Go Gardening

Consider crop cover.

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hand isn’t helpful as wind damage is a potential entry point for disease. Tying tall growing tomatoes to a support keeps plants off the ground ensuring plenty of air movement to minimise disease.

Minimise disease spread.

Disease spores can be transporte­d from one plant to another via tools and fingers. Avoid pruning tomatoes on a wet or humid day as moisture assists disease entry. When lower leaves show signs of disease remove them, ideally with clean sharp tools. Sometimes it may be necessary to remove an entire plant.

Refrain from adding infected material to your home compost heap, which is unlikely to get hot enough to kill all the disease spores and insect eggs. Ideally, avoid planting tomatoes and their relatives (potatoes, capsicum, chillies, eggplants) in the same place year after year. The longer a garden bed has a rest from any one plant family, the better. If it’s too hard to change the planting place, consider changing the soil or planting tomatoes in containers.

Mesh crop cover fabric is now available in garden centres and is an effective way to prevent insect pests including psyllids from laying their eggs on crops. It is important that the fabric weave is small enough to block these tiny insects and it needs to be completely sealed around the edges and a tall frame will be needed for tall growing tomato plants. Disadvanta­ges of fabric mesh can be increased humidity and reduced light. It will also block pollinator­s (not important for tomatoes).

Keep watch and act early.

Spraying with the right product at the right time can be the most cost effective option to save a crop under threat, but to be effective, insect and disease sprays need to be applied before pest and disease population­s take hold. Garden centres are a good place to go for help in choosing the right product. Today’s registered home garden pesticides are at the very low end of toxicity and pose no risk to humans when used as directed. Several are also safe to bees once they have dried on the plant. Natural products like neem tree oil and diatomaceo­us earth powder have been shown to be effective against psyllids when used correctly. Copper provides effective control against fungus disease and is an accepted organic spray option, but its overuse is a concern for soil health.

Try different varieties. Most tomato varieties sold these days have good disease resistance, but how well a particular variety will fare in your garden will depend on climate, soil and location. Working out which are best for your garden is largely a matter of trial and error and sharing success stories among friends and neighbours. Early ripening varieties may provide a good crop before the worst pests and diseases take hold. Grafted tomato plants offer extra vigour with disease resistant roots.

 ?? ?? Trial different tomato varieties to find the best performers for your garden.
Trial different tomato varieties to find the best performers for your garden.

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