Indeterminate varieties should be staked to keep the fruit off the
ground to minimize problems with rot. Staking also allows better air circulation, which
can reduce the incidence of disease problems. And staking allows
more thorough coverage if fungicide or insecticide sprays are needed
through the growing season. Examples of indeterminate varieties
Beefmaster. Indeterminate varieties can be used for fresh eating
through the growing season, as well as canning and freezing.
of tomatoes naturally have a bushier, more compact growth habit.
They are classified as having a determinate growth habit. They grow
to a certain size -- 3 to 3-1/2 feet tall -- then
produce flowers and fruit. Determinate tomatoes tend to ripen
together, which makes them a good choice for gardeners who grow
tomatoes for canning and freezing. They are also good for fresh eating. Although many varieties are self-supporting, staking can help
support a plant under a heavy load of fruit. Once they produce their
main crop, production can fall off sharply, and the plants may go
downhill quickly. Determinate varieties are much easier to grow in
containers than indeterminate ones. Examples of determinate
varieties include Roma VF (many paste tomatoes have a determinate
growth habit), Better Bush, Bush Early Girl and Mountain Spring.
Still other varieties of tomatoes fall somewhere between these two
growth habits, and are called semi-determinate. They will grow
larger than determinate varieties, but are not as rampant as
indeterminate ones. They typically grow 3 to 5 feet tall.
They should be staked, but are less likely to outgrow their stakes
than indeterminate types. They will produce a main crop that ripens
together, but will also continue to produce up until frost. Examples
of semi-determinate tomatoes include Celebrity and Mountain Pride.
You may be
happier with varieties that have a determinate or semi-determinate
growth habit. Many seed catalogs include the tomato’s growth habit
in the description, and most catalogs can be found online these days.
Browning of Leaves
The browning on the leaves is probably caused by one of several leaf
spot diseases tomatoes are susceptible to. Early blight is one of
the most common tomato diseases that matches the description of your
problem. The fungus that causes early blight overwinters on plant
debris in the garden. Good sanitation - removing all of the dead
annual vegetable plants from the garden, cleaning up tomato stakes
and ties, etc. - is an important step in controlling early blight.
The fungus can survive up to a year without a susceptible host. It
can also be introduced to the garden on infected transplants. It is
always wise to practice crop rotation, even in small gardens. If you
grow tomatoes in the same place year after year, you increase the
likelihood of insect and disease problems becoming established in
the soil. Be sure to rotate among plant families rather than just
individual plants. For example, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and
eggplant are all in the nightshade (Solanaceae family). A good
rotation for tomatoes would be green beans or cucumbers because they
are completely unrelated and are less likely to suffer from the same
insect and disease problems. A three to four year rotation is recommended to
allow diseased plant matter to decompose completely.
Early blight symptoms start close to the ground and work their way
up the plant. The oldest leaves - those closest to the ground - are
infected first as spring rain splashes up from the ground, carrying
spores of the causal fungus that overwintered on bits of debris from
last year’s garden. The leaves develop dark brown spots
characterized by dark concentric rings. Usually some yellowing
develops around the leaf spots, too. Spots range from pinprick-sized
to one-half inch on diameter. Early blight develops under a range of
weather conditions, but it is favored by heavy dew and/or rainfall,
moderately warm weather (75 - 85°F), and high humidity.
Mulching around plants with an organic mulch such as clean oat straw
or shredded leaves, or a synthetic mulch such as black or red
plastic, reduces the likelihood of spores splashing up from the soil
to infect the lower leaves. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses
rather than overhead watering, if possible. You can also make
fungicide applications to protect the plants from infection as they
grow. Repeated applications are required through the growing season,
at intervals recommended on the label of the product you choose.
Organic gardeners can use a copper based fungicide. Daconil 2787 (chlorothalonil)
is also labeled to control early blight in the home vegetable
Blossom End Rot on Tomatoes