What's with the discrepancy in my tomato plants?

winstella(10b los angeles)March 17, 2014

So these plants were started at the same time a couple of months ago, and transplanted at the same time... they are in different soil mixes but the ones in the tall container on the far left are about 4 times larger than the ones in the wide container on the far right...

The larger ones are also MUCH healthier, while the other two are starting to yellow... they really haven't grown much at all since I transplanted them a couple weeks ago.

The tall container is filled entirely with miracle grow moisture control, the wide container is a mix of 3 potting mixes:

miracle grow moisture control
patio plus premium potting mix
organic plus potting mix

Why is there SUCH a big discrepancy? Is there anything I can do to make the other two stop yellowing, and catch up?

Here's a close up of the two healthy plants:

and the other two which haven't grown at all and are starting to yellow:

I also have another in a 5 bucket container that also isn't doing so hot but at least seems to be growing minimally:

Please help me save my plants! And explain why only two are doing well!

I fertilize with miracle grow tomato plant fertilizer, and also bought some fish emulsion which I haven't applied yet...

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The difference is most likely in the soil mixes. What specifically, I can't say. Perhaps it is their pH, perhaps their ability to drain well vs. retaining water. Perhaps just over-watering. Perhaps just different varieties responding differently to transplant shock or to nutrient levels. But nothing but guessing is possible.

MG Moisture Control is known to cause problems in small containers by keeping things too wet so that may be the issue with the yellowing plants or you may just be overwatering that bed.

Have no knowledge of either patio plus premium potting mix or organic plus potting mix so had to look them up and discovered they are actually Kellogg's brand (aka Gardener's), correct? Having the actual name helps as that brand gets very mixed reviews in many discussions..

Kelloggs Patio Plus isn't potting mix, it is potting soil so that is a problem right there - compaction and poor drainage. Can't find anything on the "organic plus" stuff for sure but it supposedly contains manures of some kind plus "other organic fertilizers" whatever that means. But all those organic fertilizers can't be used by the plants anyway since there is no active soil bacteria in the bed. So feed them.

But all that aside, from the pictures there is nothing obviously wrong with any of the plants and they sure aren't dying or require "saving". The darker green plants is from all the synthetic fertilizer in the MG but it doesn't necessarily mean they are healthier if it is the different colors that bothers you.

I'd suggest trying cutting back on the water in the bigger bed since it isn't going to drain nearly as well as the other container and try giving the lighter colored ones some MG fertilizer and see if they don't green up.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 5:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
winstella(10b los angeles)

I'm quite positive that it is potting mix, not potting soil. I'm well aware of the difference.

As for overwatering, I usually water about once a week, twice a week if it is really hot. And I always make sure the top 2-3 inches are dry first..

It's not only the color, but size. If u look at the yellow sticky trap in both containers, the miracle gro plants dwarfs the sticky trap... While the thee ones are more or less the same size.

I am not sure if the photo is capturing the plants properly? At least one plant looks terrible... Droopy and the most yellow. Are you saying this is qwithin the range of normal?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

IF they are exact the same variety, I suspect the nutrients.
I have to keep saying this that soil/potting mix is merely a medium. What makes the different is the nutrients added to them AND the pH control.

So, off the bat I can say that the soil/mix/medium in the single container has good rich nutrients that the plants really likes. On the other hand in the bigger container, plants are yellowing, not growing well. Yellowing is due to factors ; (1) too much watering (2) Not enough nutrients. If the pH is skewed too much, then the nutrients might not be available to the plant. BUT tomatoes are said to be tolerant of wide pH range (5.6 to 7.2). Most probably pH is not the problem.

after writing above, I went back and looked at your pictures more carefully. What I see can be a clue:
I SEE A LOT OF CHUNKY WOOD CHIPS. (hah). Where does that stuff come from? You know unfinished wood chips (carbon) tend to bind nutrients for a while until they are fully saturated. So here is my scenario: That stuff is absorbing most of the fertilizer, thus yellowing and slow growing. I MAY BE WRONG.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
winstella(10b los angeles)

Wood chips are from one or more of the mixes. I guess that would make sense. So what should I do? Add more fertilizer? How do I fertilize with drip irrigation system?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

All any of us can address is the information and photos you provide. So yes, as I said, from the photos, while some of them look a bit yellowish on the bottom branches.

