We are in the middle of a period of wet weather that is predicted to deliver multiple inches of rain to central Ohio and even more to other soaked parts of our state. Tomatoes are a crop that can suffer several problems related to heavy rainfall that can shorten the harvest period and affect yield. There are a few things that the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer can do to keep their tomato plants healthy and productive though heavy rain periods.
Key Garden Tasks to Keep Tomatoes Healthy in Wet Weather
- Mulch – organic or non-organic can both be used. Be careful if your plasticulture is not permeable to air and water, the heavy constant rainfall may saturate the soil and drown the roots if the soil cannot dry out. Mulch also acts as a barrier to keep soil borne fungal spores off lower tomato leaves.
- Fertility – contstant rainfall can leach fertility from soil making it unavailable to the plants. Make sure to monitor plant growth and health carefully to avoid a nutrient deficiency. Foliar feeding can be used when the ground is too saturated to irrigate with water soluble fertilizer.
- Pruning – promote air circulation by pruning lower leaves. Try to minimize lower leaf contact with soil. Use sterilized pruners to remove any diseased leaves and make sure to put diseased leaves in the garbage and not the compost after pruning.
Monitor tomatoes carefully for signs of blight, remove the diseased leaves promptly with sterilized pruners and dispose of disease materials in the garbage, not the compost pile.
Make sure to address fertility needs as production increases. Heavy rain can leach nutrients into the subsoil where they are unavailable to plants, decreasing yield as the season progresses.
Ohio State University Extension has an excellent fact sheet on Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden. There is also a plant disease diagnostic laboratory on campus where the grower can send samples if an accurate diagnosis needs confirmed on possible diseased leaves.