Mulching: A Disease Barrier
Mulching is used to create a barrier between your tomato plant’s leaves and the soil. Early Blight is often soil born. Leaf Spot spores can harbor in the soil. Many diseases are soil born and over-winter. Yes, they can also be passed in the air and by hand or by buying infected plants. The spores go from the ground to the lower leaves of your tomato plant. You may have noticed how diseases progress upward through a tomato plant.
Pruning: A Disease Gap
I prune the bottom leaves off my tomato plants as they grow. I often create a 12-18 inch gap of no leaves between the soil and the first leaves on my tomatoes. This is a gap to prevent disease. It is your second line of defense against tomato diseases. As stated, many diseases like Early Blight are spread through spores.
You can’t have issues pruning back your tomatoes. I know it seems wrong to remove lush growth. It isn’t. That lush growth will become disease fodder. You can cut or snap off the unwanted growth. I cut a little more then I typically would for the picture as an example. This is the gap you want to establish. You can do it in stages. Two rows of bottom leaves and then wait for more top growth and then remove some more bottom leaves.
You can see the pile I removed. It was a lot. I removed suckers and leaves. The tomato is well on its way to being pruned to create at least a 1 foot barrier between the ground and its first leaves. I will prune it again after some more growth. I stopped at this point to give it another weeks worth of development. You don’t want to over prune to quickly.
Watering: The Main Trigger
Water is the main mechanism that gets the spores from the ground to the tomato leaves. Human hands and wind can also do it. Hard rain and over-head watering splashes soil up onto the leaves of the tomato. It is that simple. Splashing spreads spores. The mulch and pruning creates defenses against soil splashing. You can help your cause of disease prevention by making sure you water from the bottom of the plants and don’t splash soil onto your tomatoes.
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