Tomato Problem - New to Area - Help!

westy1941(Boulder County, CO)June 22, 2013

Knew how to deal with problems in the vegetable garden in Illinois - just moved to Broomfield, planted my favorites, thought the sunny climate would be perfect for tomatoes. Most of the plants are OK (so far) but one San Marzano roma has curled leaves (they look like they dried up) and grey spots - starting with new growth at the top and only on one side of the plant - so today I sliced off the stems of those leaves and left the parts that appear OK. All the others look fine (so far) - most are VFNs. But this has me stumped. I've been watering religiously in this heat - at least 1 to 2" a week and at ground level rather that overspraying. I'm renting this plot and the lady next to me said it looks like a mosaic? Never heard of that. Should I just pull the whole plant - I doubt I've 'cured' it by cutting off the bad parts. It's a totally organic place but maybe I can find a fungicide or ??? What can I do?

TIA,
Westy

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bob_in_colorado

Westy, I'm not a tomato pro, but it sounds like a couple things.

Too much water. Only water when the plant starts to show wilting a little bit. Kinda like peppers.

Do you smoke? There is a risk of tobacco mosaic virus if you do. Wash your hands. Someone, is tobacco mosaic virus the same as plain mosaic virus?

Could also be a blight maybe?

I'm afraid that you might be out of luck and might have to pull and burn the plants.

Can anyone else confirm? It's been my experience that once a tomato plant develops a serious problem, it's doomed.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 10:55PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Thanks Bob_in_Colorado - I think you're right about pulling it up - too much fussing to try to figure out what it is and start applying something when I don't even know what I'm dealng with.Not only that, I'm afraid it could spread to the others. Extension at UC has a lengthly piece on several viruses, blights, etc. I'm going to contact the nursery in Lafayette where I purchased the plant to see if they have ever dealt with this problem or if they've had complaints. San Marzano is one of those that's prone to blights, etc. unless it's sprayed with the right thing at the right time. And no, I don't smoke - (ICK) - and yes, it may have been getting too much water because I've panicked about the strong sunlight and heat (new to me!). Thank you for your quick response - I appreciate it !!!

Westy

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 11:29PM
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elkwc(6b)

Westy it is hard to diagnose tomato issues many times even when a person can visually see them. Pictures do help. I would also suggest you take one of the stems to your local extension office. They might be able to help or at least here in KS they will send it off and find out for you. Here it doesn't cost anything if you go through them. I doubt it is a water issue. Many times in our heat and wind leaves will curl up due to stress. But it sounds like you have some other issues besides stress. Stress many times is what triggers the other issues. I've had some mosiac issues but again without seeing it I wouldn't even offer an opinion. Jay

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 10:43AM
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david52_gw

Over the past 8-10 years, at least in the western part of the state, we've been dealing with an annual onslaught of 'curly top virus' which is transmitted by beet leaf hoppers.

Thats the simple explanation, there are different strains of the virus and different vectors that also bother peppers and green beans.

But for the tomatoes, its pretty obvious. Try google images 'curly top virus tomatoes' and you'll see what it looks like.

Just pull them up. Around here, gardeners lose 30-60% of their plants every year. I've already pulled up 4 plants and another few are looking suspicious.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 10:59AM
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elkwc(6b)

David I've had CTV here in extreme SW KS. There maybe more than one strain of it. What I see is the curling of the leaves, the veins turning purple, stunted growth and the leaves turning yellow. In time the whole plant will have a yellow tint. I've never seen the grey spots she mentioned. Anymore when I see a plant with it I pull it. In the past I left a few and never had one completely die. They just were stunted, the fruit malformed and didn't produce and then at times the plants around them would become infected. I've also had the pysllid yellows. But from her description it didn't sound like them or the TSWV. Jay

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 1:32PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Well this is disheartening - I've been reading everything online, U of C extension, site after site about everything it could possibly be. Have looked at hundreds of pix - I'm positive it's Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus which is spread by thrips in hot, dry, windy climates. That pretty much nails it.

