Is Vermicomposting Tomato Plants a Good Idea?

Horticultural expert Doug Oster explains when and why you may not want to add tomato plants to your vermicompost bin.

| Fall 2016

  • You shouldn’t compost diseased tomatoes that that show signs of blight or Septoria leaf spot.
    Photo by Fotolia/bufka

I was told not to compost tomato plants for some reason — I can’t remember why. Are they OK for vermicompost?

The only reason we don’t compost tomato plants is if they’re diseased, especially if they’re infected with late blight, which is fatal. The problem is easy to identify because every part of the plant is affected, fruit included. The stems often show signs of blight first — they turn black at the top — and then the fruit and foliage follow. Luckily, late blight isn’t as prevalent as early fungal issues, such as Septoria leaf spot and early blight, which slow down plants but rarely kill them. Both of these diseases are soilborne, and they turn the leaves yellow and spotted, starting at the bottom of the plant and then working their way upwards.

A plant with late blight should not be composted. The disease can overwinter in a compost pile or in a vermicomposting (worm composting) system. I wouldn’t want to compost diseased plants for fear of perpetuating the problem.

If plants are healthy at the end of the season, they can be safely composted or used for vermicomposting.

For more advice from Doug Oster, see:

Attracting Beneficial Insects with Pollinator Plants
Expert Gardening Advice for Growing Root Vegetables

Feeling stumped? Write to us!



October 19-20, 2019
Topeka, Kansas

Join us in the heart of the Midwest to explore ways to save money and live efficiently. This two-day event includes hands-on workshops and a marketplace featuring the latest homesteading products.


Subscribe today

Heirloom GardenerCultivate your love of historic plant varieties and traditional recipes with a subscription to Heirloom Gardener magazine today!

Don’t miss a single issue of Heirloom Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Heirloom Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Subscribe today and save as much as 38% off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube

click me