Please help! My tomatoes are sick.

markydJune 10, 2011

the clippings you see here are from a Roma plant. I'm not sure what it is, but I think it might be verticillium wilt. Thoughts?

And, my black krim plant with some sort of disorder:

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on a happier note...My Corno Di Toro sweet peppers are producing, as are my Sugar Baby watermelons, mini-bells and some other pepper that I can't identify:

Corno: (I think)

Mucho Nacho Jalapeno?

Mini Bells, maybe? this has dozens of pods that popped up almost overnight:

Sugar Babies!!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 11:02PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I am headed out the door in just a few minutes for the second day of a two-day-long fundraiser for our volunteer fire department and I won't be back until after dinner time tonight, but I promise to look at your photos and try to come up with an answer for you then.

Before we even begin to talk about verticillium wilt, though, I need to know if you're seeing actual wilt on anything other than that lower leaf. Many things cause wilt, and I doubt your plant has verticillium wilt unless something odd is up because verticillium wilt is more common in the northeaatern, eastern and northern parts of the USA and fusarium wilt is what we more commonly see here. Verticillium is a cool-weather disease and fusarium is more of a warm-weather disease. I'm not saying your plants have fusarium, but rather that if it is one of the common fungal wilts, it most likely wouldn't be verticillium. Also, verticillium wilt is something of a misnomer because true wilting isn't really one of the symptoms.

I've linked the OSU fact sheet on some common diseases in tomato plants in Oklahoma.

Maybe someone else will have some ideas today for you, and I'll try to look at the photos again tonight when I come home.


Here is a link that might be useful: Common Tomato Diseases

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 7:48AM
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Mark glad your other plants are doing well. Seeing the bounty is always enjoyable.

On your tomato issue. I have some feelings but hate to say anything till I ask some questions. Will also link one of the other diagnostic sites I use. Like Dawn I would really doubt you have verticillium wilt. On the plant in the top photo where are these leaves located? All over, lower, upper, interior, exterior of plant? Do you see anything on the stems? Do you see actual wilt? Is it just one plant out of several? How long have you noticed this? Was it fast or has it just gradually progressed? Any other symptoms? The same applies to the second plant. If it is just a few leaves toward the bottom of one plant on the bottom and the rest of the plant looks ok which I think it might from the photos I would just cut the affected leaves and stems off and see if you see if it comes back. Although in the picture it almost looks like some of the leaves in the background may be showing some stress signs. From that picture it is hard to make a confident decision. Any additional info will be helpful. Jay

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas A&M

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 8:53AM
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I'll add just a little more while I'm back inside and also another link. I want to add I'm always hesitant to tell someone they can't have a disease here. I will say in my opinion or I doubt it but very seldom if ever will I say you can't have. Especially with how plants and seeds move around the USA and even the world. Since I've started obtaining seeds and plants from so many sources scattered across the USA and even abroad I have seen diseases here I haven't seen before. Coincidence maybe. And then just because myself or someone else says you can't have a disease you might have. The only 100% sure way is too have it diagnosed. I send mine to the KSU diagnostic lab if I have time and in doubt. Personally I feel I've had as much or more experience as our local agents. They are great people but tomato diseases isn't their expertise. So I just pack them up and send to the KSU lab. One case I always refer too is a few years ago I had a couple of plants that the only thing I found that fit was Tomato/Tobacco mosaic virus. I mentioned it on another forum and a person that posted there that many on this site has read their remarks said it couldn't be because it wasn't a problem in the USA anymore. This person still says that. Especially where I didn't have tobacco nearby or even smoked. When the diagnosis came back and said it was I asked the question how it could be as I was told it wasn't a problem in the USA especially if you didn't smoke or grow tobacco. The kind person from the lab said that belief is out dated. That there is several strains of the disease and it doesn't require having tobacco around or using it. The thing with buying plants shipped in and not grown here is that they can carry something not common to this area. So you will see it on a one time basis maybe and never again. Which is what I'm hoping with the one hole I had the nematodes in last year. The link I will add has some good explanations and photos. And it covers walnut wilt which many don't. And what I've about decided is causing a problem I've been having with a few holes. I have one black walnut tree. I have planted tomatoes on the south side of a garage maybe 25 ft away. The squirrels crack and eat the nuts in that area sometimes. I imagine it is because of the windbreak the garage provides. Also a few of the roots from that tree are in that area. I've been puzzled for the last few years because the plants in a few holes would either die or just stunt and perform poorly. I would replant with similar results. I often thought is was due to dryness but they were watered when those on each side of them were. I planted potatoes in that area this year and I'm seeing the same results in the very same areas which has led me to the walnut wilt diagnosis. And it fits what I'm seeing. So in summary what I'm saying is your problem could be verticillium wilt but in my opinion it is unlikely. I will never go so far as to say it can't be. I'm having disease issues here that I never even heard of 5 years ago. So times change and so do the diseases. I would suspect fusarium wilt first. I have it here on a regular basis. I will say I can't remember ever having verticillium wilt diagnosed on any of my plants. But like stated in the link I give without lab diagnosis you can't be 100% certain. So I may of had it and called it fusarium wilt. Hopefully you will figure out what it is and can control it. Jay

