Why You Should Reconsider Pulling Out Dead Or Dying Tomato Plants

Tomatoes are often the pride and joy of a gardener's home garden. You'll want to photograph every success, from newly sprouted seedlings to the first fruit. That is, until the plants finish producing and turn brown and crispy. Once this happens, you're probably keen on quickly getting them out of your garden, roots and all. But before you rip them out, stop to consider what's going on under the soil's surface.

Though you can't see it, there's a plethora of life in the soil, and the roots have become home to many organisms. Pulling out tomato roots will change the entire mini ecosystem and negatively affect your garden's overall health and productivity. Crazy how something as simple as removing a dead plant can change things, right? Cutting the tomato plant at the base and leaving the roots in the ground will not only help out your garden but also save you from a lot of pulling and struggling at the end of the growing season.

Leave the roots behind to feed your garden

Composting is the decomposition of organic material like leaves, grass clippings, and food scraps, resulting in nutritious material for your plants to grow. Dead tomato roots can contribute to this process, so you should leave them in the ground when the plant's time is up. Compost is made up of green and brown material; dead roots count as the latter and will help give new plants energy to continue growing.

Dead roots will also act as a Sunday brunch for earthworms. They'll eat up the roots and turn them into castings, which is highly nutritious for any plant. Feeding and attracting earthworms with roots provides your garden with a constant source of organic fertilizer. Worms will continually create castings, and the worms themselves will provide nitrogen when they die. By allowing worms to eat tomato roots, you'll have well-prepared soil for next year's batch of tomatoes.

Leaving the roots will contribute to soil quality

Unless you've adopted a no-till style garden, you probably associate a new planting season with a hoe or tiller. But tilling the garden can actually do more harm than good. Fungi in the soil help hold the soil together and keep nutrients like nitrogen and carbon in the soil; this is aggregated soil and is necessary for a healthy and productive garden. When you tear out tomato roots, you potentially remove these helpful fungi and reduce the soil's nutrients, decreasing the overall quality.

However, there are some cases where you would want to remove dead tomato plants and their roots. While healthy roots benefit new plants and the existing soil, diseased roots aren't. If your tomato plant died due to root rot, a pest infestation, or disease, it's best to remove the entire thing and throw it away. This ensures the rest of the vegetable patch won't be contaminated.