Help! Leaf Burn/Yellowing

whiteRhino(8b)May 9, 2013

Greetings! Let me preface this by saying my problems are not strictly confined to my tomato plants, but they provide the best pictures for illustration.

I have a variety (30+) of vegetables I've put into raised beds filled with high quality loam mix (sand, bark, mushroom compost) from a local nursery. About half of the plants were started indoors under lights for 4-6 weeks and then hardened off before transplanting. These were all stocky, full of leaves and vigor. The other half were started from seed in the beds, and EVERYTHING sprouted terrifically within 3-4 days of sowing.

Since emergence/transplant however, everything has seemingly stalled and stunted with no apparent growth in the past two weeks or so. We got a heavy four or five days of rain so at first I thought the roots may have just been a little wet, but after a week without watering the soil has nearly dried and the plants show no improvement. The largest of the plants have actually started to deteriorate, yellowing and drooping on the lower leaves (while the upper reaches remain healthy in appearance). The tomatoes have also developed burn spots.

Now I'm suspecting that the organic matter in the mix may be too "hot"...? How do I salvage three beds fully planted (100+ sq ft.) so that I don't lose months of tedious indoor growing and record keeping!

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More images.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 10:51AM
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More images.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 10:52AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

In part it is a common problem this year for many because of the overly wet weather. That problem will eventually resolve itself.

However you have additional problems. That tomato plant has Early Blight symptoms and needs all that affected foliage removed and a fungicide applied.

Plus all of your plants appear leggy or shallow planted so i have to assume that sun exposure has been a problem too. Will it be a chronic issue - lack of sun?

But the primary issue is most likely your soil mix and the fact that you have added additional wood chip mulch to the mix. There appears to be a lot of unfinished wood chips in that mix and they are binding up the nitrogen in the soil as they continue to decompose. Using more wood chip mulch only potentially makes the problem worse.

So the big question in my mind - well 2 of them - is what have you fed the plants and how often (they all need N supplements to off-set all the wood binding) and why the cedar mulch?

Mulch is great AFTER the weather warms the soil well and AFTER the excess rains stop but of all the great garden mulches available wood chip mulch is at the bottom of the list.

I would suggest removing the cedar stuff and give all the plants a good side dressing of a granular fertilizer (not more liquids) of something in the 10-10-10 range. Once they bounce back and the weather improves you can go back to your fertilizer of choice but until all the wood in the filler mix breaks down you'll likely need N supplements for the plants.



    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 11:28AM
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Thanks for the great reply!

In regards to legginess, two things. Mostly I would attribute it to excessive warmth during the early stages of sproutling growth. Also, from what can be seen in these pictures the upwards growth is essentially the only new development since transplant...most of the plants are developing many buds/shoots that would otherwise be producing a nice bushy plant, but those growths just don't seem to have any juice. The tomatoes, eggplants, etc. were all short and stocky when they went into the ground. They've since dropped leaves and had dying growth removed.

The red mulch you see in the photos is ONLY at the base of the transplants. It was to discourage the squirrels that dig in the beds (they seem to avoid the mulch) and to protect the root system while the plants were taking hold. Even in early March here our sun can be VERY intense...the top two inches of soil can be hot to the touch in the late afternoon.

I have not yet fertilised, I was waiting to see if the transplants would take hold and take off, and then to properly diagnose the problem. Does nitrogen being locked up by the bark fines seem the most likely issue? This is supposed to be the absolute best garden vegetable mix in the city, so shouldn't everyone else be having the same problems as me? Instead they're all bragging that their tomatoes are 5 feet tall, using the same dirt from the same nursery, with the same amount of sun.

Do the seeds that immediately sprouted and then ceased further growth tell me anything? Is that because of the rains during week one of their emergence, or would the nitrogen have any impact? They should be getting all of their nutrients from their seed pod for a couple of weeks still, shouldn't they?

In the second photo you can see two squash seedlings above the tomato. They were approximately this size 6 days after sowing, and have appeared to be stuck there with no further growth for nearly two weeks now. The tips of their leaves are even starting to yellow, slightly.

I have some 10-10-10 granular on hand. Is that the way to go? Obviously I wouldn't give it to the seedlings; do they just need another week to see if they're waterlogged?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 1:33PM
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It's definitely not sunlight. I just took a look at my compost pile, located about 10yds from the beds except in full shade, and there are squash plants growing from it showing 10-20x the growth of the ones in the garden.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 1:37PM
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