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September 30, 2017
I have several small raised beds in my yard where I grow vegetables. I continue to
have trouble with what I believe is blight (yellowing of the leaves starts at the
bottom of the plants and moves up) on my tomato plants even though they were planted
in a different portion of the bed. I had some tomatoes, but the amount of tomatoes
and the season were quite short. Would it be worth the effort and expense to take
out the old soil and replace it with new? I incorporated some compost into the soil
this year. Did this contribute to the problem or help?
Soil diseases on tomatoes are quite common, and replacing the soil is an option when
we use raised beds. After all, a raised bed is really a large container. Compost
should not have made the problem worse. The extra rain this year helped some gardeners
and hurt others. Make sure you practice good sanitation--removing all the spent plants
from the beds now if they are done, or when you end the growing season this fall.
If you do replace the soil continue to practice crop rotation each season. Our recommendation
is not to plant in the same spot for at least 3 years. If you have several raised
beds, you might consider trying to solarize one next summer. Work up the soil, wet
it and cover with clear plastic for 6 weeks any time from July-September. The heat
can sterilize the soil.
July 22, 2017
I have heard you say that tomato plants will not set fruit when night‑time temperatures
are above 75 degrees. Is this also true for cucumbers? A week ago, our cucumber
plants were setting fruit so fast that we were afraid we would not be able to keep
up with them. Then they seemed to just stop setting fruit overnight. I thought that
it was because I had failed to water them enough when the weather turned hot and dry
so quickly, but now I wonder if the heat is to blame.
Cucumber flowers need a pollinator to transfer pollen from the male flower to the
female flower. While high temperatures won’t stop them from blooming, but the flowers
may not stay open as long on a really hot day as they will on a cooler day. If the
plants are too dry and wilting, they won’t bloom as well either. Bees aren't as active
during the intense heat, so your window of pollination is reduced, which can result
in less fruit set. If you see any misshapen fruit, that is also a result of weak
pollination. If you get bitter tasting cucumbers that can be a result of a stressed
plant—if it got too dry or wilted.
July 1, 2017
Maybe you can help us on this one. Our tomato plants started to die, and we pulled
one up and on the bottom (roots) was some little (looked like) white rocks. You could
crush them with your finger. Tomatoes don't taste as good as last year.Every year
I have the same problem with my tomato plants. They get blossom end-rot. The bottom
of the tomato starts to rot just as they begin to ripen. What can I do this year
as I plant, to prevent this problem?
If you still have the plant handy, take a closer look or take it in to your local
county extension office for a correct diagnosis. Some growers use perlite as a soil
mix which is white, and most nurseries use a slow release fertilizer like osmocote
when growing. Many gardeners mistake these resinous beads of fertilizer as insect
eggs. There are also some bad things that you may have. When you pulled the plants
up, had the root system spread out or were the roots stunted and the ends of the roots
had the small growths? This could be a root knot nematode. Were there small mustard
seed like growths at the soil line or at the crown of the plant? Southern stem blight
can kill a plant. Usually you will see some small white mustard seed like growths
at the base. They will turn brown in time, but usually the plant is on its way out
at that point. Here is a link to an excellent publication we have on tomatoes with
color images to help you pinpoint the problem: http://www.uaex.uada.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/mp430.pdf
May 1, 2017
Every year I have the same problem with my tomato plants. They get blossom end-rot.
The bottom of the tomato starts to rot just as they begin to ripen. What can I do
this year as I plant, to prevent this problem?
Blossom end-rot is a calcium deficiency caused by a fluctuation in moisture levels.
The first occurrence usually happens when we have a dry spell followed by a downpour.
As you plant your tomato plants this year, work some lime into the planting hole.
Then after planting, mulch the plants well to keep the soil moisture levels as even
as possible. Try to keep the plants watered evenly and hopefully you won’t see any
problems this year.
May 13, 2017
I want to grow a grape tomato plant in a 20" container. What type of soil should I
Since you are growing in a container a good quality potting soil is best. Bagged
garden soil is heavier and soil from the yard is heavy but can also contain weed seeds
In 1980, my husband planted a tomato plant that grew to 8 feet. We had tomatoes until
November. Could you please help us find the type of tomato?
Tomatoes come in two types—determinate and indeterminate. Determinate varieties are
like patio tomatoes. They grow to a specific height, stop growing and produce their
fruit. The indeterminate varieties will continue to grow provided they aren’t pruned.