Weeds harbor this pest and the plot I'm renting at our daughter's place in Rock Creek is surrounded by weeds. It's a gated townhome community - I've met some of the other renters of the 24 plots and some have said that last summer they ALL had to pull their tomato plants because of 'some strange virus' - I think I'll post some info on the entrance because my guess is this is what they had last year. At first I thought it was the Curly Top problem but this plant's top leaves are not only somewhat curled, they are spotted and the edges are grey. I'm pulling the plant today. I can't find anything to control it (was hoping some organic spray would do the job) - but most of the others I planted are disease resistant so maybe I'll have a few tomatoes. DH has the camera and is out of town or I'd post some pix.

Both 'Curly Top' and TSWV affect peppers too - I'll probably lose the whole garden. So far there's not much I like about this climate except the low humidity! And no, I don't like constant sunny days - I miss thunderstorms and rain. But those come with humidity so I'm sunk.

Westy

PS Thanks to all of you for the help - much appreciated. And there ARE worse things in this state - like fires. Everything is relative...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 1:54PM
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elkwc(6b)

Westy if it is the TSWV the best thing to do is pull them. The good thing is it is spread by the thrips and chances are they are already gone. Another batch can move through. What happens is if they bite an infected plant and then fly over and bite a healthy plant it then becomes infected. I have founght them for the last 3-4 years. I had never even heard of it till about the time the drought cycle started 4 years ago. I guess you could call the edges grey. I hadn't really thought of that till now. There are several other signs and I know them all too well. Jay

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 7:42PM
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david52_gw

Hot, dry, and windy we got.

That may be what I'm getting now. The CTV usually hits with the beginning of the monsoon season, or mid-july, so this is early.

I'll look more closely the next one I pull up.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 11:02AM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

Westy, if you are willing to do it and shell out a few bucks, you could take a sample leaf and stem to you county extension agent and they will run some tests to determine exactly what it is. But I will agree with Jay and David that you probably need to pull them if they are showing that this early. I'm sorry.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 6:43PM
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tomatoz1

I've never had or even seen CTV until this year when 2 of my tomatoes started showing signs. I thought I'd give them a few days to 'recover' in case it was some sort of pesticide drift. Two days later I removed the 2 plants and replaced them with 2 others from a nursery. So far things are OK with the new plants.

Just this morning my neighbor asked if I'd look at her plants as she is a new gardener. Out of the 10 tomatoes I gave her, 7 of them look like the ones I removed. I told her to replace them immediately. So sad for new gardeners when they think having a garden is an easy way to grow their own food!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 10:41PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Jailranchr - I did just what you recommended - Extension ID'd it as Tomato Spotted Wilt - it was pulled five days ago - as soon as I got home. Strange thing is - none of my others have it. I planted two San Marzano's and 13 of a mix of others - mostly the popular VFN's. They are fine so far as is the other San Marzano.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 11:13PM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

Westy, did you buy them at a nursery or big box store? If so, the plant in question probably came from a greenhouse that had thrips and it was infected there. The others probably came from other greenhouse producers. I would say to complain to the store and let them know there is a problem with a supplier somewhere in the system. But glad to hear the others seem to be ok. Another reason I seed my own plants, except this year.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 12:59AM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Jailranchr: that's exactly what I suspect. I bought two plants (both San Marzano) from a nursery in Lafayette, CO and the rest from another nursery in Westminster. And one of the two is fine so as you suggest, it may have been that one plant bitten at the grower the first nursery used. And I have let that nursery know of the problem.

