July 4, 2008

Thrips Help to Make Tomato Season a Bit More Difficult

By Booker T Leigh

Tomatoes are generally easy to grow, but problems arise occasionally that can take a toll on their quality and quantity.

This summer seems to be one of those years when tomatoes are a little harder to grow. The most common problems gardeners are experiencing are caused by heat, insects and disease.

Blossom end rot is a common disease that affects tomatoes. The bottom of the tomato turns black when plants suffer from this disease. This problem is caused by a lack of calcium in the soil.

A soil test is the most reliable way to determine the amount of lime to apply to control this disease.

It is also important to maintain uniform moisture around tomato plants.

Foliar leaf disease, such as early blight, attacks the lower leaves of the plant, causing them to turn yellow and die. Early blight can be controlled by a combination of cultural and chemical practices. The disease is best controlled with a fungicide.

Check with your local nursery or garden center for the best fungicide to control early blight. Always read the label and follow label directions. Also, try to avoid overhead watering in the evening.

We are also hearing from gardeners who are having problems with thrips. These tiny insects have featherlike wings and can barely be seen with the naked eye. They can be a serious problem on tomato plants.

Thrips normally suck the sap from plants, causing distorted and discolored flowers or buds, and gray or silvery specks on the leaves. If you have thrips in your garden, you may want to remove the infested plant. Thrips can sometimes be controlled with an insecticide.

For more information, call the Tipton County Extension office at 476-0231, or the Shelby County Extension office at 752-1207.

Booker T. Leigh is extension director for Tipton County.

Originally published by Booker T. Leigh .

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