If you have "no place to go," come here!

Common household remedies request

I'm wondering whether to plant my tomatoes in the same patch, or plant them somewhere else.

The current patch gets morning and afternoon sun, and alternatives get sun 'til mid-day.

On the other hand, the current patch, last year, had terrible TMV problems, and only by the grace-a-gawd -- and resolutely taking preventive measures -- did I not lose the whole crop. (In fact, I was one of the very few gardeners in town to actually have a crop; a tremendous victory in the face of twenty-two straight days of rain in June!) However, TMV virus lives in the ground, year-to-year.

On the third hand, the TMV probably comes from the leaves of the evil Norway maple, so it's in the ground everywhere. And TMV, as I understand it, works its way up the plant from the roots.

So, I can leave the crop where the light is best, and make sure I don't splash infected earth up on the leaves when I water, make sure the soil is great so the plants are strong, and copper and spray with milk when needed, or I can move the crop to a place where the light is worse, gambling on less infected soil.

Readers, thoughts?

No votes yet


Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

Dig deep, add plenty of composts and composted manure. They will do just fine...

UNLESS-- you had a problem with Late Blight last year. Then you MUST move the patch far away.

The TMV is going to be there, but, you know the prevention methods...

Raised beds would do you well.


Submitted by Lex on

Choose tomato varieties resistant to TMV.

Wait, you had late blight and TMV? Are you absolutely positive on the TMV diagnosis? That wouldn't have anything to do with rain, but late blight does.

If we're just talking about late blight, make sure there's no debris (in the fall would have been the best) and don't worry. It can't survive a freeze. If it is TMV, i've never heard of copper as a fix; in fact, so far as i know there is no treatment. Copper, however is a common means of treating fungal infections like late blight.

Submitted by lambert on

.... any kind of blight is possible.

1. I am 100% certain that I had TMV. I had the black spots, the black exudation from sap, all of it. And it rose up the plants, as if carried by the sap, which is how TMV works. My remedies were not to touch anything, and milk spray (all attested to one way or another).

2. I do not believe I had late blight, amazingly enough. I had potatoes, which are quite vulnerable to it, and they were unscathed. Then again, copper was what I used on them and the tomatoes (I had my blights confused!).

3. The evil Norway maple dropped leaves (all over the garden) that these hideous round black lesions on them, about the diameter of a pencil eraser, worse than anything I've ever seen on a leaf. This happened well before the late blight scare.

I'm inclined to leave the tomatoes where they are, for the sun, since I've had great success in that spot, but to (a) avoid splashing water on the lower leaves, and (b) perhaps do a layering concept on the ground, maybe straw -- since TMV lives in the ground.

Submitted by Lex on

Those spots on the Maple leaves are pretty common (i don't recall the scientific name) and they don't hurt other's quite rare that they even do permanent damage to the tree. It's a fungus and so probably was as bad as it was because of your cool, rainy season last year. We had similar Maple issues round these parts.

So far as i know, TMV actually lives in plant tissue rather than in the soil, and shy of steam sterilization, will survive as long as the left over tissue remains in the soil (about two years). Well, i guess there's no difference really since the tissue is in the ground. It can only enter the plant through a lesion, but those can be hard to avoid.

It might help to spread some municipal compost about an inch thick over the ground after planting. That will at least help the plants fight off infection. I think you've got the best defense you can hope for in your plan, but i'll reiterate my suggestion to choose TMV resistant tomato varieties for a couple of years. Unless you're absolutely against any hybrid varieties. If you're a seed saver, you could plant seed stock plants in a few containers with sterile potting soil and hybrids in the garden.

Oh, are you using seeds from the infected plants? If so you'll need to treat the seeds or you'll end up with the TMV on those plants can be done, but it's rather tricky.

Submitted by lambert on

for reasons to complex to go into here.

But I got some tremendous seafood mulch last year, so I might try your suggestion of spreading it (instead of spading it in). Then again, if the object is protection from splashed earth rather than soil amendment, straw might be better.

I'm growing heirlooms, so TMV resistance is not an option. I'm not re-using seeds, though.