Westy

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 11:55AM
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elkwc(6b)

Westy it is hard to tell. I have started my own plants almost 100% for several years till this year. The worst years I had it was on plants I started. A few things I've found. Is don't plant them next to onions. One year I lost every plant but one to the TSWV that was planted next to an onion row. Onions attract the onion thrips. I still feel there was a possibility that the thrips came in on the onion plants the one year. I started my onions last year from seed and only had one plant with TSWV. This year I didn't plant onions. Another attractor of insects that carry the diseases is potatoes. With that being said there will be so many thrips, psyllids and leaf hoppers come through. A person never knows for sure where the carrier came from. It is usually long gone before you know you have any problem. The reason it is worse during a drought is that our gardens look like an oasis compared to the brown surroundings. Jay

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 12:18AM
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NoCoGardenGirl

I battled the TSWV last year and lost badly. I was stubborn and refused to pull my plants and ended up with a small harvest of ugly, deformed tomatoes. I'm hoping to avoid it this year and I don't think I've gotten it yet.

I started all my plants from seed this year and after coddling them and investing all of these months into their growth, I'm not sure how I'd handle it. There would definitely be tears and lots of swearing. :)

I'm sorry you lost one but glad that your others survived. It's a challenge to garden here but it just makes it more rewarding. At least that's what I tell myself.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 2:51AM
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Viracocha(5)

Just pulled my Black Prince a few days ago (didn't want to...always a bummer). Same issues. First it was just the curled leaves. Then the spots and brown steaks in the stems. Removed the infected areas and tried to give it a chance to recover, but as soon as I noticed the fruit was becoming affected, I pulled it. Didn't want to take the chance it would spread to my four others (Cherokee Chocolate, Serendipity Striped, Sugar, Black Zebra). Got all of my plants from a friend coming back from Palisade.

Here's some pics of the poor guy:


...it's neighbors are still doing well. /knock/knock

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 2:50PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Well, now it's blossom end rot. I've NEVER seen it this bad - I think it's supposed to be caused by 'inconsistent' watering, right? Well, we've done everything in our power to make sure they are watered regularly, not too much, about 2" a week - no more (like the natives told me to do)....I've picked at least 25 green ones today with the black bottoms because they're worthless so why not make room for the ones next to them that look fine. They ARE close together - maybe a foot and a half apart - is this the problem? OR is it something else? I've used the fertilizers that 'promise' to prevent this most disappointing problem....but apparently they're worthless.

Westy

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 12:01AM
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digit(ID/WA)

"Inconsistent watering" will do it, Westy. Looking at soil tests for my part of the world, available calcium doesn't seem to be a problem here. That mineral plays a role in moving moisture thru the plant. It isn't readily absorbed, as I understand it - so, treating the plant with calcium during the growing season may or may not help.

One thing, the chance of BER seems to lessen as the season goes on for me and it may show up on darn near anything early. I've done better in recent years with getting water on the ground but a limited opportunity for running irrigation & a rapidly draining soil used to make it difficult to have those early tomatoes without BER.

I also have 1 tomato plant with what might well have curly top virus. I figured out several years ago that it was a problem in green beans, some seasons. This time, it looks like these pictures of CTV on tomatoes! Leaf hoppers could easily be blamed - there are sure plenty of them out there this year . . .

Steve

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 10:37AM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Hello Digit and yes, I just read 'Carolyn's' article re BER and now I understand the whole calcium thing better and how it relates to the inconsistent watering thing and that it usually disappears as the season progresses, etc. etc. I don't know who Carolyn is but she seems to be an expert. She also claims there is no 'cure' but I wonder if it's worth it at this point (mid-July) to add a calcium amendment (or Epsom salts) or if I'd be at the least, wasting my time or at the worst, making a mess of the soil conditions. Looks like you're up in the PNW (or Idaho?) somewhere with different soil conditions for sure. I'm new to the Boulder, CO area (midwest native) and you're where I wanted to be - but a grandbaby was the 'decider' about our retirement situation. I need to get a soil test and kiss this year goodbye, hoping for at least a few tomatoes. So sorry to hear about your CTV - I pulled the one that had it as soon as I had it diagnosed by the U's extension service here. Insects are the scourge of the world (at least, the bad guys) and if you're going to garden organically, you're going to be busy!

