Advice for the Home Gardener From the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Client's Request: Hello, I am a retired cattle rancher and farmer. Although I did not farm tomatoes, for years I did rent some of my farm ground to tomato growers. As you may know, they would only grow tomatoes on the same field for no more than 3 years due to soil-borne disease. I now live in a suburban setting ion in Contra Costa County and have a small garden area that I grow tomatoes on. My question is, what can I do to continue to grow healthy tomatoes on the same ground year after year? I prefer to grow medium to large tomatoes. Can you suggest varieties of tomatoes that are resistant to these diseases? My garden area is approximately 12' by 18'. Would it do any good to grow the tomatoes one year on one half and then on the other half the next year? Then repeat this rotation year after year. Thanks for your help.
As you are already aware, growing tomatoes in the same place year after year can favor a buildup of pests and diseases, while rotating many vegetable crops in the garden not only enhances soil fertility but can be effective against insect and disease pests that develop on a narrow range of vegetable plants. Moving crops to different sites isolates such pests from their food sources and reduces the chances that pests will gain a permanent foothold in your garden.
We strongly recommend that you not plant tomatoes or other plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family such as tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplants, and potatoes in the same garden area more than 2 years in a row. You may be interested in this informative UC reference called ‘Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden'. This free reference includes tomato culture suggestions, a list of tomatoes that includes fruit size and disease resistance, and a list of common pests and abiotic disorders. This list is not inclusive of the many, many tomatoes available, but it will provide information on tomato plants that are resistant to certain diseases. Keep in mind that there aren't any tomatoes that are completely immune to common tomato diseases! http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8159.pdf
The links below offer even more information and suggestions about crop rotation strategies in the home garden. For example, moving vegetables back and forth on a smallish garden plot may not be enough to protect against pests unless you plant in raised beds to increase separation of crops:
crop rotation: http://ucanr.edu/sites/ucmgnapa/files/160975.pdf
vegetables & sustainable: http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu/Vegetables/?uid=6&ds=462
crop rotation strategies: http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/files/29029.pdf
In case you are interested in building raised beds, this Sunset Home and Garden article is a good one: https://www.sunset.com/garden/perfect-raised-bed
You may also want to consider joining us in April for our annual tomato sale. Here is a link for more information, especially when the lists are published, of the heirloom and hybrid tomatoes you might find fit your desired types: http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/EdibleGardening/GreatTomatoPlantSale/
We hope you find the above references helpful! Good luck with your tomatoes this year!
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SLH)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523, although we will be moving this spring. We will notify you if/when that occurs. We can also be reached via telephone: (925)646-6586, email: email@example.com, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/)/table>