They need some type of physical support to hold them upright. If we have a good growing
season they can get 6-8 feet tall or more if they are not topped. Some good indeterminate
varieties include Better Boy, Traveler, Husky Cherry Red and Big Beef.
November 12, 2016
I’m retired with a small yard and lot of shade. I have a small raised bed in full
sunlight where I raise a few tomatoes. Last year they did great, this year they grew
to 5’ staked, then blight hit them. I know you’re not supposed to plant in same spot
every year, but have no other area in full sun. Is there any way to treat soil to
get rid of blight overwinter? Or must I change out soil in bed every spring?
Many people struggled with tomatoes this year, but planting in the same spot will
make your problems occur earlier each season, as many tomato diseases are soil-borne.
You have a couple of options. If this is the only bed you can plant in, you can solarize
at the end of the season--but you would have to do so by late August to early September.
Solarization requires hot temperatures. You till the soil, saturate it, then cover
with clear plastic for 6 weeks. July-September are the best months to do this. You
could also try planting a cover crop in the fall. Mustard greens are one that they
have seen promise with helping with soil borne diseases. Again, it is getting a bit
late in the season, but if you can find some mustard plants at your local nursery,
give it a try. Your saving grace is that it is a raised bed, so you could replace
the soil however, that is a hassle. I would also consider constructing another raised
bed or two and alternating what you grow. Good luck
August 13, 2016
My tomatoes look good, are head high but none of the blooms are making tomatoes. What
do I do?
Be patient and grateful your plants look good. Tomatoes often slow down or quit
producing during the extremely hot days of summer. When temperatures are above 95
during the day or stay above 75 at night, they won’t set fruit. If you can keep the
plants happy and healthy, once the weather breaks, you will get tomatoes again.
July 16, 2016
I planted a tomato plant earlier in the summer and it is in a pot. It is very healthy
and I have had lots of tomatoes and before they turn red they are just gone. I put
a netting around the plant to see if that would help and it has happened again. I
am so frustrated because I had at least 4 nice ones. What can I do or what do you think are eating them?
My guess would be squirrels, but I have heard from folks who have raccoons and
even rats. Try fastening the net at the bottom to see if that helps. Animal
control can be a challenge to gardeners.
What is the reason and solution for blooms falling from tomato plants? The flowers
can’t seem to stay long enough for fruit to appear. What do I do?
Tomato blossoms fail to set fruit when the nighttime temperature stays above 75 degrees,
and/or when the daytime temperature exceeds 95 degrees. In hot summers we will
have limited tomatoes in late summer. There isn’t much you can do about high temperatures,
but keep the plants healthy and happy until the weather cools off and they should
begin to bear again for a late summer/ fall harvest.
I have tomatoes in size ranging from dime size to silver dollar size. A large number
of these tomatoes have dark brown and/or black areas at the bottom of the tomato.
What is causing this and what can I do?
Blossom end rot has started in our gardens. Although it looks like a disease, it
is actually a calcium deficiency which affects some varieties more than others.
It often hits our gardens when it has been really dry and we get a downpour of rain.
Fluctuating water levels make it much worse. Try to mulch your garden and keep it
as evenly moist as possible in these dry days. There are some calcium sprays like
Stop Rot or calcium chloride which can help, but even watering and mulch should also
do the trick. It won’t correct the tomatoes that have the problem, but should prevent
more from succumbing.
June 25, 2016
My tomato plants at Two Rivers Park were fantastic until late May, then they started
turning yellow from the bottom up. They are now yellow halfway up the plant. Any
ideas what this is? The plants are hybrid Celebrity. Everyone’s plants at Two Rivers
are doing this.
Quite possibly septoria leaf spot or one of the tomato blights. These diseases are
soil borne, so crop rotation is important. I would suggest you take a sample in to
your local county extension office for exact diagnosis and possible controls. We
are seeing quite a few diseases this year on tomatoes, including some diseases which
February 1, 2016
I saved some seeds from some tomatoes I grew last season that we just loved. I am
attempting to grow the plants for this year. I have started with fresh soil and trays
and have them in a very bright, sunny window, but the seedlings look so weak. I am
trying to keep them warm, and doing things right. Do they need fertilizer? If so,
what kind and how much?
