Tomato maintenance

oukaySeptember 13, 2011

I will be potting up my tomato seedlings this weekend in their permanent homes (5 gallon buckets). I think I have solved past drainage issues, but I really want to try better maintenance this time around. Is there any one mulch that is best? How far up do I remove the bottom leaves? How far up do I remove suckers and is there a difference between suckers and branches? Should I start regular spraying with Bt immediately, or wait for the hornworms to arrive and then start?

Knock on wood, my seedlings are the best I have had so far and I want to do right by them.

Thanks for any and all hints.

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"Is there any one mulch that is best?"

Pine BARK mulch.

"How far up do I remove the bottom leaves?"

I remove all but the top 2-3 branches of leaves. I do this about a day before I am going to pot up to let the wounds heal to help reduce the chance of infection. Then I spray with daconil before I pot up and let it dry and then pot up.

"How far up do I remove suckers and is there a difference between suckers and branches?"

Yes, there is a difference between suckers and branches. Suckers are the branches that form between where an existing branch and the stem meet. See the link below for an illustration.

As for pruning, most say not to prune determinate plants - all you will do is reduce the yield of the determinate plants.

If you are staking rather than caging your indeterminate plants grown in containers, pruning helps to stabilize the plant so it is less likely to tip over in the wind and it is less work because you have less branches to tie to the stakes. However, you reduce yield and can reduce the foliage to the point that you risk sun scald. I have heard that pruning suckers reduces yield but increases the size of tomatoes and allows the tomatoes to mature earlier, but I don't know if that is based on data or not.

The illustration in the link below says to remove all suckers below the first flower cluster. You should remove them when they are no more than 2-4 inches.

"Should I start regular spraying with Bt immediately, or wait for the hornworms to arrive and then start?"

I don't know the answer to that question. Maybe someone else can answer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sucker

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 6:12PM
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You should definitely prophylactically spray for fungal diseases using chlorothalonil (daconil, ortho max garden disease control).

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 6:24PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

You should definitely prophylactically spray for fungal diseases using chlorothalonil (daconil, ortho max garden disease control).

I disagree, read this post thoroughly....


    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 7:51PM
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Well, I started reading and reading and reading and then got tired, lol! So what are you trying to say tom? Is it that chlorothalonil doesn't prevent late blight or is it that it somehow makes things worse than not spraying? *confused*

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 8:06PM
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Side question: Do we get late blight here?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 8:20PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

The byproducts of chlorothalonil are highly carcenogenic....

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:09PM
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I do prefer organic solutions. How about the effectiveness of milk spray as a fungicide and the "Cornell Formula" of oil, baking soda and H2O as a preventative for blight?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:28PM
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The best thing is to keep good air circulation around the plants and watch and remove any leaves that show signs of early blight or bacterial speck. If I see my plants getting these problems I start to spray some Serenade. This is just the way I do it though. You have to be careful about spraying oil when the temps are high because it will burn the plant.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:43PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

RE: WEEKLY Late Blight Updates & Counties Infected

Posted by mulio (My Page) on
Mon, Aug 3, 09 at 20:23

...How do you feel about a chemical which specifically works by acting to deplete glutathione - a protective substance which is already found to be depleted in many patients with cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases?

While a healthy person might not notice the effects of depletion, what health effects do you think chronic or even subchronic exposures would have on such individuals with already reduced glutathione levels?

During its manufacture, Chlorothalonil is contaminated with the carcinogen hexachlorobenzene. This would be one of its "inert ingredients". This may not be accounted for in carcinogenic studies which, in order to be scientific, would only consider the effects of pure chlorothalnil itself.*

Chlorothalonil's breakdown product is 30x more acutely toxic than chlorothalonil itself and is also more mobile and persistent in soil.**....