It could be from over-watering (the most common cause since folks insit on putting it on some sort of schedule rather than when the plants need it) or a lack of N and some feeding should improve their color. If those photos do not accurately reflect the condition of the plants how can I or anyone else know that?

You did not include the brand name of the mixes used except for the MG. So when looking them up on Google as given by you they they both come up as Kellogg's brand products and only as Kellogg's with the names you posted. There is nothing else with that name I can find so if they are NOT Kellogg's you need to provide the name..

The "patio plus premium potting mix" says potting soil right on the bag picture provided by the manufacturer. That's all I have to go by.

But all that aside, the only differences between the plants that you have mentioned is the dirt they are growing in. So obviously that has to be the cause of any problems they may be having.

If there are any pests, you didn't mention them. If there are any symptoms of a disease, you didn't mention them and none are visible on the pics. They are in containers on concrete so it can't be underground pests like voles or such. They are in bagged mixes so it can't be soil dwelling pests. They are getting the same amount of sun and the same wind and temp exposure.

So what you are left with is the most obvious and so the most likely cause - the dirt or whatever you put into the containers that have the problems plants in them.

I have no way of knowing what varieties they are, where you live, what your weather has been like, or what experience you have growing tomatoes, but yes, as someone with many years of experience with tomatoes I can say that your plants look well within the range of normal fro relatively newly planted plants - color differences and all.

The fact that some do not seem to be growing as fast as others indicates they are 1) different varieties which grow at different rates, 2) having a nutrient problem or 3) a root development problem due to soil condition/compaction or watering issues.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Your latest question and seysonn comments weren't there when I was posting.

The wood chips are part of the Kellogg's - if that is the brand - potting soils and one of the reasons why some folks don't like them - too heavy on wood. Others say no problems. Like I said - mixed reviews.

You fertilize by mixing some of the MG Tomato fert. in water per label directions and pouring it at the base of the plant. Makes no difference if you are using drip irrigation or not. The only alternative is a fertigation set-up.

Plus I see you have added Los Angeles now so that answers that question.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
winstella(10b los angeles)

Dave- I have no experience growing tomatoes. This is my first time growing anything, let alone tomatoes.

You are right, they are Kellogg brand (I thought the brand name was patio plus bc thats what the guy at home depot called it when he recommended it) they definitely have manure in it, it smells strongly of it when I first opened the bag. However, on the bags, they say "potting mix"... can it still be potting soil??

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
winstella(10b los angeles)

the other bag. the large container is a equal mix of these two, and mg moisture control.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Ok the yellow and blue bag is definitely a soil-less mix. The list of ingredients from the manufact. website says it doesn't contain soil only peat and all natural added fertilizers: alfalfa meal, bat guano, poultry manure & kelp meal. Their soil mix comes in a blue and white bag.

The pink and yellow bag called "raised bed mix" apparently has soil in it. The manufacturer doesn't even list it on their website in the "mixes" category although they call it that. They list it in the soil category but don't actually list the ingredients other than the added bat guano and kelp meal..

One analysis I found about it said it is a "fertilized soil" and suggests adding perlite, mycos, and dolomized lime to improve its pH and drainage, Some reviews suggest is it prone to being "buggy" which also indicates it is a soil-based mix.

If it were me I'd pop those tomato plants out of the box with a shovel, set them aside for a bit, and dig in either a bag of a good compost mix or some perlite and mix it all in well, then re-plant the plants,

If you aren't comfortable doing that then at least dig in a good amount of perlite into that box as much as you can. Dig carefully around the plants without disturbing them any more than necessary. Stir it all up good - check out damp it is deep down while you are at it as one common problem with drip irrigation is spotty water distribution. This fall you can add more good compost to the box to loosen it up more.