Submitted by Lex on

I guess you've got the chance to breed TMV resistance into heirloom tomato varieties then. Stake them well and it wouldn't hurt to prune off lower growth.

You won't be able to stop rootzone infection, but you may want to consider putting down some sort of landscape fabric. There are lots of options - including making your own with old newspaper. I've been thinking about trying the paper rolls in the garden plot this year for weed suppression, but it would stop your splashing issue too.

I've used newspaper in making layer beds and the effect is lovely. Getting it down on anything but a dead calm day, however, is problematic.

Submitted by lambert on

I stake well, though I need a better way, perhaps, of attaching the vines to the stakes; I use green garden twine, loosely tied, but perhaps that risks lesions. I'm also a proponent of letting vines be vines, so I do hardly any pruning. Notice this minimizes exposure to sap, which carries TMV.

From the permaculture world of layering, I'm thinking maybe seafood mulch on the bottom, followed by newspaper, followed by straw. In fact, it might make sense to put that down first, then cut holes for the plants. I'm betting the straw, if wetted with a hose, would help with the wind problem

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

a respiratory therapist..if you know anyone in the HC field, the tubing used for nasal cannulas, or any form of oxygen delivery, is soft, vinyl, so it cleans well, and is generally a light green, so it's not too distracting in a garden. It can be difficult to tie, but using wire on the ends works well, and keeps the wire off the plant. This stuff is particularly good for larger plants/trees as well, since it's quite strong without being weighty.

Submitted by Lex on

Actually, no plant that i know of prompts such geekery (well, the orchid people are pretty out of hand too). At places like GardenWeb Forum it's not unheard of to see the knock-down drag-out arguments you'd expect to see over politics when the subject is the tomato.

You're right that pruning runs the risk of viral infection, but you could do it before planting out so the wounds heal. I generally let tomatoes be what they are, this was a suggestion just to keep lower leaves off the ground. But yeah, it's probably 50/50. It is sometimes worth a late topping of a tomato plant (when summer's almost over) to stop continued growth and force energy into finishing fruit already on the vine.

You're also right that tying up is likely to produce open wounds unless you constantly check and re-tie. Old nylons are suggested below and they work well because they give. The plus to caging over staking is that you don't need to tie. Really nice cages can be made from a roll of garden fencing. Just cut the bottom off so you leave tines to shove into the ground; roll the piece into a circle; and wire it together.

I think you've got it with your layering plan (and a compost that nice should be on the soil surface rather than well above it). Wet the newspaper as you work...once it's down and thoroughly wetted once, it's not generally a problem. And this plan sets you up nicely for a little work in the fall with a high rate of return.

Throw some more compost down on the straw, put a layer of newspaper on the top and let it sit for the winter.

Submitted by lambert on

One of my gardening goals is to do as little work as possible ;-)

So, my solution to the lower leaves problem is to minimize splashing instead of pruning (soaker hoses work well).

Cages I've got to manage, instead of shoving them into the ground, and then using them for kindling in the winter, as with stakes.

Yes, I do late topping to let the light in to the last ones, but that's a one time thing, instead of continual (and damaging) pruning.

On the ties, I tie very loosely. I don't have a wind (abrasion) problem because by the time they're ready for tying they're also forming a sort of mutually supporting jungle canopy (on the "let vines be vines" principle). I know the argument is to keep the plants far apart to avoid disease, but I think that's treating tomatoes as a product to be managed rather than as a plant to be grown. If tomatoes had evolved to need distance between plants, then the seeds wouldn't be stored in a soft pulpy fruit that drops to the ground and rots so that all the seeds end up in the same place. I'm betting -- OK, "guessing" -- that a lot of tomato disease is "iatrogenic" and a consequence of the plants being handled too much.

Thanks for the tip on overwintering the layers. Assuming I can get it together to put the layers down -- "that sounds like work" -- I'll certainly do it, since it's less work in the fall!

Submitted by Lex on

Good gardening is work. I've read the statement that X number of dollars put into plants and seeds yields Y amount of monetary value in produce...with X being small and Y being quite large. It's true, but i always chuckle because the difference between X and Y is usually sweat equity. Worth it, but there none-the-less.

