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Homegrown Tomatoes

Today, 95 percent of all American gardeners grow tomatoes; they are the most popular garden vegetable in Arkansas.

Hot Springs, Ark. –  Today, 95 percent of all American gardeners grow tomatoes; they are the most popular garden vegetable in Arkansas. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, four out of five people prefer tomatoes to any other homegrown food.  Tomatoes rank number one in terms of their contribution of nutrients to the American diet, simply because we eat a lot of them.  This is the time of year when many of us have questions about growing tomatoes and dealing with tomato problems.  Here are a few frequently asked questions dealing with growing tomatoes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  What causes the lower leaves of my tomato plants to roll up?

A.  Leaf roll (curling of the leaflets) is a physiological condition that occurs most commonly when plants are trained and pruned.  Any type of stress can cause leaf roll.  It does not affect fruiting or quality, and it is not a disease. 

Q.  What causes the flowers to drop off my tomato plants?

A.  During unfavorable weather (night temperatures lower than 55 degrees F or above 72 degrees F and day temperatures above 95 degrees F with dry, hot winds), tomatoes do not set fruit and the flowers drop. The problem usually disappears as the weather improves. 

Q.  What causes the young leaves of my plants to become pointed and irregular in shape? I noticed the twisting of the leaves and stems after spraying the plants for the first time.

A.  Your tomato plants have been injured by 2,4-D or a similar weed killer.  Never use the same sprayer for weed control in your vegetable garden you used on your lawn.  Drift from herbicides originating one-half mile or more away can also injure tomato plants. Barnyard manure from livestock that have consumed hay or forage treated with certain herbicides can also cause these symptoms.   

Q.  What causes large, black spots on the bottom or blossom end of my tomatoes?

A.  Blossom-end rot, a dry, leathery rot on the blossom end of the fruit, is common in homegrown tomatoes.  It is caused by a combination of calcium deficiency and wide fluctuations in soil moisture.  Severe pruning stresses the plants and increases the incidence of blossom-end rot.  Some tomatoes are much more susceptible to this condition than others.  Liming the soil, mulching and uniform watering help prevent blossom-end rot.

Q.  My tomato plants wilted rapidly.  When I cut the stem open, I found a brown ring around the inside.

A.  This is fusarium wilt caused by a soilborne fungus that attacks tomatoes and other crops.  Use resistant varieties to control this disease.  Most commercial tomato varieties are resistant.  Before you plant a cultivar, make sure it is resistant to fusarium wilt.  This resistance is denoted by the letter F after the name; for example, Celebrity VFN.

Q.  The foliage on my tomatoes is covered by small circular-shaped spots that cause it to turn yellow and drop off.  This occurs in all seasons and is on the top and bottom leaves.

A.  Several types of leaf spots attack tomatoes. Septoria leaf spot quite often starts at the bottom of the plant and rapidly spreads. It can be controlled with a fungicide spray. Begin the spray program early in the life of the plant.

Q.  My tomato plants look great.  They are dark green, vigorous and healthy. However, flowers are not forming any fruit.  What is the problem?

A.  Several conditions can cause tomatoes to not set fruit.  Too much nitrogen fertilizer, nighttime temperatures over 75 degrees F, low temperatures below 50 degrees F, irregular watering and not enough direct sunlight can cause poor fruit set.

Growing tomatoes can be a challenge but harvesting that first homegrown tomato and enjoying it with a meal or as a meal makes it well worth the effort.  If you have questions give me a call at 501-623-6841 or come by our office at 236 Woodbine.   

Master Gardener Information

Master Gardener meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge.  They’re open to the public and guests are welcome. For more information call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email Allen Bates at   

EHC Information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC contact Jessica Vincent on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email her at

4-H Information

We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.  For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available for our youth, call Linda Bates at the Extension Office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email her at .

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

By Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841

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  • The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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