Fusarium and Verticillium are two wilt diseases that affect the vascular system of plants. Both are soil borne and the best defense is to plant varieties that have some resistance to these pathogens. On a tomato label, you will see letters behind the plant variety, “Celebrity VFNT”. The V & F stand for resistance to fusarium and verticillium wilt. For more information on ways to deal with these wilts, here are links from K-State Research and Extension and University of Maryland Extension.
These 3-4” caterpillars like to eat tomato leaves and other solanaceous crops. It is the larval stage of the five spotted hawk moth or sphinx moth. These are the large 4-5” moths you see flying around from time to time. Often you can just handpick the caterpillars off or plant an extra tomato plant and move to it. If you see the caterpillar with white projections from its body, leave it on the plant or move it to the tomatoes in the Rows for the Hungry. The caterpillar has been parasitized by beneficial insects called braconid wasps. They use the caterpillar as a food source and then hatch to parasitize other hornworms. Hornworms can do damage, especially when there are many of them. One or two will not significantly hurt your tomato plant. Allow those that are parasitized to stay on the plant as the wasps hatch and will attack the very small hornworms that are not noticeable. To read all about it, here’s a link.
Tomato cracking results in some varieties of tomatoes more than others. It appears as either radial from the stem or circular around the stem. It is due to uneven movement of water in the plant. Maintaining even, adequate moisture through mulching is one of the best ways to prevent cracking. However, some varieties that have thinner skins may crack when there is a downpour due the rush of water movement from the roots into the plant. Certain cherry tomato and heirloom varieties are notorious for this with their thin skins. It can also occur with uneven watering. While we can't control when it rains a lot, we can alleviate tomato cracking with consistent and even watering and mulching. Some years are better than others. Here’s a link to tomato cracking from K-State Research and Extension.
Growing tomatoes, peppers, squash or melon is sometimes frustrating when all the new fruit you are anxiously anticipating rots. Blossom end rot is not a disease, rather a physiological disorder in the plant. It is most often seen when conditions in temperature and soil moisture change rapidly, drought stress, root injury and excessive Nitrogen fertilization. The plant gets confused and cannot move calcium in the plant to the right places. This sometimes occurs even when growing conditions are favorable. However, the condition corrects itself in a week or two and further fruit development is unaffected. For more information about Blossom End Rot, here’s a link from K-State Research and Extension.
Japanese beetles have quickly become one of the most detested insects of all time. They are indiscriminate and feed on a multitude of vegetables, ornamentals, trees, and plants. A lot of research is being conducted to combat these gregarious feeding insects. There are options for control that depend on the plant being attacked, the amount of infestation and your level of time. Note there are many websites that have the answer/product/cure/trap for Japanese beetles. When researching online, find a trusted source, such as .edu or .gov or .org, that has actual research and not just anecdotal evidence. Here are a couple of sources I have found to be updated on a timely basis and filled with fact-based information.
The bane of every gardener growing zucchini, squash, pumpkins and winter squash. Egg masses are found on the underneath side of the plant leaf. They can be squished with your finger to control the number that hatch. Scouting the plants is the best way to keep the pest under control. Good garden sanitation is highly important to reduce the places and food sources for overwintering nymphs and adults. Here are a couple of links from K-State Research and Extension & University of Minnesota with more information about squash bugs and control measures.
These yellowish to orange beetles love to chew holes in green beans, peas and corn. They have 4 spots on their wings and a black triangle at the top of their wing covers. Bean leaf beetle numbers can be reduced with good garden sanitation and planting green beans later in May to avoid the overwintering adults emerging in the spring. Here are some links from K-State Research and Extension and Missouri Botanical Garden with more information about bean leaf beetles.
Cucumber beetles can be either spotted or striped. They like to feed at the base of newly emerged cucumber, melon, squash, pumpkin and other crops. The actual damage to most plants doesn’t come from the adults feeding on the leaves. The real damage is from a bacterial wilt that the beetles transmit plant to plant while feeding. The bacteria reproduces and eventually the plant wilts and dies. There is no cure for bacterial wilt, but some varieties have more tolerance to bacterial wilt. Early control of cucumber beetles is key in reducing the opportunity of having bacterial wilt. If you do plan to spray to control beetles, keep in mind that the bees are around to pollinate. Spray early in the morning or later in the evening when they are not as active around plants. “Eight” or permethrin is a much friendlier bee option than “Sevin” or carbaryl. Here are links from K-State Research and Extension with detailed information about cucumber beetles and bacterial wilt.
This is the adult squash vine borer that lays it’s eggs at the base of your favorite summer and winter squash, zucchini, pumpkins and gourd plants. They hatch and eat their way inside the plant's stem where they are protected from predators. They live there for several weeks until they get large enough and do enough damage. Then one day your plant collapses and you are shocked. Preventative measures are needed where SVB is present to protect your squash crop. Here’s a link from K-State Research and Extension with detailed information about Squash Vine Borer. If you do preventative spraying at the base of the plant, Eight (permethrin) would be what I’d recommend.
Here is another link for those who want to follow strictly organic practices. https://articles.extension.org/pages/65684/biology-and-management-of-squash-vine-borer-in-organic-farming-systems
Note, scouting for the eggs regularly will be critical to your success.
Two diseases that attack tomatoes early in the growing season around blossom set are Early Blight and Septoria. Both start on lower leaves of the plant and result in leaf spots that may eventually kill the leaf. Defoliation of the plant is harmful and also leads to sunscalded fruit. Disease development is favored by warm temperatures, abundant rainfall and high humidity. We’ve had perfect conditions for both diseases, and I am seeing them on some of your tomatoes. Mulching, caging, no overhead watering and good air flow are helpful to reduce disease pressures. To learn more about these early tomato diseases, here are articles from K-State Research and Extension, University of Minnesota, and Missouri Botanical Garden.