Posted on 28 September 2007 by

Should You Compost Your Tomato Plants?

Should You Compost Your Tomato Plants?

By Amelia Tucker

Now that you are putting your garden to rest for the winter, the question of what to do with the spent plants comes up.
Should you just add them to your compost pile and forget about them?

There is no one answer to this. Many gardeners have strong opinions on either side of this debate.

Those who compost them say that you should return the nutrients that the plant took up by returning the plant to the soil in the form of compost. They are also pretty adamant that compost is more important than any negatives those who don’t compost tomato plants may come up with.

Just what would a drawback to composting a tomato plant be?

Well, there are a number of them.

Composting the plants can spread disease.
Tomato plants can harbor diseases that will wipe out entire crops the next season. Even if you are rotating crops you are going to mixing the composted material in throughout the garden-possibly spreading disease far and wide.

Composting may not kill the seeds.
You could and probably will end up with rogue plants everywhere. Just imagine your cherry tomatoes from this year growing like weeds everywhere in next year’s garden? Not pretty.

Your thick stems may not break down in time for next season. You could end up with dead, brown vines that are cumbersome and far less appealing to handle next Spring as you get ready for the new garden. The point of a compost pile is to deal with vegetative matter that will be transformed into rich compost in the Spring, not something that you will have to pick through to remove things that don’t belong.

A compost pile needs to be layered properly and kept moist in order to do its work. The internal temp should get to at least 135 degrees and higher (150 would be better) in order to kill seeds. It is not hard to do but needs some key ingredients and care.

Whatever you decide, be sure you do some checking on what makes a good compost pile and how to create one properly.

A good compost pile is priceless.

A bad compost pile is just pointless.

4 Responses to “Should You Compost Your Tomato Plants?”

  1. Caine Says:

    Curious . . . another reason I’ve been told not to compost tomato plants is that they contain nicotene. Is this true? If so, how much of an issue is it? Is it simply a matter of composting only fruits, or something of that nature?

  2. cjs white Says:

    The tomato plant is, in fact, a distant-ish cousin of the tobacco plant. Tomatoes do not contain nicotine. the two plants do share some different chemical compounds.

    Many of the old garden tales indicate that the tomato plants should be pulled and destroyed at the end of the season. Many also suggest changing the location of the tomato patch every season.

  3. Jim Maginity Says:

    Well my two cents worth is this, if you are watching your plants thru out the year, you should know or be aware of any disease that is on your plants.
    For composting for me it depends on the time of year it is. If I waiting till after the frost has killed the plants then it is easier to deal with the vines. If I pull them before the frost I would spend some time chopping up the plant materiel and then composting the chopped plant.

  4. Betty Says:

    Neighbour insists that tomato plants contain a substance like juglans that will inhibit growth and should NOT be added to compost. I have added them for years and not noticed a problem. Any comments?

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