Westy

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:19AM
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digit(ID/WA)

Westy, my gardens have been right near the ID/WA border for many years. I just consider this the Intermountain West. The water comes out of the Rockies, for the most part. It brought huge floods during the Ice Age and left hundreds of feet of gravel as the floods broke thru the Selkirks. I can see the ranges of the Rockies and the Selkirks are a stone's throw from my garden.

Carolyn is probably Carolyn Male. She wrote a book on heirloom tomatoes several years ago and is, I believe, a biologist, PhD. I grow a Dr. Carolyn cherry tomato that was named for her. If I remember the story right, she provided some Galina tomato seed to a gardener and a plant came out with ivory-colored fruit. I like the cherries and the plants seem especially healthy. I have about 20 varieties and 50-some plants in the garden so I'd just better get this one (Sweet 100) out and think of it as a necessary loss.

A lot of gardening success is just coming up with the varieties that have the least problems in the environment. Some have broad adaptability but many just don't amount to much outside of where they were developed.

Cherries have BER next to never. Still, Snow White cherries developed a bad case of it one year. I even talked with Dr. Carolyn about that - over there in the tomato forum. Seems that it was a problem during a university trial of Snow White, also. But anyway, I put a lot of emphasis on cherries and then try to grow early varieties of whatever size that don't split . . . that is just about the biggest problem in my garden, overhead watering and splitting.

Stay with it! Next year things are likely to go better.

Steve

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:52AM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Oh gosh - you are where I wish we could be - he always wanted to move to the PNW - his family is in Oregon, have dear friends in Washington, more friends in Ronan, MT, a sister in Billings, MT (who moved to the Tucson, AZ area a few years ago and wants to move back!) and I wanted to move to Coeur d'Alene at one time. Then changed my mind and thought about the Smokey Mountains out in NC - great tomato growing weather but we both HATE humidity so here we are! (Mostly because the kids/grandkids are here - but if I could get them to move to the PNW, I'd be there in a heartbeat). So it's a challenge everywhere, I guess (tomatoes, that is) - thanks for the info on Carolyn - now I'll be looking for her writings. I am insane over home grown tomatoes!

You're in a gorgeous area - I know a little bit about the Selkirks (named after an Earl, right?).

Thanks for the additional info!

Westy (Carole near Boulder, CO)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 4:01PM
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digit(ID/WA)

Coeur d'Alene is on one big lake and just south of another in northern Idaho. Ronan Montana is only a couple of hours away and just south of another big lake in western Montana. The first range or 2 of the Rockies are in between but the continental divide is still further east.

Yes, an earl - who helped poor Scots to immigrate to Canada for a better life. The Selkirks are mostly in Canada and the valley where I live and garden is just north of the southern-most peaks of the Selkirks.

Well, it was a Yellow Pear tomato not a Super Sweet 100. I took it out this morning and realized I was looking at the marker for its neighbor - which really seems healthy enuf. It was the only Yellow Pear in the garden. I have NO luck with that variety.

Steve

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 5:21PM
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Viracocha(5)

So...I may be losing another one (6 footer :( ). The one next to the one I pulled is exhibiting some leaf curl and other syptoms on a small scale. After examining the plant closely, I could see these very small 1mm dark brown/black bugs. They weren't really moving much until I sprayed the entire plant with an insecticidal soap. It's so hard to tell if they are young leafhoppers, thrips or something else. I found them on all of my plants (even some in an Earth box on the opposite side of the yard), so I sprayed them all.

Has anyone tried using companion plants to repel these bugs (e.g. marigolds, oregeno, basil, etc...)? I've also read you can use aluminium foil on top of mulch to detur them in laying their eggs by your plants. I dunno...it seems like you could build this massive defense system, keep throwing bags of ladybugs and still have these pests blown in on a gust of wind. But, I guess it's better than nothing.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 4:15PM
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