Here is a link that might be useful: K-State Tomato Diseases.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 11:20AM
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Dawn and Jay, thank you for your responses. I am away from the house until after dark, so I'll get some better pics tomorrow (Sunday.)

Fusarium wilt looks like the most likely scenario. It was definitely gradual, starting on the bottom layer, but it seemed to move to the higher foliage rather quickly. I don't know if this was the right thing to do, but I've clipped off the affected foliage. I'm seeing it on multiple plants. It started on the Roma, and seems to have spread to many others over the last week. What's strange is that there doesn't seem to be any common denominator. Some are in containers, and completely separated from the ones in beds...I don't water in ways that will cause the soil to splash up. In fact, I hand water using the hose on very low pressure, or a watering can if I'm using a liquid concentrate nute. I definitely am not over-watering. The one thing I've read is that this disorder can often be caused by foliage being too dense...air being unable to circulate to the inner foliage. I do see that the inner foliage seems to be the most effected on the dense plants. I've pruned several of them down to allow them to see more airflow in hopes that it will help.

Peppers are so easy! I have peppers from almost every family growing, and they've been almost completely care-free. They're producing like MAD, and I see no foliage diseases at all. This is my first time growing tomatoes, however, and I'm finding it to be somewhat difficult. I guess that's what I get for choosing almost all heirloom varieties for my first season.

If it's fusarium, what do I do now? I do have some liquid-copper fungicide from last season that I never used. Is there some sort of foliar spray that will help?

Jay, I'll take a closer look as soon as I can to see if the stems are affected too. I've clipped off most of the ugly stuff, so it'll be interesting to see if the "funk" has returned when I get back to the house.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 4:50PM
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ok, so let's start with some Roma pics. The main stalk of this plant is super weird and twisted. I know it doesn't look good. Thing is, it has healthy looking new blossoms at the top. I hate to pull my only Roma plant if it might make it. The only other things in the bed with it are Peppers.

Let's start with a pic of some blossoms gone bad. These are near the central-interior area.

Now, some healthy-looking blossoms on the top:

some yucky looking leaves, again, mid-plant:

the weird, twisted main stalk:

and a wider shot:

Now, a different plant. Not sure what type of tomato this is, but similar looking funk:

a different plant starting to show some white spots:

another plant...this one only has it on the lower leaves:

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 8:30PM
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I preface this by saying that I'm not an experienced tomato gardener. I've only been growing for 5 years and just turned into a crazy tomato lady this year. So, I don't have nearly the breadth of knowledge of Dawn or Jay. But to me, some of your pictures look like thrip damage. I had thrips and my plants looked exactly like that. Some of them still do. Re: the blossoms. Again, I could be wrong (which is quite probable) but, they look like buds that were not fertilized and are going to drop. I've had A LOT of those this year. And they look just like that on my plants, which would explain why the new flowers are still healthy. If they don't get pollinated, then they will look like that too.