Even when we think we have enough sunlight with a regular window to grow transplants,
the duration and strength of the light is not enough, unless you have a greenhouse
window and full sun. Your plants are weak or leggy from low light. Rig up a light
kit over the seedlings and leave it on for 12 hours per day. A mild solution of a
water soluble fertilizer will help but I really think low light is the culprit. Make
sure you thin the seedlings out if they are too close together, and don’t be too quick
to plant outdoors in the spring. Make sure the soil temperature warms up as well
as the air. They now make light kits for home gardeners that contain LED lights, but
you can also use an inexpensive shop light kit, and adjust the height.
November 7, 2015
I still have lots of tomatoes this time of year and a lot of them split at the top.
Got any idea why?
I am still harvesting tomatoes too, even though the plants look a bit bedraggled.
The splitting is caused by uneven moisture. When they get dry and then you water—or
we finally get a heavy rain, the fruits tend to split. Some varieties are more susceptible
to this than others, but I even had a few splits just recently on some cherry tomatoes
after we finally had real rainfall! For reference next year, mulching does help.
This year we planted our garden as usual. Most years we have average size tomato plants
that produce a few small tomatoes. This year we have the biggest plants we have ever
seen with hundreds of tomatoes that are still growing this late in the season. We
have no idea what type we bought but we would like to get them again next year. What
type of tomato plants would you suggest to get these same results next season?
There are a lot of options when it comes to tomatoes. There are two basic types—determinate
and indeterminate. Determinate types are like the patio or bush tomatoes—the plants
are smaller, have a stronger stem and tend to produce all their tomatoes at one time
and that is pretty much it for the season. This year you for sure bought an indeterminate—they
continue to grow and produce as long as there is a growing season. They have a weaker
main stem and require staking. My personal favorite is the Traveler tomato. Other
indeterminate include Better Boy, Brandywine, Bradley, and Early Girl. One of the
more popular varieties in the trade is Celebrity and it is a determinate variety.
There are plenty of great tomato varieties out there, but you definitely want an indeterminate variety.
What is the reason and solution for blooms falling from tomato plants? The flowers
can’t seem to stay long enough for fruit to appear. What do I do??
Tomato blossoms fail to set fruit when the nighttime temperature stays above 75 degrees,
and/or when the daytime temperature exceeds 95 degrees. It was the main reason we
had no tomatoes last year. It has not been a big issue this year, but will be now
that the weather is heating up. There isn't much you can do about it, but keep the
plants healthy and happy until the weather cools off and they begin to bear again.
Please tell me why one of my tomato plants has a black spot on the bottom of each
tomato. I have 6 tomato plants in large pots on my patio. All plants are doing great
and look beautiful except this one tomato.
It sounds like the one plant is suffering from blossom end rot. This problem occurs
more commonly on some varieties than others. It is a calcium deficiency that is made
worse when we have major fluctuations of water—and if a plant is vigorously growing.
The calcium gets pulled from the bottom end of the tomato and you are left with a
water-soaked area, which then rots or turns black. Mulching (even in pots) can help to moderate moisture. Adding a little lime into the
soil can also help at planting, or you can lightly work it into the soil in the pot.
There was a tomato tasting festival somewhere in Arkansas last year, but I can’t remember
where it was. Do you know of one of these this year and when and where it might be?
I would love to attend one of these.
June 8th and 9th are the dates for the Pink Tomato festival in Bradley County Arkansas.
Here is a link to their website with all the schedule information: http://www.bradleypinktomato.com/ A few years ago we participated in Heritage Days and Tomato Days at the Winthrop
Rockeller Institute on Petit Jean where we held tomato tastings along with gardening
classes, but they have no program scheduled for this year.
Since spring is so early this year and the temperatures are above normal, is it okay
to plant small tomato plants in pots to be replanted in the garden when they area
reasonable size? We live in Russellville.
I wish I had a crystal ball and could predict that we will have no more cold snaps!
Everyone has the spring planting bug early this year, but keep in mind it is still
March. While tomato plants are arriving at nurseries and garden centers statewide,
if you plant now, be prepared to either replant or protect them, should a cold snap
ensue. I would prefer you continue to plant cool season vegetables and hold off on
tomatoes until April. Since you plan to have yours in pots, they could be moved into
a garage or home if it gets cold.
