Veticulum, Fussarium, overwatering, overfertilizing???What is it!

srodemsJuly 25, 2010

I have been planning my 22 varietal 24 plant Heirloom tomato garden since last November. I have 6'5" cages and have been dreaming of filling them.

Most of my plants are 4-5 feet, and some are 6-7 feet. All looking healthy and happy. Then they started dying.

I was fertilizing every 10-14 days with organic liquid fertilizer 4-3-3. I water every 3-4 days with drip line in raised beds.

A few weeks ago I went on a business trip and my better half forgot to water the garden, so the night before I came home he let the drip system run all night. Since he had all of the valves open the pressure was very low, so I didn't think it would be an issue. We live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and so it gets warm during the day.

Two weeks ago we went on vacation and we watered intensively to be sure the plants could go the 6 days we were gone. We were worried about the heat of the day. It can get into the 90's here.

My plants are now in decline. A part of me thinks it is overwatering and fertilizing, and another part thinks fungus.

The leave turn a dark green, and then brown and then die and shrivel. This is starting at the bottom and working its way up. The flower branches durn brown and lignify. I have been cutitng off dead tissue, and the tops to many of the plants look healthy and have yellow flowers, etc. Some of them even have new shoots growing from the base that is practically naked from dead leaf pruning, which leads me to think this is not fungus.

I have look at many pictures, etc. on this forum and others and am still very confused and depressed. Any advice or suggestions appreciate.

I will try to attached photos. Looks like I can only attach one photo, so I tried to pick the one with the overall aspect of decline. You can see some brown leaves that are dried and some green leaves. The more I prune dead tissue the more exposed the tomatoes are. Some of my plant are tomatoes hanging on a branche with a few leaves at the top because everthing else has died.

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I realize it is Verticillium and Fusarium now. So much for my spelling, but another note I wanted to add is the leaves don't seem to ever turn yellow or get brown blotches, they just turn a dark green, then brown and dried.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 3:27PM
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torquill(z9/sunset15 CA)

It looks a lot like what I get with mites. Are any of the leaves showing white speckling, especially the ones near the bottom? Turn over some of the lower, still living leaves and look closely at the underside, maybe with a magnifying glass; look for light webbing and little crawling specks, smaller than the head of a pin. Heavier infestations have quite visible webbing on stems and leaves, with tiny mites crawling over it.

Mites move in on stressed plants in dry, dusty, warm conditions. Even once the plants are watered and happy again, if mites have gotten a foothold they're really hard to stop. Twospotted spider mites are most common, though I have the reddish-colored Pacific spider mite here in the East Bay; either one will cause russeting of the branches, leaf die-off, and plant decline.

Light "summer" oils are the usual miticide of choice, as standard pesticides only encourage them; however, oils can burn plants in temperatures over 85, which is weather mites love. It's a very tricky situation, one which I battle every year.

Your best recourse for mites is to feed the plants a heavy dose of balanced fertilizer now, keep the soil moist, keep humidity up as much as possible -- washing down the leaves in the late morning to early afternoon helps -- and spray a product labeled for mites if you get a few days of cool weather. The strategy is to get the plants to outgrow the mite infestation while removing as many of the conditions the mites love (hot, dry, dusty) as possible.

If you see no sign of mites, please let us know... but your picture and description don't fit Fusarium, Verticillium, any of the leaf diseases like early or late blight, or any of the bacterial or viral diseases. Continuing to die after they've been watered (especially from the bottom up) argues against it just being lack of water. The best bet I have is mites.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:26PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

If it was either Verticillium or Fusarium, I suspect your plants should be dead by now.

Can't diagnose on the basis of the long distance shots because too little detail about the affected parts.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 7:15PM
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