Problems growing tomatoes in South Florida
Ive been having severe problems.
The first is with critters, but Im working that out.
The second though is with disease.
Specifically, after my plants reach 2-3' tall they start showing signs of some type of fungal or bacterial wilt (Im guessing based on symptoms) wherein, depending on the variety, the plants either start yellowing of leaves at the bottom of the plant which rapidly spreads to the rest of the lower leaves, then works its way up and kills the plant (brandywine for example does this) OR the leaves simply wither without yellowing, starting from the bottom of the plant and moving up (cherokee purple, black krim and white wonder were like this).
Last year was terrible, 18 plants one day looked great, 3 days later theyre half dead, 2 weeks after that I ripped em all out (angrily and while cursing might I add).
I only have a small yard and have been trying container growing (harder for critters to get up into the pots, worked okay).
Last year I think I watered too much (almost every day) and believed that contributed to (or caused) the problem, however now Im not so sure as I watered this last batch minimally and the disease or wilt or whatever seemed to crop up even faster.
I have a theory though, and please tell me what you think:
The potting medium, being a peat/perlite/no soil blend (Lamberts potting mix mixed w Black Cow compost) holds loads of water and I think that the plant, not having roots throughout the pot yet, only consumes what is near and the rest of the water just hangs out absorbed by the media. Meaning that disease-causing fungi or bacteria can take up shop and infect the plant. In other words, the media never seems to completely dry out, but will dry out where the plant is able to feed. Ive verified this with a moisture gauge, taking readings from right in the root area, and out toward the edge of the pot. I found that while the area under the plant is drying the outer areas may well read as 'wet'.
So Im thinking that container growing may not be so good for the plants in the south florida heat (Im only growing now to test my 'overwatering' theory, not expecting fruit, got some but doubt theyll survive the wilt) and may be way too conducive to proliferating disease, exacerbated by the recommended container media which I think doesnt drain well enough. Perhaps a different mix?
I am going to try growing in-ground again with some type of cage setup(critters absolutely destroyed the veggie garden I started one fateful year) but this disease thing really has me ready to give up.
I got to taste some black krim, mortgage lifter, brandywine, cherokee purple, and white wonder last year, but not nearly as many as I had hoped, and want to give it another go this fall but not sure how to proceed considering the problems Im having.
Any input would be greatly appreciated and thanks for reading!