Tomato root rot has been a real bain in my effort to improve on the harvest of my backyard tomato growing.
And I must confess that up until recently, tomato plants getting root rot was not something I seriously thought about until it happened!
If you are wondering whether tomato plants do get root rot, this article breaks everything you need to know about it and what you can do to prevent tomato root rot from your tomato grow.
Growing tomatoes in my backyard has been a joy in my life and fun experience for my kids. Though backyard gardening has Its challenges, I am happy to say I would never swap it for anything!
After dealing with blossom end rot, it got me thinking if that’s the only difficulty I had to face when it comes to growing tomatoes in my backyard.
Though tomato root rot isn’t something you should be alarmed with, you should know that once this disease start hitting your tomato grow, it can pretty much end your growing season if left unchecked.
With little to no effective chemical treatments widely available, root rot disease is especially detrimental to your tomato plants. So can tomato plants get root rot?
Yes, tomato root rot can affect your plants and possibly decimet your entire tomato grow in a matter of weeks . In fact, tomato root rot is one of the most common diseases that affect a wide range of tomato gardeners around the globe, caused by microorganisms known as Phytophthora.
The most disastrous part about the tomato root rot disease is that it is barely noticeable until the plants are heavily infected, after which they simply fall and die. If the condition is not properly controlled, tomato root rot can spread to other plants, and ultimately to your whole garden.
The good news is that you can prevent tomato root rot from a mile away. This post will define this disease, what causes tomato rot as well as some of the measures you can take to either prevent it or control its spread.
What is tomato root rot?
Root rot diseases are defined as soil-borne diseases that increase aggressiveness around the rainy seasons or when the tomato plants experience exponential irrigation or natural rainwater.
These diseases infect tomato plants through their root systems, causing symptoms to appear after the infections have already damaged the plants.
That said, root rot isn’t really noticeable in its development days, mainly because it happens in the ground, making it completely impossible to spot.
Most times, gardeners don’t see the root rotting problem until the plant has died, and from there, it’s too late to do anything about it.
Even though no cures for tomato root rot actually exist, there are so many steps and strategies that will not only assist you in tackling these infections but will also prevent the possibility of an occurrence of the root rot disease.
What causes tomato root rot?
The worse part about the tomato root rot condition is that it can cause a lot of damage and even spread to other plants in your garden. As such, it is always best to know what conditions cause a problem, before trying to fix them. Let’s look at how tomato root rot is caused.
Generally, tomato root rot occurs when the roots of a tomato plant are continuously wet. While some pants are okay with this kind of water treatment, it just doesn’t work for tomato plants.
The weather in the area where your tomato plants have been planted can play a role in causing or accelerating the tomato root rot disease. These are areas where it is mostly hot and humid. Florida is a great example of such a places.
First of all, the bacteria spread through the air. However, these symptoms of root decay only reveal itself when the disease is fairly advanced. Since the condition restricts the plant from getting water or nutrients from its roots, the tomato plants will usually appear weak.
The vegetation will then show symptoms of yellowing or becoming sparser. In many cases, branches will die back and these issues often accelerate as time goes until eventually, the whole plant dies.
The leaves’ color can fade from it being green but dull to gray and then to a deep brown color.
After you notice the change in the leaves’ color, it is better to check the roots for Phytophthora root rot. Here, you have to check the plant’s stem base and collar to see if the root system is healthy or poor.
If the plant is suffering from this disease, you will immediately notice that the roots will appear to rot away.
Phytophthora is the main cause of the tomato root rot. Since they are microorganisms, you won’t be able to see them at all. You will only see the effects caused by them, and that’s the most painful part.
How can you prevent tomato root rot?
In preventing tomato root rot, there are a couple of factors that you need to consider.
As most of us know, tomatoes are heavy feeders and they do very well on light soils that have a good drainage as well as lots of compost.
If you want to grow tomato plants in a pot or grow bag perlite, sphagnum peat moss and compost are the perfect tomato soil components.
But generally, whatever soil you have in the garden will be great for tomatoes, just as long as you don’t forget to add the compost.
Maintain a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5
You won’t know how to go with this if you don’t know your soil’s pH level. So the first step has to be testing the soil pH level.
When you find out that the levels are just too high, consider dropping them down to the aforementioned range. To lower the pH, you either use coffee grounds, tea bags, compost, or even composted manure.
Alternatively, use wood ash from your fireplace or crushed egg shells to raise the level of pH in your soil- that’s after discovering that the level is too low for tomato plants.
While watering is an essential part of your whole gardening process, it should be kept under control. Tomato plants need to be able to dry in between the watering sessions.
Here, we are talking about the intervals of the watering. You can give your tomato plants a good drink and let the plants dry in between.
If you live in a rainy area, you must give your tomatoes protection from this excess water. You can either build a roof, a south-facing wall, or just a plastic bag over the plants.
You can also set up this inexpensive drip watering systems (Available here on Amazon) with automated moisture control monitoring, just as long as you ensure that they are properly adjusted to your plants’ needs.
Keep the soil moist.
Keeping the soil moist usually means the difference between having a healthy plant or not. On this factor consider going for a mulch system. The best materials you can use to mulch your garden are wood chips.
Even if the tomato plants are grown bags or raised beds, the mulch system will always be the best way to preserve some moisture for your plants. The wood chips take up the excess moisture and give it back as needed during dry periods.
Despite the fact that soil moisture is a great agent that helps your plants to grow, too much moisture can come with adverse results.
Choose Tomato varieties To Grow Carefully
Amazon stocks so many wide ranging tomato varieties available for anyone to grow. And, there are plenty of tomato varieties that are more resistant to root rot than others.
If you can’t avoid the constant wet soil or you live in highly rainy areas, you might simply want to look for tomato varieties that are marked as resistant to the tomato root rot disease.
According to studies, the tomato varieties that are more resistant to this disease are heirloom varieties from local growers. These varieties have, without a doubt, stood the test of time and are still around until today.
What do you do if you got root rot?
As we mentioned earlier, the tomato root rot is contagious, so it can easily spread to the whole tomato garden. Once you discover this problem, remove the infected plants immediately.
However, be careful not to infect other plants. Do not plant a new plant in the same spot instantaneously as the soil has been infected too so this will easily affect the next plant that is in that spot.
Also, consider disinfecting your gardening tools and pots (if you plant in a greenhouse). Either way, you should never take tomato root rot lightly.
Can tomato Root Rot be controlled?
The best thing you can do in order to control Phytophthora root rot is to reduce soil compaction, provide decent drainage of soil for your plant and improve the soil moisture by introducing a mulch system that we talked about earlier.
In all ways, destroy the affected plants and replace the soil with new soil after you have noted symptoms.
And for crying out loud, pick the right tomato varieties, preferably the ones that are less or not susceptible to the root rot disease. Do not go for varieties such as Buxus, Lavandula or Rhododendron.
There is no secret that, tomato plants do get root rot, and this is primarily caused by excess water in your tomato garden. However, there are more than one way that you can prevent the spread of this disease and ultimately control it.
Many of you likely are residents in a state or region that is just too rainy or don’t offer the right condition for the growth of tomatoes, pick the tomato varieties that are resistant to this disease. Don’t let the tomato root rot get ahead of you as it can’t be noticed until the damage has already been done.