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Skaggs: Keep an eye out for these tomato pests
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This year more than ever before, area residents could not wait to get their gardens planted. And for even the novice gardeners, everyone wants to try their hand at growing tomatoes.

 Sometimes, even when you seem to have done everything right, tomatoes can disappoint in the garden. So before we get too far into the growing season, here are a few possible problems to be on the lookout for.

 Blossom end rot

This disorder causes the fruit to have a dark, sunken area on the blossom end. You can prevent it by maintaining even soil moisture. Other causes: root damage limiting the uptake and movement of calcium. Mulches help moderate soil moisture fluctuations as well as eliminate the need for cultivation. Improper pH can keep the plant from absorbing enough calcium, too.

 Failure to set fruit

The causes: cool night air and soil (below 55 degrees), abnormally hot weather, low soil moisture, too much shade or overfertilizing. For early tomatoes, use varieties that will set well during the cold of April.

Wilt

Both fusarium and verticillium can cause tomatoes to die early. They cause the plant to wilt even with good moisture. If you cut the stem, the vascular tissue will be discolored. Both wilts are soil-borne and widespread in the South. The only solution is to use resistant varieties.

Leaf roll

With this disorder, older leaves roll upward. Symptoms usually are seen when plants have a heavy fruit load. Usually caused by high heat, drought and prolonged times of wet soil.

Early blight

This fungal disease shows up as a leaf blight on the lower part of the plant. The disease moves upward, and by early to mid-summer, early blight has caused a "firing-up" of foliage over most of the tomato plants in the garden. As the disease progresses, leaves turn yellow, wither and drop from plants. Early blight control is based on crop rotation, removal and destruction of crop debris from previous crops, staking, mulching and timely application of fungicides.

Aphids

These can cause a loss of plant vigor and may carry disease. Many chemical products will control aphids. Read and follow label directions. Insecticidal soap is an organic spray that controls many soft-bodied insects, too.

Whitefly

Whitefly has become a major problem in tomatoes. Many times touching a plant will send up a cloud of white. They feed on the plant, causing weak growth.

Tomato hornworm

This large green worm has a horn on the back end. Hand-pick these large insects from small plantings. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) can be used as a biological control for hornworms when they're small.

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