tomatoes drowning, please help

jjgrands1April 30, 2009

On Sunday I planted 44 tomatoes, 2 squash, and a few herbs. At least 1/4 of my tomatoes look to be drowning. It has so much water in that area, that I can't even get into it. Are they a lost cause? Please help, these were my babies, all heirlooms.

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okiehobo(7a)

I wouldn't be to quick to count them out, depends on how quick the ground drys out, which will be pretty quick if the sun comes out and stays out.
Is there any way you can dig a small drainage ditch on one end of the area, to help it drain quicker?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 9:49AM
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elkwc(6b)

My thoughts go out to all of you that have received the big rains. We haven't received any yet but starting 50 miles to the east they start. I'm sure Dawn and others will be along and offer their advice. I have deep sand so usually mine soaks in fast as soon as the rain lets up. Hopefully you won't see much long term effects. If it stands long enough yes I know your plants can suffer great. Jay

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 9:50AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

JJGrands1,

In order to give you the best answer to your question, I need to know more. So, if you'll answer these questions for me, I'll do my best to help you figure out what to do.

1) What kind of soil to you have? Sandy loam? Mostly Clay? Clay and rock? Sand and Rock?

2) How much rainfall have you had in the last week?

3) Are the tomatoes planted in raised beds? Are they planted at grade level?

4) Is more rain in your forecast during the next 5 days?

5) How tall are the plants? What size containers were they in before you transplanted them into the ground? Were the roots well-developed or tiny when you transplanted?

6) Before your recent rainfall, were you having a wet year? A dry one?

7) After a heavy rainfall, how long do standing puddles remain on the surface of the soil? A day? Three days? Longer than that?

8) Is the ground around your tomatoes only excessively wet and muddy OR do you still have puddles of water on the soil surface around the tomatoes? Or, even worse, is your entire garden now a lake with the poor little plants just sticking up above the surface of the water?

9) Finally, if you do not mind telling me what county you are in, I can look at some of your county's soil moisture levels online and see what that tells me. If you don't want to state what county you are in, though, I understand.

I am in southern Love County and we have had about 12" of rain here in the last 24 hours, so I am dealing with a situation similar to yours.

Dawn

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 4:08PM
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sopamanda(7)

Dawn, please don't ever move!

Jacque, I don't have an iota of advice but I sure hope they make it for you. Good call on those onions btw, my cheapo bag sets is doing better than the later sets. I think I'll pull the later ones to make room for other stuffs.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 5:28PM
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jjgrands1

Dawn, thanks for your offer to help. This is actually my first time planting in this area. I live in North Bixby, around 121st & Mingo. The soil is very good,very little clay or sand. We had it tested @ OSU ext, came back perfect. We had been adding glass clippings for about five years to this area. It is not a raised bed. I honestly dont' know exactly how much rain we had previous to this, but it seems pretty normal. According to my 5 gall. buckets, it looks like we have had about 3-4" since yesterday. The plants averaged from about 16" - 24" tall with medium root systems. Most of them, I just had bought from The Tomato Man's daughter, in 3" rectangular containers. We are supposed to get more rain, per the forcast. About 1/3 of them are barely bobbing their heads out of the water surrounding them. The others look to be semi-ok, very very very wet, of course. I did not realize that the area would be holding that much water. I did go out and try to figure if I could dig a little trench down the middle to help drain it, not an option because the water is coming into the middle from both outer edges. What I have deceided to do is this: Tonight I am going to put on my life jacket, swim fins, and get the the ones that are in their own private lake. I am going to try and pot them up in 5 gallon buckets, with draininge holes in the bottom. I am going to mix some sheep poo, vege gardening soil, and compost together, and then put in a 3" layer of pea gravel on the very bottom. Then put in the mix, with the tomatoe planted in that. Please everyone give me your thoughts on this. It looks like it will probably be at least 1- 1 1/2 weeks before I could ever do anything in that tomato bed. I was so worried about getting them in too late, and having them starting to produce when it was too hot for the blossoms to hold. Thanks for everyones help and prayers on this. Jacque

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 7:54PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Jacque,

Later on we can figure out why you soil is holding excessive moisture. Right now, let's focus on saving your plants. I do think digging up the plants and putting them into containers is the best thing to do at this point. Do be careful out there and don't drown in Lake Tomato.

Your plants sound like they were nice and healthy to begin with, so they ought to be resilient enough to rebound from sitting in the water for a few days, although it clearly was not good for them. Did it rain right after you planted them? If not, how many days were they sitting in water.

At this point, I have a couple of concerns.

First, the soil you're going to put into the five-gallon pots. I don't understand what you mean by vege gardening soil. Is it something that you have purchased in bags? If so, read the bag very carefully because some brands of bagged "vegetable garden soil" are really meant to be added to dirt in the ground, but are not formulated for containers and won't drain well enough in containers. Normally, when growing in containers, your plants will do better if you use a soil-less potting mix. There's a couple of routes you can go.

If you use the vegetable gardening soil, then mix 1/3 soil with 1/3 sheep poo OR compost (or a 50-50 mix of them to equal a total of 1/3) and 1/3 of something that will improve the drainage....something like perlite or Turface.