I always plant several tomato plants in my garden. This year a tomato plant came up
that I did not plant. The plant was about 5 feet tall and the tomatoes were yellow
and never turned any other color. They grew to about 2 – 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
They were thick walled and crispy/crunchy to eat. Since they never turned any color
but yellow, it was difficult to tell when they were ripe. But when the plant died,
I picked all that were there, about a gallon to gallon and a half. We ate them for
the next month. I saved one, hoping to save some seeds for next year. It has been
sitting on my kitchen window sill for approximately 3 months and never has rotted.
The sides finally got a little soft, but that is all. Can you tell me what kind of
tomato this is?
Seedling tomato plants are not unusual in a compost pile or in a garden. They are
remnants of other tomato plants or even seeds dropped from birds. There are numerous
yellow fruited varieties. Some form large tomatoes, while others produce yellow pear
or yellow cherry tomatoes. Cut the fruit in half and scrape out the seeds. Save until
planting time indoors in February or direct sowed in mid April.
When I plant my tomatoes in the ground they start out pretty good for the first two
weeks. Then when they start coming up, during the next two weeks they just start drying
out. After blooming and producing the tomato the same problem is occurring. As the
blooms come out they will dry and fall off. Needless to say the tomatoes plants have
a short life span. They will totally stop producing around the middle of the summer.
I was told by the agriculture dept. that I was probably splashing water up on the
plants too much when watering. This last year I only had a soaker hose on them. The
agent said to put straw down around the bottom of the plants, but to no avail. Maybe
there is a better method that you can help me with. Are there other solutions that
you might know?
First, get your soil tested. Take a pint of soil to your local county extension office
and see what the pH is and the levels of N, P and K. I always want to start with the
foundation of the plants, which is the soil. If your soil is pitiful and rocky, you
can enrich it with compost. How is the drainage? If they are sitting in waterlogged
soil, they will die quickly. We recommend that you rotate where you plant your tomatoes
every year because many tomato diseases are soil borne, and attack the plants earlier
each season, but problems beginning within two weeks of planting is pretty amazing.
I think we might have something else going on. Mulching the plants to keep soil from
splashing on the stems can slow down the disease spread, but again, it doesn't usually
occur within two weeks of planting, nor does it cause the flowers to dry. Most tomato
diseases either start with the leaves dying from the bottom and it progresses up the
stem, or we have a dramatic wilting and dying from one of the vascular wilts. It sounds
like your problem is more about fruit set than plants dying. How much sunlight do
the plants get? They need at least 6 hours a day. Some varieties quit setting fruit
when the temperatures get above 90 degrees during the day or stay above 75 degrees
at night, but if the plants look good, they can kick back in and produce well into
fall. I think we need to investigate further.
I am planning my summer vegetable garden and trying to figure out what type of irrigation
system I want to use. It seems that I remember in one of your past writings you said
not to get the plant itself wet when watering tomato plants. Is this true, if so,
why? Therefore, would drip irrigation be better than overhead?
Tomatoes are plagued with a whole range of plant diseases. Many of these diseases
are soil borne and water splashing from the ground to the stems can help increase
their spread. Also, wet foliage, especially late in the day can be a precursor to
many disease issues. If you have ever taken a plant pathology course, there are three
things in the disease triangle that must be present for a disease to take over—1:
a susceptible host plant 2: the disease pathogen and 3: climatic conditions necessary
for the disease. Keeping the foliage dry can reduce disease spread if there are pathogens
present, and if you are using any type of pesticide sprays, you don’t wash them off
as quickly. Drip irrigation is better for several reasons—one is keeping the foliage
drier, but secondly, they are much more water efficient than overhead watering—directing
water to the root zone where you need it.
My tomatoes have died because of what I think is a blight. If this is in the soil
of my garden, is there any way I could sterilize the soil so I could plant some late
tomatoes and have some this fall? Is there some fungicide I could use that would prevent
There are numerous diseases that plague tomatoes. Early blight, septoria leaf spot
and late blight cause the “firing” up of the lower leaves. It usually takes the plant
by the end of the season, but you usually have had a good harvest by then. Sprays
weekly of a fungicide such as Maneb or Bravo can help to prevent it. If your plants
out and out died already, you may have one of the more serious vascular wilts. These
soil borne diseases can kill a plant within a few days time once they hit. Soil sterilization
can be done via the sun—called soil solarization. Chemical products are no longer
available to the home gardener. To solarize your soil, till it thoroughly, wet it
completely, then cover it with clear plastic, making firm contact between soil and
plastic. Leave it covered for six weeks. Then you can replant. You could have a good
crop of fall tomatoes. You could also get them growing in large containers. Tomatoes
can be container grown all season, just keep up with the watering.