Again, please don't take my advice as being definitive, but I think besides a minor thrip infestation and the heat, your plant is fine.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 10:04PM
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In my opinion the Roma plant has some issues. Hard for me to tell for sure what it might have. I see some similar signs to TSWV but then again it don't fit completely either. The stem is split just above the ground. The twisting was the final straw but I feel it might of had some issues before hand. Does it have any fruit and what do they look like? Do they look normal and how close to maturity are they. From my experience I don't feel that plant will ever do much. I've seen a few exceptions but from the dead blooms to the leafs and also the stem I see enough signs that I doubt it will do much. I babied one along very similar to that one last year trying to get a ripe fruit or two to save seeds from. After I did I pulled it. So probably no harm in leaving it and seeing if it will recover. I see nothing on the other plants to concern me. I do see signs of thrip activity. The only concern there is they do spread diseases. Otherwise the small amount of damage they do won't set the plat back much is any. Jay

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 11:11PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I like Kelly's advice. I can't comment a lot on thrip damage because I so rarely see it here, but I do remember she and I discussed it earlier and she figured out she had some thrip damage.

I also agree the lower blossoms look like they were not fertilized (blame it on the heat) and are about to drop. That's typical tomato behavior in hot weather. The newer blossoms look better because they're new and the heat hasn't beat them up yet. With any luck at all and with slightly cooler temps, maybe they'll set fruit.

Look ever so carefully on the back of your leaves for signs of spider mites. I am seeing them popping up here and there on my plants and that is typical in hot weather. Some years I see them as early as mid-May. If you aren't sure if you're seeing red spider mites, hold a sheet of white paper under some of the browning leaves and thump the leaves. If tiny spots about the size of the 'dot' over the letter "i" fall to the paper and begin moving around, you've got spider mites.

Most of what I am seeing on your tomato leaves doesn't concern me at all. I see similar stuff on my plants all the time. If you want to have perfect foliage all the time, you need to go to a craft store and find some silk tomato plants. : )

Tomato leaves show stress via discoloration of foliage. Tomato leaves show nutritional issues in their leaves. Tomato leaves get every fungal and bacteria disease around if rain or irrigation water ever touches their foliage once or twice. Any environmental stress (high wind, hail, too much moisture, too little moisture, extra low temps, extra high temps, etc.) shows in the tomato foliage. Ignore it all. As long as your plants are putting out healthy new foliage and are flowering and setting fruit, it does not matter what the plants look like. The purpose of the tomato plants is not to be drop-dead-gorgeous ornamentals. It is to produce fruit. Focus on the production, not the appearance. If you stress over every spot on every leaf, it takes all the fun out of growing tomatoes. (It has taken me a long, long, long time to learn to relax, chill and not fret over the foliar issues, but I guarantee you it has made growing tomatoes 1000% more enjoyable.)

Your weird, twisting stem likely was blown around by the wind. I stake all my plants to tomato stakes on the day they go into the ground to prevent the wind from blowing them around like that.

The white spots are probably some sort of environmental stress and sometimes you see them when you watered and got droplets of water on the plants on a hot sunny day.

As far as yanking plants, I almost never ever do it until about 80% of the foliage on a plant is beyond hope. I will do it if I see a systemic disease developing that I think may spread or pose a threat to other plants, but I almost never see anything like that.

I think Jay has more disease experience that I do because in his specific geographic region, he may have more widespread pest the thrips that blow in on the wind and bring diseases like TSWV. So, if Jay tells you anything about a disease, you can take it to the bank because he knows what he's talking about. I've grown tomatoes at least 25 years as an adult, and before that with my Dad for my whole life, and I think I can count on one hand the number of times I thought I had a serious enough tomato disease issue to yank a plant out of the ground to prevent disease from spreading. Think about that---it is a very low percentage, isn't it?

I see Early Blight on at least some of my plants at some point every year, and in a cool, wet year (which is rare) I might see a little Bacterial Speck or Spot. In a hot, wet year like 2009, I might see a little Septoria Leaf Spot. None of those merit much thought or discussion. I remove severely diseased leaves and either do or don't spray with an organic fungicide (mostly I don't), and life goes on and the plants tend to outgrow it and produce well enough to please me.

