including corn earworms and corn borers, destroy the fruits; hornworms eat both fruits and leaves. There are quite a few viruses in peppers; the most common is tobacco mosaic virus, which causes mottled yellow leaves and misshapen fruits. There are no cures for viruses so the plants must be destroyed. Prevent the disease from spreading by controlling aphids.
Note: The tomato family includes tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes. These are heavy feeders and are best planted in enriched soil. Tomato Family members also are often affected by the same diseases. Never follow tomatoes after potatoes because deadly late blight can overwinter in potatoes that might have been missed and remain in the soil.
1) Weed the pot on a regular basis. Always pull weeds from the roots and discard. If you do not remove the root, the weeds will simply regrow in the same location.
2) Water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist to encourage lush growth. Water plants by applying water to the soil and avoid overhead watering. Water early in the morning to allow foliage time to dry. If cucumbers have a bitter taste, it is a sign that you need to water more.
3) Powdery mildew strikes with little warning, leaving your cucumber and squash foliage looking like it has been sprinkled with baby powder. Initially, powdery mildew affects a few leaves and may go unnoticed, but as the fungus (Podosphaera xanthii) spreads, entire plants may be affected. Although powdery mildew does not directly affect the fruit, infected foliage yellows, turns brown and eventually dies, leaving cucumbers and squash exposed to the sun. When the entire cucumber bed is infected, this may mean significant leaf drop, compromising the plant’s ability to make and store food. The resulting fruit is inhibited, lacks characteristic flavor and may wither on the vine. Powdery mildew typically strikes when weather is warm and the relative humidity is high. Management: 1) Mix 4 tablespoons of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of horticultural oil (or vegetable soil) to a gallon of water. Add a few drops of dishwashing detergent to help the mixture cling to the leaves. Mix thoroughly and apply to your cucumber and squash plants with a sprayer. Coat both upper and lower sides of the leaves. This formula works as a preventative measure, but does little once powdery mildew is present. 2) For plants that already show signs of powdery mildew, removing the affected foliage or disposing of the entire plant is recommended. This may prevent powdery mildew from spreading to the remainder of your plants.