Stakes or cages are really just a personal choice. I like the latter because it's a one time effort and they last forever without me having to tend to tying.

My personal philosophy is not to reduce the total amount of work, but organize it as efficiently as possible. So i'm a big fan of fall prep work to reduce spring labor...this, however, is related to being in the horticulture industry and spring being an all around shitshow for me, time wise.

I'll spend a day building layer beds in the fall, happy in the knowledge that when spring comes i can just uncover them and plant. (i also like being able to use all the vegetative "waste" from the season during cleanup and compost it in place).

You're right, a lot of handling or pruning is just giving entry points to problems. And in my experience, garden failure is more often a case of too much attention rather than too little. It's our job to provide a suitable environment rather than make plants grow...they'll do that all on their own.

Keep in mind that the tomato's survival strategy is less about fruit falling than fruit being eaten and seeds moved by something with a digestive track and legs.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

I'd understood it was always a good idea to keep tomatoes moving. Besides TMV, tomato-unfriendly nematodes build up near the roots.

That said, I move my tomatoes to a new(ish) location each year and they still catch everything out there.


Submitted by Lex on

a good idea to move all crops regularly, for a variety of reasons including pests, pathogens and nutrient depletion.

It sounds like lambert also has issues with available light, so while i'd generally recommend moving crops i wouldn't recommend planting tomatoes where they'll be shaded after mid-day...especially in an area known to be plagued by late blight.

If at all possible, heavy fruit crops like tomatoes should be seeing a minimum of 8 hours of sun every day. And morning sun is not nearly as strong as afternoon sun.

three wickets's picture
Submitted by three wickets on

If we can have so many varieties of tomatoes, why don't we have more varieties of ketchup, like mustard, or grapes and wine.

Submitted by Lex on

We could if you're willing to make your own. Ketchup is cooked though, and that tends to destroy some of the subtle flavor characteristics of individual varieties. That and what lambert said.

But you've got me wondering what a ketchup based on some of the low acidity, very sweet varieties like Sungold would taste like.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

... and your maple tree is innocent.

Get you a good garden encyclopedia, lambert, it will save you a lot of headaches and lost crops. Gardening by hunch isn't a good use of your time. Rodale's are nice, the old Taylor's is good, there are lots.

Check out your local extension service office, too, they should have all kinds of bulletins, most of them online and free. If you were here in Idaho, I'd recommend the Sunset Western Garden book, I do to my customers, but it is west-coast specific in its zones, even though the tech is all good.

All the nightshades (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, etc) fall prey to a lot of diseases and pests that commingle, that can live over in debris and in the soil. TMV is transmitted easily by humans, as well as by seed--it is one of the few reasons to not use home kept seed once you've gotten it.

Submitted by Lex on

Rodale's is really good, and Elliot's right that having the reference saves a lot of time, energy and frustration. If you've got a good, independent garden center it's worth picking the brains of its employees (most of whom work there for love as much as for money).

Lois Hole has a fine series of books, and they're written for the northern clime gardener. Chances are there's a vegetable book for the North East too.

Submitted by lambert on

and good contacts in the extension service (and my town is garden crazy, totally).

So I'm not flying blind (see posts on late blight from last year).

But I also think there's no substitute for talking about practice on one's own particular patch of ground.

For example, there's no other place to move the tomato patch that will get late afternoon sun. So they have to stay where they are, and I'll work with the soil and see how that turns out.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

I still think you should experiment with using one of those thingies for growing tomatoes upside down- maybe for a few heirloom tomato plants- erect some kind of tripod of sturdy branches in the sunny spot, and hang from there.

Submitted by Lex on

But i wouldn't hang one on anything less than a 4x4. When grown and wet they'll bend a sheppard's hook right over. My best success with them has been using small tomato varieties (nothing bigger than roma). But even in the best case, they require a lot of watering attention.

Cucumbers in a regular old hanging basket (14" or bigger is best) do really well...though require supplemental nitrogen. Some of my best per hill harvests have been achieved with hanging basket cukes.