Sometimes the hardest thing for us as gardeners is to just leave the plants alone and let them do their thing. We want to micromanage them. We want to make them bend to our will and do what we want, when we want and how we want. I feel like they do just fine 98% of the time if we leave them alone and just let them be. Life is stressful enough as it is. I am determined that my garden is not going to add more stress to my life, so I do my best to leave the plants alone and let them grow without me worrying or fretting over them. Once June and its awful heat arrives, about the only attention the tomato plants get from me is that I try to keep them weeded and mulched, and I try to water them deeply once a week. Oh, and I harvest. Other than that, I barely look at them. They do perfectly fine without me fussing over them.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 11:25PM
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My young tomato plants have the same problem. It started with those white spots.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 1:41AM
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Dawn I agree. I used to never pull a plant till it was almost gone. I will yank a few sooner now and maybe a few prematurely. Usually before I pull one I have to see distorted fruit or fruit with different colors of rings which is shown on several of the diagnostic sheets we listed (which I've found once you see that they aren't worth eating) or I'm convinced it is a disease that the traveling thrips and psyllids with transmit to other plants. So far the pests haven't been bad yet. Have seen a few psyllids. And that is why I asked about the fruit. The fruit helps me narrow down a disease. In Mark's case if I didn't see anything abnormal with the fruit I would leave the plant. Pictures are deceiving and like flavor of a tomato every person looking at them will see something different. But from what I saw I have some concerns on the Roma plant. Not enough to yank it but to observe it closer. Without looking at my notes I can't say for sure but would guess insect vectored diseases have been the cause of 60-70% of all my plant losses the last 4 years during this drought. A lot of that is because my garden is the oasis in the Sahara. Jay

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:17AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

White spots are almost always environmental stress. You even see them on young tomato plants still in the stores. You don't see them as much on plants that grow in a heavily sheltered location like a high tunnel where water is kept off the foliage and where the plants are protected from wild temperature variations (especially if the high tunnels have a heating system and an evaporative cooling system to moderate temperature changes).

Tomatoes do not like to be stressed and EVERYTHING about our climate stresses them, so naturally you will see symptoms of envionmental stress showing up on their leaves. It is normal.

To grow tomato plants that don't show stress at some point, you have to give them very consistent wind protection (which, in our region is almost impossible) and very consistent protection from very high and very low temperatures. You have to keep the foliage dry. Those things just aren't going to happen in Oklahoma...or, for that matter, in Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana or anywhere else that has a hot windy spring and summer.

All we can do is grow them in very well prepared soil. Give them adequate moisture...and by that I mean keeping the soil evenly moist and avoiding swinging back and forth from very wet to very dry soil. We have to mulch the soil to reduce soil splash which carries disease organisms up onto the leaves and we need to use irrigation methods that put the water into the soil for use by the plants' root zones and not up on the leaves where moisture contributes to foliar diseases. Even if we do all that to the best of our ability, we can't control the wind, the heat, the cold, the myriad pests that like tomato foliage, the hail, the thunderstorms, etc. So, no matter how hard you work at giving your plants "the best upbringing", you're still going to see all sorts of issues. That's life.

Some people spray their plants regularly with fungicides like chlorothalonil to help prevent fungal issues. That can be very effective if used from the first day the plants go into the ground but less effective if you don't start spraying until after leaf issues are showing up. I've never used chlorothalonil since moving here because I prefer not to spray chemicals on my plants. Could I have plants that look better and last a couple of weeks longer by spraying? Probably so, and especially in a wet spring and summer, but I don't do it anyway. Eating organic tomatoes not sprayed with chemicals is more important to me than having disease-free-foliage.

I have just over 100 tomato plants in the ground and in a handful of containers and probably every single one of them has something happening on at least a few of its leaves, but I have no idea if that's a true statement at this point in time because this week all I've done is run out to the garden and harvest tomatoes and carry them to the house. It has been a busy week with the VFD and my garden has had very little attention. I can not step foot in the garden for a week and the plants are just fine without me. I am trying to convince y'all that you don't have to obsess over every spot on their foliage because they surely aren't obsessing over it!

