How Do I Boost Tired Tomatoes?

How Do I Boost Tired Tomatoes?

“Last year my tomatoes struggled a lot. I think my soil might be tired. Should I rotate spots or should I fortify the soil? Thank you.” Question from Lucinda of Pittston, Maine

Answer: Tomatoes must be rotated on a three-year cycle for best performance, especially if they have experienced diseases. They are heavy feeders, experience lots of soil-borne diseases that can carry over in the soil from year to year, and root-knot nematodes are common pests that lower production and can live in the soil from year to year. Rotation fixes all of these problems. I recommend rotating tomatoes with soil-fortifying crops, such as peas and beans, which naturally add nitrogen to the soil. Tomatoes take up lots of nitrogen and fertilizer!

From there, I also suggest that you try short-season varieties adapted to northern climates. You can find several listed in the first article below.



Happy tomato growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

I Need Vegetable Garden Crop Rotation Tips

“I have 4 raised beds, each 16′ x 3.75′ (60 SF ea.) I live in Georgetown, TX Zone 8.  I have attempted to set up the planting plans for each bed for a 4-year rotation.  This spring garden, going in now:

  • Bed 1: Garlic (planted last 11/1), and Kale.  The Kale is still producing, and the garlic will be harvested in June.  The Kale will be replaced with 4 cucumbers (on trellis) and 2 Zucchinis near the end of March.
  • Bed 2: This will have 18 hills of potatoes (planting tomorrow), and 30 stalks of sweet corn (mid-March).
  • Bed 3: Red & White Onions on one side, Lettuces & Arugula in the middlemost section, Shallots on the other side.
  • Bed 4: (had clover growing all winter, which I turned over a few weeks ago), Tomatoes over 2/3rds of Bed, with Sweet Basil going in mid to late March, and one end having carrots (just planted)

I am interested in knowing what to plant in the fall for each bed, and then the following seasons…  I have a document with what I think should work from a rotation and companion standpoint, but I am not sure.  I would really like to dialog with you to understand better the best approach so the beds can be productive throughout the growing seasons.  I hope I have not put too much into this field.” Question from Russ of Georgetown, Texas

Answer: You have a very detailed plan, and it seems like you have everything under control.  Still, as requested, I will try to answer your questions.

Heavy-Feeding Versus Ligh-Feeding Crops

In general, you want to follow up heavy-feeding crops that are disease-prone, like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and corn, with low feeding crops, like greens and small root crops, as well as nitrogen-fortifying legumes, like peas and beans. Heavy feeders should be placed on at least a three-year cycle. Four years is even better! Your clover winter cover crop is an outstanding choice that naturally adds nitrogen to the soil, like its close relatives, beans and peas.

Cool-Season Crops

The growing season can be started and ended with cool-season crops of all kinds. Good fall root crops that like cooler weather include beets, winter carrots, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, and turnips (click here to learn more about growing winter root crops.) Cole crops are also big cool-season vegetables. The best for fall are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and kale. Finally, cool-season greens and herbs are outstanding for fall, winter, and spring. Try arugula, lettuce, mache, and radicchio as well as parsley, winter savory, thyme, sage, and chives. Peas are an outstanding cool-season crop for late winter or spring down in Texas.

Sometimes it is also nice to clean up and cover vegetable beds with compost for the season and give them a rest.


Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


How Do I Organically Feed My Vegetable Garden Soil for Fall?

How Do I Organically Feed My Vegetable Garden Soil for Fall?

“I’m getting ready to prep my raised beds for the fall crop.  What is best to amend the soil with since I do not use chemical fertilizers?” Question from Randal of Chiply, Florida.

Answer: There are lots of things that you can do to feed your soil for fall and winter crops. Here are some of easy options.

Feed Your Soil

Your garden is as good as its soil. For success, liberally feed it with organic matter, such as Black Gold Earthworm Castings, Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, and Garden Compost Blend, especially if your soil is rich in clay or sandy. Add at least 3 inches of the amendment to the soil surface, and till it to a depth of at least 8 inches. Tilling in amendments will increase water-holding capacity and aeration for better root growth. Use the amendment application formula below to determine the amount you will need.

Amendment Application Formula

([area to cover] ft2 x [depth in inches desired] x 0.0031 = ___ yd3).

Example: If you wanted to cover a 20 square foot area with 2 inches of compost, the result would be: 20 ft2 x 2 inches of compost x 0.0031 = 2.48 yd3.

(Click here for a full overview of how to prep a new vegetable garden from start to finish.)

Choose the Right Organic Fertilizer

Vegetables perform better with regular fertilization, especially heavy feeders like tomatoes. In fact, most veggies will deplete the soil of nutrients over time, so replenishment is necessary. There are many organic vegetable fertilizers on the market. Alfalfa, blood, bone, feather, fish, kelp, and shrimp meals are all common natural components of non-chemical fertilizers. Earthworm castings are also a good source of nitrogen and beneficial microbes. Adding mycorrhizae to the soil is also useful because it helps plants take up water and nutrients better. Black Gold Natural & Organic Ultra Coir is another of our organic-rich amendments that also contains our proprietary blend of endomycorrhizae. We recommend that you research top-rated organic fertilizers to find the best for your needs.

Rotate Your Crops with Legumes

Vegetables, especially tomatoes, should be rotated on a three-year cycle–tomato one year and other vegetables the next two years. Legumes, like beans and peas, are excellent rotation crops because they naturally fortify soils with nitrogen. For more rotation tips, I encourage you to read Spring to Fall Vegetable Rotation: Planting for Non-stop Garden Produce. It will provide all of the information you need to effectively rotate your crops, whether container- or garden-grown.

I hope that all of this information helps! We have many more articles about gardening in Florida, click here to view them.

Happy fall vegetable gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist