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- Escanaba, MI
I have a raised planter garden in which I’ve grown tomatoes 3 of the last 4 seasons. First year, they were abundant. Second year, they contracted a disease and most died before bearing fruit. I skipped a year, planting other things. Last year, I dug out most of the soil, replaced it and planted tomatoes again. They became diseased and many died before bearing fruit. What can I do???
- Oakland, OR
Crops that are in the same family should be rotated to a new growing area in year two and preferably year three. In other words, it's best to grow your tomatoes in the same raised planter one year, with a two year break in-between. Then you can grow tomatoes once again in the original planter, and then repeat the two year crop rotation. Some insect pests and disease-causing organisms are hosts' specific, so this helps prevent disease issues like the one you encountered. Other veggie members in the tomato family (Solanaceae) include eggplant, potatoes and peppers.
Another thing to keep in mind is that plant disease issues are worse in some years than others due to weather conditions, etc. Growing varieties that are disease-resistant can help your plants along. One thing I do that seems to help my tomato plants weather diseases--even when diseases such as blight make their appearance--is to make a strong brew of horsetail tea, strain and then foliar spray the brew on the plants. Horsetail is a natural fungicide and seems to make plants more resistant. Horsetail grows wild where I live, but you can check online or at a natural foods store for the dried herb. Finally, the key to keeping any pest invasion or disease at bay is to maintain healthy soil, which in turn, produces healthy plants. Feed your beneficial soil microbs by incorporating organic matter into the soil at least once a year, twice is better. Good luck.