Does everyone who has kids remember what it was like to be a new parent? Remember how you crept into the room to look at your tiny newborn and make sure it was still breathing while it was sleeping? Then, eventually you realized they could survive the night without you peeking in and checking on them every 20 minutes? Remember how extra careful you were with the first child and then you were a lot more relaxed with the next one? By the third child you were so much more relaxed and probably looked back at how nervous you were with the first child and laughed at the memory of it? Well, raising tomatoes is like that. The longer you do it, the more you relax. The more you relax, the more you enjoy it!


    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:24AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You and I were writing at the same time.

I have watched with great interest during your drought because it does seem like it is throwing pests and diseases at you that I never thought you'd see. (I imagine you're getting tired of them!)

I've only seen Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus once, and I believe it came in on a purchased plant that was infected shortly before I bought it. I didn't let the plant stick around long enough to produce fruit because it was my first (and, luckily, only) experience with TSWV and I wasn't sure how quickly it might spread. I think the TSWV damage on the fruit so ruins the appearance of the fruit that I wouldn't want to look at them, much less eat them.

I don't have psyllids here. I think that is odd because they seem common enough in Oklahoma, and we have every other insect in the world in our garden. It is a jungle out there and it is a jungle full of little beasties.

Having seen photos of your garden, I agree it is an oasis in the desert. Naturally every pest in your drought-plagued area would migrate to it. Heck, if I was there, I'd migrate to it! That insect migration happens to me every summer with grasshoppers. I'll see a hopper here and there, of course, but all of a sudden, whenever the hundreds of thousands of acres of rangeland in our area dry down to a certain point (which normally occurs in July), then all the hoppers migrate to the area vegetable gardens and the war is on.

I'll shock you, Jay, with my next "confession". Because all the big hoppers starting showing up in our garden in March (I think they were fleeing the widespead wildfires in Texas), I ordered EcoBran, a bait with I think 2% Sevin in it, from Planet Natural. I'm going to use a chemical pesticide in my garden for the first time in 13 years. Shocked? Well, the hoppers ate everything down to the ground last year and if I can prevent that, it is not going to happen this year. Did I buy the little two-pound cannister? Oh, no. I bought the 44-lb. bag. I hope to use it in a 'band' along our property line to halt the hoppers attempting to migrate in from next door, but if I have to, I'll use it in the garden itself. Aren't you shocked? Me? With a pesticide? That is, however, why I always say I try to garden as organically as possible and don't refer to myself as a 100% organic gardener---because I reserve the right to use a pesticide as warranted. With the ongoing drought in surrounding states as well as in part of OK, there's no way hoppers are not going to be a major issue for me this year, and I am ready for them! I'd never spray Sevin on an entire garden or, in fact, not even on one plant because of its potential to harm beneficial insects. Using it in a bait that will be consumed only by the pests attracted to the bran bait, though, is a possible grasshopper solution I can live with.

If you ever have a normal rainy year there again (or, gasp, a real rainy year with like 20 or 25" of rainfall), will you remember what to do in normal rainy conditions? : )


    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:49AM
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No I probably won't. And it has got to the depressing part now. I was trying to plant yesterday evening in the wind and blowing dirt. When I came in I was dirty and never did anything but work in the garden. And then last week I was in Liberal and also been working in the eastern OK Panhandle and they have been saying we were getting all of the moisture at Elkhart. And many of them got got rains last evening. As dry as they are they are no where close to where we are. Like I've said before it is setting records every day here. Less rainfall than during any time period of the same length on record including the 30's. And it seems we are in the doughnut hole again. When a friend of mine sent his wife in too sign up their CRP grass for grazing she was told you understand when the drought breaks you will have to get your cattle off immediately. She called her husband on her cell phone and told him. He said he would be glad to remove them when the drought broke but did the lady at the office realize that even if it rained an inch a week during the heat of the summer the drought wouldn't be broke. We have no subsoil moisture so it will take a lot of moisture over an extended period to break the drought and to build it back to normal. I'm deep soaking all of my trees. I haven't planted anymore. The local nurseries have cut way back on tree inventories as no one is buying them. Homeowners are just hoping to keep what they have alive. I'm seeing some damage on my Austrian Pines but hoping they will all make it.