If I were doing it, I'd use either 1/3 peat moss or small pine bark fines (often sold in bags as 'Soil Conditioner' or as a bark/humus blend), 1/3 compost (homemade or purchased) and 1/3 perlite or composted manure. I'd add a small handful of Espoma Tomato Tone organic fertilizer to each bucket, and maybe a small handful of lime and a little greensand. Don't worry, though, if you don't have time to do all that, but keep the "recipe" in mind for future container plantings. You also could purchase any bagged soilless mix that your trust, like Miracle Grow or whoever, but don't get the ones with "Moisture Control" granules added because it probably rains too much in your part of the state for those to drain well enough.

Secondly, am I correct in understanding that your plants' stems and foliage were mostly under water for a while? If so, your plants are at high risk for bacterial and fungal diseases like Bacterial Speck and Bacterial Spot or Early Blight or Septoria Leaf Spot, etc. Water on foliage is the worst thing for tomato plants. So, you are going to have to watch your plants foliage and stems very carefully for the next week or two and be ready to treat the foliage if disease symptoms appear.

If your plants stood in water and you yourself did not spray them with Daconil (chlorathaonil) as a disease prevention measure when you planted them, you might want to check with Lisa or someone else at The Tomato Man's Daughter and see if they treated the plants with Daconil. If the plants were sprayed with Daconil, there's a chance that standing in the water hasn't hurt them too badly. I actually don't use Daconil myself, but in this case, your plants probably would be better off if they had been sprayed with it before they sat in that water. Daconil merely coats the leaves and works like a sealer to help prevent fungal and bacterial disease from establishing itself on the leaves. I'm not sure if it is effective in standing water though.

If your plants begin developing yellowing or colored spots, specks or splotches on the leaves, there are several things you can do to try to stop the progress of foliar disease. We'll worry about that if it happens.

Third, your plants roots are very waterlogged, so only water them lightly when you pot them in the five gallon pots. All you want is enough water to help the potting mix settle in well around the roots.

Once the plants are in the 5-gallon buckets, then let's come back to this thread and try to figure out your drainage issues. I don't understand why water is standing on your land for so long. I looked at the Bixby mesonet station, and here is what it shows: 7-day rainfall: 1.61", 10-day rainfall 1.61", 14-day rainfall 2.35", 30-day rainfall 4.16", 60-day rainfall 8.13", 90-day rainfall 10.85". Of course, unless the Bixby Mesonet station is in your backyard, you may have had significantly more or less rainfall than the Mesonet station reports.

With the rainfall recorded at the Bixby station, though, I don't see any reason for you to have standing water in your yard at this point. So, things to consider:

--Maybe your yard sits lower than surrounding property so water drains onto your land from elsewhere;

--Maybe you have a heavy, thick subsoil that is clay or clay and rock and even though you have several inches of great topsoil, the water cannot penetrate the subsoil;

--Your soil test told you how your soil tested for nutrients but I don't think it would tell you how it tests in terms of composition. For that, you need to do the jar test, and I'll link it below. From the soil test, you'll have a good idea of how much of your soil is clay, silt, sand, organic matter, etc. And, from that, you'll be able to figure out what to do to improve your drainage so you won't have to grow tomatoes in 5-gallon buckets forever.

I've never been to Bixby, but I understand it is sort of partly in Tulsa County and partly in Wagoner County? So, I looked at data for both counties on the website of the Oklahoma Climatological Society, and here's what I found:

TULSA COUNTY: Average annual rainfall: 41.91". Wettest Year was 1973 with 69.92" of rain. Driest Year was 1966 with 19.51".

WAGONER COUNTY: Average annual rainfall: 44.77". Wettest Year was also 1973 with 69.68" of rainfall. Driest Year was 1936 with 22.37" of rain.

In both counties, May and June are two of the wettest months so your drainage issues may get worse before they get better. In Tulsa County, the averages are: May: 6.11" and June: 4.73". In Waggoner County, the averages are: May: 5.51" and June 5.25".

I suspect your soil drains poorly because, honestly, you haven't had so much rainfall this year (11.16" at the Bixby Mesonet station) that you'd expect to have standing water for most of a week. I had 12" of rain yesterday and about 20" for the calendar year, but only have 1" of water standing in the garden, but our property slopes and yours must be fairly level? I also think that your soil is supersaturated from last year's rainfall, which I believe was significantly higher than average in the Tulsa area.

If your property drains poorly, you may need to build raised beds to raise your tomato planting area 6" to 12" above the grade of the rest of the yard.

Let me know how the plants look after they've been in the 5-gallon buckets for a day or two. If you can, put them under a patio cover, in the garage, on the porch, etc. to keep the weekend rain off of them. They've already suffered enough this week. And, hang in there. The weather will drive you nuts if you let it, so don't let it.

Finally, repeat after me: Gardening is supposed to be a fun and relaxing hobby. Repeat it until all the stress has evaporated from you body.

Happy Gardening,

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: how to do a jar soil test

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 10:48PM
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