Adult plants, dying leaves, white patches, aphids, and seedlings?

zhoffritzMarch 4, 2006

It sounds like a bad combination, doesn't it? I hope there are some Tomato Doctors in this forum!

I have been reading about tomato problems and analyzing photos until I'm cross-eyed, and I can't decide what's wrong with the adult tomato plants in my house. I had planned to set up for seed-starting this weekend, but I do not want to proceed until I feel I can grow unaffected sprouts.

I bought a huge grow light, so last autumn just before frost I pulled up 5 of my tomato plants, put them in buckets, and brought them inside, along with some peppers, nasturtiums, and ornamental strawberry plants, hoping to have a lovely garden inside. At first all the plants suffered because I couldn't locate the bulb for a long time, getting leggy and losing leaves, but in January the tomatoes seemed to recover.

Before this problem developed I remember the leaves just turned completely yellow and fell off, were plucked off easily, or were sometimes difficult to pluck off. And blossoms that did not set broke off at a little crook near the stem.

Now my tomatos are developing really dry brown--or part brown--leaves that usually won't pluck off easily. The change seems to start at the tip and work towards the stem. It has not started at the bottom of the plant going up (although I don't have a lot of foliage at the bottoms, I think that's due to lack of light.), it seems random. Here are some photos, click to enlarge:

Also, there are sometimes tiny yellow spots on the leaf, before it has turned brown:

(same shot, more leaf)

While many blossoms and the tomatos seem fine, some blossoms that did not set did not do the typical thing of turning yellow back to that crook and then fall off, they have turned pretty "crispy":

As you can see from the photos, I have some healthy-looking tomatos and flowers on there, and the whole plant isn't wilted or turning color at once.

I really didn't realize that these leaves dying might be a symptom of a serious problem until I noticed the fuzzy white patches. I think they are the precursors to the drying of the leaves. When I saw the fuzzy stuff I immediately thought it might be mildew or fungus. When I brushed one spot with my finger I got some white powder on it.

I tried brushing some bleach solution onto a few spots, with no noticeable change. (I thought bleach might kill the fungus). The whitish areas also seem thinner, like the leaf is already damaged and will soon be turning brown.

There is some whitish stuff on one stem, that I have seen:

These patches seem to indicate gray mold, but there is almost none on the stems, and my house has been cool and unhumidified. (I am in Illinois, by the way.) I have misted the plants, maybe 3x per week, but I don't think that's lead to any great humidity level. The description of "water-soaked lesions" doesn't seem to fit, either. Nothing fits perfectly.

I have recently had aphids appear (I was aphid-free until 1 month ago) and I am concerned that they have transmitted a virus from the peppers to the tomatoes, or amongst the tomatoes. Or did some thrips come in with some avocados or something? I looked at a photo of them today, and I don't recall anything like that.

I do not know if this bit of information is relevant, but some of the tomatoes that ripened after I brought the plants indoors developed a whitish-grey area on the skin that may have been blossom-end rot or greywall or...who knows. Perhaps one plant whas been sick all along, and the aphids or I spread it.

An "easy" solution would be to toss out all my tomatos, peppers, nasturtiums, cilantro, etc. just in case. But if I don't have to, I really don't want to! I want those tomatoes, and I like those little pepper plants. I haven't seen the aphids in my houseplants, but if they are in there, could they emerge, infest the seedlings, and possibly transmit a virus?

If the problem is fungal, will it be ok to keep the plants? How far away from the seedlings?

If anyone can help me identify this problem enough to do the right thing for seed-starting, I would be very grateful!


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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Lots to digest in your post and I'll have to come back and read more b'c I just don't have the time now.

But what is your light set up and what is the humidity level in the room where you're growing things?


    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 2:25PM
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Thanks for responding. I'd love it if you could figure out what's going on. I plan to see if my county extension can help, too, but I can't get to a phone during their hours for a few more days yet.

I don't have a measurement for the humidity, unfortunately. I can say that in my house, a drink with ice develops condensation, my hair does not get staticy easily, and when the outside temp is around 20 or lower, my double-hung windows have condensation in a one-inch strip just above the joint between upper and lower windows.

Until this week, I had the grow light sitting on a milk crate, so the light was hitting the plants from straight-on, sunset style. I finally got my ceiling beams located and some hardware installed and the light has been pointing down for about 4 days.

It was when I moved things around in order to hang the light that I saw the white patches and how bad the aphids were in some spots. I've been spraying with soapy water so much now, the humidity may have increased! (Only one tomato had a lot of aphids, but I'm spraying that guy and all the non-tomato plants twice a day now)

Thanks a lot for any help you can give,


    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 11:48PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Well, the final two photos clearly show powdery mildew -- that's the white stuff.

I'll let Carolyn comment on the other photos.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 1:02AM
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Thanks, jean001, I appreciate your input. It does seem like that's what I have, (plus some other stuff, I guess) even though the classic conditions that are supposed to lead to it don't really exist in my house. I STILL haven't been able to call the county extension service, but soon...soon. In the meantime, I may try the aspirin spray--there have been some decent-seeming studies showing that it helps.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 12:51AM
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