I meant to add a little about the stem with the split. I agree it is caused by the wind in the end. The question I still have about the splits is do they happen due to a plant issue or do they cause it. Since I've really been keeping good notes over the last 4 years. I don't find a plant with a split stem I didn't end up yanking due to a disease issue. Many times I find the brown discoloration of the vascular tissue. Another time where you ask which came first the hen or the egg. I don't tie any of my plants whether in a cage or a sprawler. And out of 100 plus plants I usually only have 1-2 with the split stems. And sometimes they are the ones with more protection. My feeling is that at least sometimes these plants have an issue and the stems aren't as flexible and more prone to split.

My plants are stressed from the moment they leave the utility room. Even in the frames but not to the same extent. And sometimes I've found protection only delays their adjustment to the real world here. If I had more protection for them like windbreaks there is no doubt they would do better. And why I feel plants I buy don't do as well. Those I bought 2 weeks ago are still just sitting there wondering what happened. The smaller plants I had that survived the hail never looked back. They have just kept on trucking. I'm asked how I can raise plants with such thick stems. When you harden them off in my conditions they either get the stems or they don't survive. And why if I overfeed with nitrogen a plant will tend to break worse. Another reason I usually use a rooting/blooming feed high in P and low in N. It promotes a great root system and the plants have a darker green color and also stronger stems. And I feel like a plant grown from a baby in my conditions is like a gymnast. They are used to the twisting and turning and less likely to suffer damage. I do know some who claim they see split stems and the plants will do ok. I just haven't seen it here in my garden. I moved the last of my pepper plants from the north side of the house out into the frames and also the lean too. They get move wind both places trying to get them ready for their move to the garden. Yesterday as I was moving some to the garden some have really suffered some wind damage. And also showing some minor signs of stress. In a week they will be fine. Like you I have grown to not fret or worry over such things. I have too many things to do. And they usually take care of themselves. Jay

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 10:01AM
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Ok I have a question on this topioc. I have 2 of my plants that are growing like weeds but the past few days the leaves look a little wilty. I gave them a nice long drink yesterday and we got almost 1/2 inch of rain this morning but they still look a bit wilted, just kind of droopy leaves really. Could this be heat stress from the hot temps we have been having?

I still have lots of flowers although I have had a few drop from the heat. I'm wondering of it is the heat, should I make a shade for them? I sure would like to have at least 1 fresh tomato this year after I've worked so hard on this little 6-pack.

Or should I just ignore it and go about my business?.....



    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 10:52AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Before you began posting on this forum, we had horrific exceptional drought in Love County and in some other parts of Oklahoma in 2005-2006. Then we had a very rainy year in 2007 and everyone who wasn't a rancher/farmer/gardener assumed the 2007 rains 'fixed' the lingering problems from the 2005-2006 drought. They didn't. Drought returned and hit part of southern OK hard in the summer of 2008. As well as I thought I understood the slow drought recovery process, I still was shocked when I learned that some creeks and ponds that went dry in 2005-2006 still were dry in 2008 BEFORE the drought conditions returned and those former creeks and ponds had been dry since 2005, although they may have had a little runoff in 2007 but it quickly dried up. I'm not sure that all those ponds have recovered yet.

Our big pond 'used to be' spring-fed but that spring quit running during the 1999-2000 drought so now it is just a pond that catches rain runoff. We also have a small swamp, but it used to be a big swamp until one of the two springs that fed it dried up in 2005. Sometimes, I wonder if an area ever really and truly recovers from drought. I'm not so sure we're seeing good, long-term drought recovery in the 2000s because the droughts are lasting longer and the wet spells are shortening in duration.

Don't you ever stand there and look around you and try to remember how good it looked before your current 4-year drought began? I know that I would and it would be frustrating to remember how good it can look and to wonder if it ever will look that way again. What if the 2000s are going to be a period of very long ongoing droughts like we saw in the 1950s where some areas had 6 to 8 years of drought? (Hey, your part of Kansas is already more than halfway "there".)

