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Agriculture Today

Time to plant fall tomatoes

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August 17, 2011 | 3,052 views | Post a comment

Q. Is it too late to plant fall tomatoes?

A. It is best if we can plant them in the first two weeks of August, but we have some flexibility if you use large transplants.

Tycoon is the first variety to consider. It gained a place in the home garden market because it is determinate and a heat-setter, plus it is resistant to tomato yellow wilt virus, a disease that all but wiped out the tomato crop in the autumn of 2010. Tycoon also performed well in tomato competitions in the area. It produced large, juicy, sweet fruit.

Tomato yellow wilt virus is spread by whiteflies. In 2010, waves of whiteflies that left the cotton fields when the plants were removed descended on area gardens. Whiteflies are sucking insects. Their initial penetration of tomato foliage in area gardens injected the virus. The plants proceeded to grow with crinkled, yellow, miniaturized foliage. Fruit, if it developed, was small and tough.

Other heat-setting varieties to consider are Phoenix, Solar Fire, Sunpride, Heatwave, and Surefire. Other recommended varieties include Celebrity, 444, and Cherry Surprise.

Q. We are going to try to grow tomatoes again this fall. Tell us what you recommend to control spider mites.

A. Spider mites are a major problem for tomatoes in this area. The pests are pin-head size, but do big time damage. They reproduce very quickly when the weather is hot, so a preventive treatment from the start is best.

Both neem oil and seaweed extract have some preventive effect. I am going to use a solution combining both. Mix 1 tablespoon neem oil and 2 tablespoons seaweed in a gallon of water. Spray once per week, applied to both the top and bottom of the leaves. If mites appear, the application frequency needs to be increased to twice/week. The idea is to keep the population under control until cooler weather arrives and the reproduction rate is reduced.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at reader@wcn-online.com.

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