Do you struggle with growing healthy, hearty tomatoes? You’re not the first Iowan to see your tomatoes being overridden by disease and you won’t be the last.
Growing healthy organic tomatoes doesn’t have to be a struggle. If you’re having trouble getting the beautiful, juicy tomatoes you want from your organic garden, follow these tips to turn things around.
1. Be Selective
Before you ever start puttering around the garden, be mindful of the tomato varieties you’re choosing. Look for the most disease-resistant organic varieties that you can find. Surprisingly, there are several disease-resistant choices that are also organic.
2. Keep the Sun Shining
Tomatoes are natives of Mexico, which means they’re used to plenty of sun. If you choose the incorrect spot in your garden and your tomatoes are stuck in light shade, you’ve already rolled out the welcome mat for blight and wilts.
If you’re in northern Iowa, the sunlight can be relatively weak, which means they need at least 12 to 14 hours a day. In the southern portion of the state, 8 hours of sunlight is plenty. The ideal amount of sun for tomatoes is a full day, so keep that in mind when choosing your placement.
3. Transplanting Tomatoes in Iowa
Only transplant your tomatoes to the garden once the threat of frost has passed. If you’re in central Iowa, May 10th is the recommended date. Organic gardeners in the southern region can plant them one week before, while those in the northern portion should wait until one week after. To get quality yields, plant your tomatoes before June 20th.
3. Apply Mulch
Mulch will keep soil-borne pathogens from splashing onto your tomatoes. Use your favorite organic mulch or three layers of newspaper with 2-3 inches of grass clippings on top.
4. Play Musical Chairs
You should always rotate your tomato plantings, so experiment with a different spot each year. When shifting placement, keep the tomatoes at least 50 feet away from where they were last year. When it’s time to place them in a spot they’ve been, make sure two years have passed.
Now, obviously this is the ideal organic garden we’re talking about and not all of us have that much space. Work with what you’ve got and keep your tomatoes from ending up in the same spot year after year otherwise, they will be plagued with diseases.
If you’re low on space you can also try planting tomatoes every other year. Do you have flower beds in the front of your house? Plant them there every other year or share a spot with a neighbor to avoid pesky tomato diseases.
5. Suggested Varieties
There are several tomato varieties that are known to do well throughout Iowa. They include:
- Better Boy – red, round, medium-sized
- Brandywine – pinkish red, large
- Celebrity – red, medium to large
- Cherokee Purple – rose purple, large
- Early Girl – red, medium
- Jet Star – red, medium to large
- Juliet – red, small
- Pony Express – red, medium
- Roma – red, medium
- Supersweet 100 – red, round, cherry-sized