Soil repair after tomato season

Asked September 24, 2016, 7:04 PM EDT

Hello. Today I removed 4 sickly tomato plants from their raised bed. I did get very few tomatos ( 2 cherry plants, 1 roma, 1 larger sized fruit). Emphasis on VERY few, sadly. I think plants had some fungus or early blight ( as i was told earlier in august from this great Ask An Expert resource). Questions: -- what should I do to fix the soil? Do I do something now or after winter? What is the best way to prep and repair soil for next season? -- what should I do with all the leftover roots? Till them up ? remove them ? How deep to till? -- can i still plant some lettuce seeds or similar quick cool season crop in this bed? Will the tilled tomato roots leftover affect anything new that grows there? Are the contagious? Sorry for the barage of questions! I am a novice, have had really bad luck with tomatoes last few years but i still love gardening! I plan to use a different garden spot next season for tomatoes...certainly hooked on gardening and not giving up. I really love appreciate this resource and your great advice. Big and many thanks!

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

Tomatoes are susceptible to several fungal diseases and the most common is early blight. See our website for more information on prevention and control. You can also select resistant varieties next year. See the resistant list from Cornell

At this point it is recommended to test your soil for pH and nutrient deficiencies if this has not been done in the last several years. See our link

Be sure to discard badly-diseased plants and fruits; don’t till them back into the soil. All other plant waste can be composted or directly incorporated into your garden soil. This will reduce the potential for these disease problems from next year’s garden. This debris should be bagged and put out for the trash and not put in the compost pile. Only really hot compost piles will kill off potential problems.

Lettuce, spinach, and arugula can be planted through mid October. Cover these late plantings with a cold frame, temporary greenhouse or floating row cover. Be sure to fertilize seedbeds, keep the soil moist and protect seedlings from pests. Garlic and shallots can be planted mid October -mid November.

If you decide not to plant, Do not leave the soil bare. Cover crops are preferred. If this is the first time planting or you want to plant early spring vegetables, look at spring oats. Oats are killed by the first hard freeze, leaving a brown decomposing mat in the spring.
Otherwise shredded leaves are a good alternative. Rake leaves into a loose pile and go over them with a lawnmower to cut them up. They will be much less likely to blow away if they are broken up. They can be worked into the soil next spring or seedlings can be planted through them. The mulch will act as a weed inhibitor.