Split stems are frustrating. I think that most of the time it is a "mechanical" split caused by wind and sometimes by large hail, and then once you have that opening in the tissue, disease gets in quite easily, but that's only a guess based on what I observe here. It truly is a sort of "which came first, the chicken or the egg" type question, isn't it? Split followed by disease or disease-induced split? I do know that if my particular location, stem diseases are very rare and even when I have early blight on leaves, I never see the lesions on stems. (Now, because I said that I'll have it on the stems this year...probably this week!) I'll credit our usual dryness, staking, mulching and a somewhat wind-sheltered location with being the reasons I seldom see stem diseases, but again that's only a guess. How do you ever really know?

My plants are like yours, stressed from the moment they leave their sheltered indoor location. I also think that temporary protection can just delay the adaptation process. I suppose I could test it next year by planting two plants of each variety side by side, and by wrapping the cages of 1 plant of each variety with plastic or frost blanket-type row cover. Then, I could see if the protected plants performed better or worse over the course of the season. My plants don't get a lot of wind in the summer, but in February-April, they get the tar beaten out of them. And even thought I hate it, I know it strengthens and thickens their stems and makes them stronger.

If I was a happy little tomato plant sitting there in a nursery, greenhouse or store enjoying some wind protection and likely some shadecloth overhead that moderated the intensity of the sunlight and the air temperatures, I'd be weeping after you bought me and put me in your garden. Now, don't you take that personally because I don't mean it that way! I know I'd love your soil, but I'd hate the drought, the incessant wind, and the thrips and other beasties the wind would blow in. Who wouldn't?

You know how strongly opposed I am to the overfeeding of nitrogen and you cite another example of how it hurts plants. It sure is hard to get people to stop doing it though!

With split stems, I tried different things and I don't think you can fix them. Either the plants overcome it and survive, or disease gets in and the plant declimes. In my experience, the plants tend to decline. Sometimes I can 'hill up' compost over the split and protect it if the split is low enough to allow hilling up, but sometimes a split or broken stem is just the first step in a quick decline.

I hope your pepper plants make a quick adjustment, get happy and start producing peppers. My pepper plants are deliriously happy right now because I watered them yesterday and they sure perked up a lot. I have some jalapenos about ready to pick, and I do think it will be a great pepper year. On the other hand, I don't think I ever have a bad pepper year since they practically grow themselves.


Wilt is a funny tbing because it can be caused by opposing conditions. One form of wilt that is common here is heat-induced wilt where the plants are losing more water to transpiration than they are taking up with their roots, and it is common when we have the sudden onset of high heat. Another form is actually caused by too much moisture. Too much moisture, particularly in slow-draining soils and in containers with poor drainage, clogs the roots with water and that cuts off their oxygen supply and they wilt. So, when you see wilting, first check the soil to see if it is moist. If it is moist, you plants likely don't need more water. They need for the temperatures to cool off and give them a break. If the soil is dry, they do need water of course.

One thing to watch for is to see if the plants recover from wilting as the sun sinks low in the sky. They should. If they aren't something else is going on.

Also, I don't know what varieties you're growing, but some tomatoes have naturally wilty-looking foliage that comes from a gene dubbed the wilty if life is not already complicated enough! Opalka is one of the wilty gene tomatoes that comes to mind.

Tomato plants need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight to produce to their maximum potential if all the other factors are favorable. If you have plants that get sunlight from sunrise to sunset, they certainly would benefit from partial shading. I like to put shadecloth over the tops of the cages. You can buy shadecloth that lets in sunlight in different percentages. You also can use sheets or something. I just use clothespins to attach the shadecloth to the top of the cages, and since my plants are in double rows in raised beds, one long run of 4' or 6' wide shadecloth provides adequate shading for a double row of plants. I try to position it so they still get enough sunlight to keep them happy.

Usually I put up shadecloth in latest June or earliest July, but since we're having late July temperatures in early June, I expect to put it up in the next day or two.

Don't give upon getting fruit from your plants. Tomatoes will bloom sporadically even in very hot weather. When you have a little rainy spell or cool spell roll in, any new blossoms on the plants at that time can set fruit. Often, all you need is for the temperatures to drop a couple of degrees to make a difference. I think shading helps in that regard too because it keeps your plants slightly cooler.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 12:00PM
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