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Dear Editor,

I understand that you cannot plant tomatoes in the same garden place year after year because the pests are there waiting for them, plus the fungus gets them. The problem I have is, I only gave a small garden spot, so it is either plant them in the same place or skip it for 2 to 3 years. Here in the South we didn’t have a winter to speak of. I doubt the bugs or fungus was killed by the cold, which was next to non-existent. Do I skip tomatoes, or am I overlooking something?


Dear JB –

It is true that you need to rotate crops in order to keep pests and fungi under control. However, you don’t have to skip two or three years and go without your tomatoes! You don’t say whether you’ve been experiencing any particular types of problems or not, or if you’re mainly looking at it from a good stewardship perspective.

You can do several things to cut down on pests and disease right off the bat. The first thing is to till in the fall and the spring, ideally after first frost. (But you’re right, we had next to no winter this year in the South—I’m already dreading the mosquitoes!) Regular tilling, year after year, will help control pests and disease.

Another thing that helps is mulch and compost. Disease and pests have a hard time taking out a crop if the soil is rich in nutrition for the plants to feed on. The plant is much better able to resist. Because tomatoes do require warm soil, wait to mulch until after the plant blooms. Then you know the soil is warm enough. A thick mulch puts a barrier between the plant and the soil.

Diatomaceous earth is an excellent natural compound to help repel and kill bugs. Use only food grade DE and sprinkle liberally around each plant. Avoid getting any on the blooms however. Diatomaceous earth is just as bad for bees as it is for other insects.

However, as you said, every once in awhile, you need to change your crop in that area. Every few years, plant something that isn’t in the tomato-potato-eggplant family, preferably a legume that will help fix nitrogen into the soil, such as peas or beans. But you don’t have to do without tomatoes just because you change the crop in that one spot for a year. Get a pot and plant a tomato vine or two! Many people who live in apartments successfully grow tomatoes in containers. You may not have the bumper crop you want, but you won’t go without either.

The Editor



Dear Editor,

We want to buy seeds and have a garden that will produce plenty of food for us to eat, can, and store. The problem is we live in a mostly wooded area and finding a place to put the garden where there will be enough sunlight is an exercise in futility. We have cut down a few trees but don’t want to cut down any more than we have to. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,


Dear LA—

The rule of thumb is if you grow a plant for its root or fruit, that plant needs full sun. If you grow the plant for its leaves, however, those will produce in partial shade. Here are some plants that will grow in a partially shady area:

  • Salad Greens ( leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, and cress, etc.)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Beets
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Radishes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Leafy Greens (collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale)
  • Beans

You need to understand that no vegetable will grow in full shade. The above crops will need three to six hours of sunlight, even if it’s intermittent, during the day. Unfortunately, if you want any other crops you’re going to have to provide a sunny spot for them to grow, and that will mean taking down some trees.

The Editor

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