Posted by mulio (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 6, 09 at 20:26

Hexachlorobenzene HCB has not been sold in the United States (as an end-product) since its last registered use as a pesticide was voluntarily canceled in 1984. It can be found in chlorothalonil but is considered an "inert ingredient" with no "end-use" and therefore does not have to be disclosed. It also would not be picked up in on health studies of chlorothalonil as only the active ingredients are tested to separate out biases. It is considered one of the top POP's out in the environment and in our food.
POP = Persistent Organic Pollutants
Twelve POPs - the "Dirty Dozen" - targeted for a ban on use and production under a U.N. treaty now in negotiation.
Even though its registeration was voluntarily removed as an end use product why it is still found in foods years after being removed?
FDA found seven POPs in 155 different foods from 1991 through 1997
If the half-life of the product is only 1/2-12 year (depending on where it is located) why then is it still found in food? Because it is still being put into the environment though sources like chlorothalinil. It is highly persistent and bioaccumulates in the food chain.
"Impurities of hexachlorobenzene in currently registered pesticides (picloram, PNCB, chlorothalonil, Dacthal�, atrazine, simazine, lindane, and PCP) (Bailey 2001; EPA 1986e, 1993a; Farm Chemicals Handbook 1993) appear to be a continuing source of hexachlorobenzene exposure for the general population. Five of the pesticides containing impurities of hexachlorobenzene (PCNB, chlorothalonil,
Dacthal�, lindane, and PCP) are used in home gardens, lawn care, and other applications around residences and in urban areas (Farm Chemicals Handbook 1993)."
What happens to hexachlorobenzene when it enters the environment?

� Hexachlorobenzene can remain in the environment for a long time.
� It breaks down very slowly.
� It does not dissolve in water very well, so most of it will remain in particles on the bottom of lakes and rivers.
� Hexachlorobenzene sticks strongly to soil.
� High levels can build up in fish, marine mammals, birds, lichens, and animals that eat lichens (like caribou) or fish.
� It can also build up in wheat, grasses, some vegetables, and other plants.
The US govt ATSRD site states:

"Produce grown in contaminated soil should not be eaten. " that's ironic
"It is sometimes possible to carry hexachlorobenzene from work on your clothing, skin, hair, tools, or other objects removed from the workplace. This is particularly likely if you work in the chemical or pesticide industries. You may contaminate your car, home, or other locations outside work where children might be exposed to hexachlorobenzene. You should know about this possibility if you work where hexachlorobenzene exposure may occur."
"Nonpoint source dispersal of hexachlorobenzene in both agricultural and urban settings results from its presence as
a contaminant in several widely used pesticides. These sources, in addition to hazardous waste site sources, account for the majority of human exposures to hexachlorobenzene."
fungicides current use contains up to 0.3% hexachlorobenzene as an impurity (EPA set chlorothalonil standard of 0.05% in 1984)
"When these pesticides are applied in sprays, they have
the greatest potential for release into the air. Most of the pesticide, and the hexachlorobenzene impurities,
end up on the top layer of the soil and can become airborne through volatilization of the vapor or adsorbed onto soil particles. The hexachlorobenzene agriculturally applied through the use of these eight pesticides amounts to an estimated 1,270 kg/year (2,790 pounds/year); however, the total amount of hexachlorobenzene actually released into the air could not be estimated (Bailey 2001)."
JUST considering residual amounts in Chlorothalonil each year about 200kg is released into the environment.
"Chlorothalonil contains 40 ppm HCB
4,928,591 KG of Chlorothalonil are sprayed each year in the US
for a total release of 197.1Kg of HCB a year"

So far, it looks like Serenade is the best choice right now, but it sure isn't cheap :-(


    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 8:00PM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

FWIW, more pH neutral hay or straw mulch are recommended for veggies. Woody mulches are acidic & can encourage fungi - not to mention tying up soil nitrogen as they break down. UF recommends using black plastic.

I've had the best results using hay a couple of inches thick - it seems to really help prevent soil-borne diseases. & make sure when planting, to remove all lower leaves that touch the soil surface.

I don't ever spray any of those products mentioned above, just lots of seaweed extract & maybe some Bt or soap now & then.

There is a Tomatoes forum here - you might want to check it out. There is also an Organic Gardening forum, where you can search using the keyword 'tomato' for advice on disease treatments & prevention.

Forgive me, but I don't see the point in covering homegrown veggies w/ synthetic chemicals - might as well buy produce from the store...

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 10:21AM
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Thanks everyone. I figured I would start here for more specific Florida knowledge, but I will head over to the tomato and organic forums, too!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 11:59AM
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I have my first fruit set on my tomatoes! My Olive Hill plant has a tiny baby growing on it. I hope nothing bad happens to it and it's joined my many brothers and sisters.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 1:15PM
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