I'm looking for organic ways to control weeds around tomato plants. Is it okay to
put mulch (i.e., cypress, hardwood, pine bark) around these plants? If so, is one
type of mulch better than another?
I think all gardens should have mulch in them. Not only does it keep weeds down, mulch
also maintains soil moisture levels, moderates soil temperature and prevents erosion.
When using mulch in a vegetable garden it is preferable to use something that can
break down readily. The bark mulches can be used, but you would not want to till them
into the soil at the end of the season. Shredded leaves, newspaper or shredded paper,
or straw would be a better choice to work in. Some gardeners do use plastic as a mulch
in the vegetable garden, laying it down early to help warm the soil in the spring
as well. Plastic is ok, but make sure you have a way to get water underneath it and
possibly add some organic mulch on top to cool things down in the heat of summer.
I would like to try growing a tomato plant in a pot this year. Are there any special
techniques I should try? What about the soil? What mix should I use? This will be
new for me, as I've grown Big Boy in the past, in a small sunny area in my back yard.
I had the idea from a co-worker that has limited space because of apartment living.
Tomatoes are easy to grow in containers, but give yourself a break by planting them
in large enough containers that they don’t need constant water this summer. A minimum
five gallon sized pot is best. Buy a commercial potting soil, instead of using garden
soil. Garden soil tends to be much heavier and can contain contaminates like weed
seeds and insect larvae. If the site is in full sun, you may want to add some of the
water absorbing polymers in with the soil to help it retain moisture. Some potting
soils come with these already added, but regardless, don’t get carried away with them—a
little goes a long way. You can grow indeterminate varieties like Big Boy, and use
tomato stakes or cages just like in the garden, or you can grow the “patio” types
which are really determinate varieties that have a stronger stem but limit the length
of time you harvest. Fertilize at planting with a slow release fertilizer then fertilize
about every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer. You will need to fertilize
tomatoes grown in containers more often than those in the garden, because you are
watering more often, since container soils dry out quicker due to smaller volume and
elevated status. Watch for insects and diseases, but diseases are usually less of
a problem because you are starting with fresh, sterile soil each season. Mulching
the pot after planting will also aid in moisture retention. As with any tomato, give
them a site that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunlight.
Our vegetable garden consists of two grape-type tomato plants but they are having
a problem that hopefully you can resolve. Something is eating a perfectly round hole
about 1/4" deep and the same size in diameter but nothing is ever visible on them.
I have sprayed once with Advanced Garden (cyflurthrin) to no avail. Obviously even
the bugs and worms don't respect the elderly!
Grape tomatoes don’t have a lot to feed on, so any feeding is doing real damage! Tomato
fruit worms can make very defined holes, but you usually find the worm and/or their
droppings. Check the stems and leaves around the plants as well. Could birds be coming
in to have a taste? Try using bird netting around your plants to discourage them,
and see if new damage continues. If it is a caterpillar, then BT or Dipel can work,
but it will take a week or so to work. Go out in the evening and see if you can spot
anything working on them.
I have planted some tomatoes in pots and all seem to be okay except one which the
leaves are curling on and it does not seem to have as deep green color to the leaves.
What could be the problem? Also what causes the blossom end to rot and what can be done for that?
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 usually does not affect fruiting or quality, and it is not a disease. Leaf roll
is a common genetic trait in some varieties but it is typically not associated with
a difference in leaf color. Monitor these plants, make sure you are watering enough,
but don’t drown them either. Use a water soluble fertilizer and see if that helps
with the color. Blossom end rot is a calcium deficiency that is usually brought about
with huge fluctuations in moisture levels—we often see if when we go through a dry
spell and then have a downpour of rain. Even though your plants are in containers,
mulch the soil to aid in keeping the moisture levels more constant.
I am growing three tomato plants in containers on my deck. One of my tomato plant's
leaves have a yellow tint around their edges. The leaves affected are on the Northwest
side of the bush. The bush is either a Bush Early Girl or a Health Kick. They may
not be getting enough sunshine. Do you think that is the problem?
