Tomato Troubles

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
These are real questions from real gardeners. If your tomatoes have none of these issues, count your blessings.
WATER What time of day is best to water tomatoes?
I prefer to water in the morning so the plants are well hydrated as the heat builds up and the leaves are dry overnight – unless it rains, of course.
FRUIT Will calcium chloride spray keep my tomatoes from getting blossom end rot?
If the plants wilt from lack of water, or if they stay continuously saturated, they’ll get blossom end rot. Calcium chloride spray is helpful, but unless you solve the water problem, the tomatoes may still have black bottoms.
TASTE My tomatoes taste bland this year, even though I’m doing everything the same as always. Could I have overamended the soil?
            Lots of theories out there about why this happens, from too much water to wrong soil pH to cool temperatures. I’d expect that if you had overamended the soil, there would have been lots of leaves and few tomatoes. I would do a soil test if you haven’t done one recently, just to see what’s there or not there. If all is well, you might have to figure it’s an oddball year, a description that fits most years lately anyway!
WILT My heritage tomatoes wilted overnight didn’t recover so I pulled them up. There is white powdery stuff all over the roots. I put them in a new spot every year, but this has happened before. The hybrids don’t have the problem. What can I do?
            The quick wilt and white masses on the roots, plus the resistance of the hybrid plants, sounds like southern wilt, a soil borne disease. They symptoms are as you describe and most hybrids show resistance. I suggest growing the heritage tomatoes in pots on another sunny space to avoid it. You should also be aware that if the fruit are affected and you save their seeds, they may also be contaminated.  
BLIGHT Our tomatoes are dying. They are turning yellow, with spots on the leaves and big brown patches. There are fruit on the vines, but they are small and not ripening. What is this?
AND
My tomato plants have turned yellow and the leaves have round spots that look like bb’s hit them.  Can I do anything about it or when can I replant?
            Cool, wet weather in spring favors the development of late blight, which shows up several weeks later in the symptoms these gardeners describe so well. By the time you see it, the dastardly deed is done. Harvest all the fruit, eat and ripen what you can and fry the hard green ones or make relish. Clean up very well and do not compost the plants. When you plant again, for fall or next year, make a point to spray the plants when they are 1 ft. tall and weekly after that for a month with a product that contains Neem. It is a fungicide/insecticide/miticide combination from an organic source that can help to control this tomato nemesis and other common problems a stressed plant can face on its way to maturity and fruit.
 
To all tomato growers: every state’s Cooperative Extension Service has a website with publications and links regarding every tomato problem described here. Bookmark yours!
           
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