TomatoMania- Quit Pestering Me!

beautiful tasty heirlomm tomatoWelcome back all my Maniac Friends. 
First I want to thank you all for the TomatoMania Recipe Contest Entries. We were overwhelmed by the response. It’s going to be hard to narrow it down to just 6 recipes.
But these 6 recipes will get printed up and passed out at the Los Angeles Garden Show May 1–3. It will be a great way to promote these 6 blogs. I just wish we had the budget to print every single entry. Because they are all so good. You people really amaze me. Thank you!
My tomato seedlings are chugging right along. I have been having an early morning or nocturnal visitor to my pots of tomatoes. Some critter keeps digging around in 2 of my tomato pots. Always the same two, and it happens every single day! 
I am going to ask Scott about that one. And he’s back today to help you and your tomatoes battle the pests and pestilence that make it their job to come between you and your summer obsession, terrific home grown tomatoes! GREG

tomato seedling for sale at TomatoManiaWhat disease? What pests?
On the first day of our Encino seedling sale this year we were in the midst of the hysteria that is the first few hours.  Running back and forth as is necessary I passed one of the display tables and there sat a stack of books I’d not expected. Tomato Diseases, read the cover, above a glorious picture of beautiful ripe tomatoes.
I hesitated as I noticed them and ran by.  I’d seen the book before and I’m sure it was in my own garden collection. Then I stopped, turned around, grabbed the stack and put them under the nearest counter. 
It turned out one of my suppliers thought we might like to add to our order so he ad-libbed.  He was certain all attendees would be captivated by the idea that they could carry home their newly purchased plants along with a full color version of the ills that might beset them in the journey toward tomato bliss.
I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t leave those books out near the cashiers so that everyone who passed would stress out about what pitfalls lay in wait around the corner.
Denial you say Dr Phil?
OK, maybe just a bit.  But I prefer to think that at the beginning of a season and at the outset of a new and hopefully very rewarding lady bugs are a gardeners friendexperience it’s better to concentrate on the positive.  Goal-oriented visualization.  You know that animal from corporate training 101 right?  And it’s easy to do that what with gorgeous pictures of tomatoes lacing the pages of seed packets and catalogs and sales tags.  Visions of tables full of tasty ripe tomatoes drive the whole enterprise!  And that’s as it should be.
The reality of what comes next as the season goes along is an inevitability. Once a gardener gets his or her hands in the dirt it’s more than obvious that this is farming.  The farmer gene is somehow activated or reenergized at planting time and while the excitement of the day rules our head for a bit we do accept that our tomato season may not be as seamless and trouble free as we’d like it to be.
Face it, we’re not the only living thing attracted to tomato plants. If you plant them they will come.  As the season progresses Mother Nature will send her challenges.
Aphids are an early season garden visitor, looking for succulent new growth to…well to suck on since that’s what they do.  Spray them off with the hose.  They won’t return. Ladybugs can be helpful too.
Tomato hornworms are the horror of many a gardener and if you had them last year you’ll probably have a return engagement.  Inspect your plants daily for the small black telltale droppings they deposit on the tops of leaves.   Yes, they’re there.  Hornworms can’t digest corn meal so sprinkle some underneath your plants every few days. They’ll chow down and they’re done.  Or spray the plants with the hose in the daytime every so often.  Hornworms don’t like water so they’ll wiggle and you can find and catch them.  (A great job for five year-olds.)
Diseases like blight and wilt will frustrate some of us.  Wilt strikes quickly and your plant is brown and crunchy overnight.  Your only defense?  Start over in a different location with wilt-resistant hybrids.  Blight is a more gradual but equally depressing situation featuring lots of yellow leaves and spotting, though plants may still produce fruit.  Remove affected leaves, hope for the best.  Next year plant in a different space, maybe in containers.
Spider mites love the hottest, driest  part of the year so if you’re drip watering it’s a good idea to wet your plants (early in the day) every so often to discourage them. 
Invite birds into the garden with a birdbath or feeder so they can help you with whatever pests are attracted to your home farm.  And they won’t be as likely to punch holes in your ripening tomatoes to get water.  Yes, plant marigolds, basil and other beauties in your garden space.  No, they won’t truly solve any problems but will be pretty and attract beneficial insects.  Tell the birds not to eat those!
Remove yellow leaves if they bother you. There are many reasons why they turn and drop.  The most common?  The plant is growing new leaves at the top and those leaves are now ineffective and unnecessary to feed the plant.  It’s natural and it’s not YOUR FAULT!
If you do see a problem that freaks you out put a small leaf or leaflet in a plastic bag and take it to a neighborhood pro at an independent nusery near you.  Identifying the problem correctly is step one.  Then treat it appropriately.  Or consult the internet of course, or your garden library.
Now where did I put that book on tomato diseases…?
Scott Daigre