Growing tomatoes in pots gives you a clean slate every season, because you can start
with fresh soil. Therefore, diseases are at a minimum. I doubt lack of sun on one
side of the bush would cause yellowing. If no spots are involved, it could be nutritional
in nature. Fertility in plants grown in containers becomes more of an issue, since
you are watering more frequently which leaches the nutrients out. Make sure your plants
are getting at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer
every 10 days to two weeks. Monitor the plants and see what happens.
My tomatoes have developed on the bottom leaves a blight which is yellow. The leaf
slowly dies completely. The disease works to the top of the plant and finally kills
the plant. I have had the same problem for the last couple of years. This year I am
using Ortho's Garden Disease Control, spraying twice a week. I wonder if I am using
the right fungicide or I use something else? I am also wondering if the blight is
in the soil.
Tomato plants suffer from a variety of soil borne diseases and several start with
yellowing of leaves from the bottom and work their way up. Two of the most common
are septoria leaf spot and early blight. Early blight appears as spots on leaves,
stems and fruit. Leaf spots start as small, dark brown areas, sometimes with a yellow
border. Leaf spots grow rapidly under favorable conditions, forming lighter brown
bands with a dark center. Stem spots have even more noticeable rings than leaf spots
and may cause plant death if the stem is girdled. Another common disease that can
be controlled is septoria leaf spot. Spots on lower leaves usually show up as the
first tomatoes start setting and may also form on stems and branches. Spots are round,
and smaller than the early blight--about 1/8" across, with dark brown borders and light gray centers. Young spots
may be surrounded by a yellow halo as well. The disease progresses up the plant, from
the older to younger leaves, spread by splashing rain or overhead irrigation. Fruit
infection is rare. Both diseases can be controlled with a product containing chlorothalonil-
(of which there are numerous trade names including Bravo, Daconil and Ortho’s Garden
Disease control) or Maneb. The key is not to wait to see the disease and start playing
catch-up with fungicides. It is much easier to prevent than cure the disease. Rotate
your plants in the garden—don’t plant tomatoes back in the same soil for at least
three years. If you get the disease annually, start spraying when you plant and continue
throughout the season. Since you can still harvest tomatoes with both of these diseases,
you could grow the plants with proper cultural conditions—water, sunlight, mulch and
fertility and harvest what you can until the plants play out. Then replant in a new
location midsummer to have tomatoes for a fall harvest.
My tomatoes are blooming but are not making tomatoes - - Is there anything I can do
to cause them to produce tomatoes???
Be patient. We have had some cool nights. Tomatoes can be finicky, not setting fruit
when the nights are too cool or too hot, nor when the days are rainy or over 90 degrees.
You can lightly shake the plants helping to set the pollen, but with time fruits should
begin to form.
My tomato plants always grow seven feet tall. Is it possible to prune the tops at
a young age before blooming to encourage them to bush out more? Even the early girl
plants get huge!
By all means you can prune them to whatever height you desire. As you prune them,
they should get fuller. This has an added benefit of helping to shade the fruit as
it ripens, especially as temperatures heat up. Pruning can be done throughout the
growing season. You will need some trellis or means of support but they should produce
well as long as they are in full sun.
Our tomato plants are pathetic. They are planted in good soil, and I am fertilizing
with Miracle Grow, but not doing it too often. I have not used any insecticides. The
plant blooms appear and then fall off after a few days. Do we need bees? I have not
seen a single one in Garland County, although they must be somewhere!
Tomato plants produce a complete flower, which means they have the male and female
parts together in the same bloom. Wind movement is usually enough to set the fruit,
bees are not needed for pollination. Keep in mind that the flowers are only viable
for a short period of time, and if the temperatures are hot--above 90-95 during the
day and above 70-75 at night, tomatoes won't set fruit. Keep the plants healthy and
happy and they should set fruit once the weather straightens out. As long as they
are blooming, they are getting enough sunlight.
My grandmother is having a problem with her tomatoes. It has been happening the last
several years. She has had a problem with her tomato plants looking wonderful one
day, wilting the next, and dying the day after. She has tried several varieties, and
they all have this same problem.