Then feed those plants a mixed in water feeding per label instructions of the MG fertilizer. They should show signs of improvement shortly after that. Get you cages or stakes in place before they get any bigger or you risk root damage.



    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 9:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
winstella(10b los angeles)

Awesome, thanks Dave. I just soaked a ton of fertilizer in water, and watered with the solution... and then I took the remaining solid pieces of fertilizer and buried it in the dirt underneath the holes of my drip irrigation system... also added some fish emulsion.

Since I'm not really sure where to get compost (sigh, total gardening newbie), I can just add perlite? I do have a huge bag of it since I was planning on making my own mix for future containers.

Thank you for the tip on the cages. I purchased them already but didn't think it was necessary to put them in yet. Will do so asap. =)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Probably all those gnats are also hatching out of that problem soil too !!!.
Just take out/away as much soil from around the plants as you can and replace with better potting mix

I would instal the cage right now, because I wouldn't want to damage the root later.

good luck!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 11:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Natures_Nature(5 OH)

Be careful adding too much fertilizer. In general, the more diluted(weak) the fertilizer solution is, the better your plant can absorb it. So instead of throwing a lot of fertilizer on the plant base when you notice yellowing(the plant is already severly stressed/starved), just add a quarter teaspoon or some real small amount of fertilizer with every watering. Again, plants can absorb water and nutrients better the more diluted it is. That being said, I understand you have a drip system. So you could either, sprinkle a few granules on the soil near the plant before your drip lines turn on, or you could make a highly diluted liquid and just apply a sip to each plant before your drip iriigation starts watering, once the dip system starts watering, it would carry the fertilizer to the plant roots. It sounded like you completely "soaked a ton of fertilizer in water", which could bring more problems than what you have now. Remember, the more diluted the fertilizer solution, the better for the plant. It is never ideal to just add one strong dose of fertilizer. Think about when you eat, it's much better to eat small amounts frequently throughout the day, then eating a huge dinner that's difficult to digest, then you sleep the afternoon..

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
winstella(10b los angeles)

Thanks nature, I will keep that in mind. I added 8tbsp of fertilizer into about a gallon of water- it was the recommended amount for my pot size. The plants seem to be much happier. From this point on, I will add less but at frequent intervals.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 7:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Oh dear! Are you talking about the MiracleGro shake and feed continuous feed tomato fertilizer? There is no MG soluble fertilizer formula that directs you to use 8 tablespoons dissolved in a gallon of water. The directions for Shake and feed say: Shake plant food evenly onto soil using the illustration on the package as a guide (apply dry, do not pre-mix with water). Do not apply to wet foliage or pile against plant stem. This application rate equals 4.5 tablespoons per 4 square feet (2' x 2')

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 1:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Miracle grow has also a liquid fertilizer(12-4-8) that says 1/3 of capfull for 2 gallons. That is about 2 tablespoon.
Then they have a water soluble (Green powder) that is used with sprinkler. But You can use it also in watering can. I don't remember how much of it . Probably about no more than 2 TBS per gallon.

So you have to be careful with fertilizers. I, myself, often use half of recommended strength but use it more often instead.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 9:18PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Anyone Growing Dwarf Tomatoes?
I recently acquired a copy of the excellent new book...
Ralph Whisnant
Supermarket Tomatoes Plants II
Here we go again. I have started 8 more seedlings for...
New To Me .. Big Beef
I know there are some of you who are/have been growing...
Seysonn_ 7b-WA/HZ1
Sorry, Don't like Sungold
Contrary to popular beliefs I find them much too sweet,...
Row Covers for Frost Protection on early tomatoes?
I'm in southeast Ohio and I'm wanting to plant tomatoes...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™