From the quick death of the plants my guess would be bacterial wilt or possibly one
of the vascular wilts--either fusarium or verticillium wilt. All of these tomato diseases
are soil born and there is no spray program that will work to prevent them. Cut the
lower or main stem and look inside at the vascular tissue. Fusarium wilt causes a
dark brown discoloration within the vascular tissue. Fusarium crown rot causes a rot
or canker at the base of the stem and possibly a root rot. Bacterial wilt typically
causes rapid wilting and death of plants without yellowing or spotting of leaves.
Brown discoloration and decay are evident inside the stems of infected plants. The
disease is easily diagnosed by suspending a clean, cut section of diseased stem in
clear water. A white milky stream of bacterial cells will start to flow out from infected
stems into the water after a few minutes. Look for varieties labeled with a VF which
are resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilt. Do not plant tomatoes, potatoes or
eggplant in the affected area for two or three years. No fungicides are labeled for
control of any of these problems. If you want an accurate diagnosis of the problem,
take one of the dying plants into your local extension office--take the lower crown
and roots. They can send it to the disease diagnostic lab for diagnosis. Sanitation
is important, and if the problem is in a small section of the garden you can solarize
the soil now by removing the diseased plants, wetting the soil thoroughly and covering
with clear plastic. Leave it covered for 6-8 weeks and the heat can kill many of the
I just relocated to HSV this month from Dallas. I would like a recommendation of two
or three types of tomatoes that can be grown in this area.
I think everyone has their particular favorite, but most varieties will grow well
in Arkansas. The key is to rotate where you plant them each season so the diseases
don't build up. In that vein, I would suggest you look for varieties that have V,
F and N following their name. This means they are resistant to verticillium wilt,
fusarium wilt and nematodes. Some popular varieties include Celebrity, Big Boy and
Sweet 100 for a cherry type. One of my all time favorites is the pink Traveler 76
variety, but it is not always easy to find.
Maybe you can help us on this one. Our tomato plants started to die, and we pulled
one up and on the bottom (roots) was some little (looked like) white rocks. You could
crush them with your finger. Tomatoes don't taste as good as last year.
If you still have the plant handy, take a closer look. Were there small mustard seed
like growths at the soil line or at the crown of the plant? Southern stem blight can
kill a plant. Usually you will see some small white mustard seed like growths at the
base. They will turn brown in time, but usually the plant is on its way out at that
point. When you pulled the plants up, had the root system spread out or were the roots
stunted and the ends of the roots had the small growths? This could be a root knot
nematode. Here is a link to an excellent publication we have on tomatoes with color
images to help you pinpoint the problem MP 430 Managing Tomato Diseases in Arkansas. You can also take a sample of a damaged plant in to your local extension office
for further diagnosis.
I got a bit anxious this spring and planted my tomato plants in late March. I have
covered them with milk jugs on every cool night and thought I had protected them from
the several late frosts we had. The plants are still green, but they haven’t grown
a bit since I planted them. Do you think these plants will still produce, or should
You aren't alone in getting spring fever early. Many of our outside plants are ahead
of schedule as well. Tomatoes don’t like cold soil or air temperatures, and may be
sitting there waiting for both to warm up. We have had some pretty cool nights, even
when our days did warm up. With temperatures in the 80’s this past week, you should
begin to see signs of new growth. Lets hope the plants didn't get shocked by the cool
soil. To hedge all bets, plant a few extra plants nearby and see what happens. I don’t
like to begin planting tomatoes until mid to late April, and see no problems even
with May plantings.
We had to give up a large landscaped house for a town house in Hot Springs Village.
Therefore I have grown tomato plants directly in bags of soil on a sunny deck (with
slits in the bottom of the sacks). What tomato variety do you suggest as the very
best? Peppers have been successful, grown in bags of soil also; but what variety might
you suggest as best? Has squash been successful?
You could ask ten different gardeners which variety of tomato is best, and you would
probably get ten different answers. We all have our favorites. Usually when we grow
tomatoes in containers, which I would classify as the bag method, the bush type of
tomatoes is easier to manage. Tomatoes come as either determinate varieties--bush
type, or indeterminate--those that keep growing. The determinate ones usually have
a stronger stem and don't require the rigid staking. They are usually more manageable
in size. For peppers, almost all should perform well. The banana type peppers may
not be as nutritionally needy as the bell types, but with proper nutrition and watering,
anything is possible. They sell space saving varieties of squash and cucumbers--more
bush-like in habit, specifically for containers.
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