Added to much lime and tomato plants are dying! HELP!

akenneyJune 12, 2011

Hello all...

I am new to gardening and made a stupid mistake. I added lime to my tomato containers because I thought this would make it more acidic (did a soil test and my soil was at 7.5) however, that is wrong! Now my tomato plants (especially the romas) are turning yellow, wilting, and dying (pretty much overnight), fruit seems to be unaffected. I watered with some diluted coffee to try to get the PH level closer to what it should be (everyone talks about coffee grounds but the coffee is more acidic than the used grounds. What can I do to save my plants?

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Bets(z6A S ID)

Flush, flush, flush, flush!

I think your only chance is to run lots of water through the containers.

"I added lime to my tomato containers...did a soil test and my soil was at 7.5"

What in the...? Do you have garden soil in your containers? It really isn't a good idea to use dirt in containers, it compacts and will probably have poor drainage. If you have garden soil (including the bagged stuff you can buy) you may want to take the plants out of the pots and remove as much soil as you can and repot with a good quality growing medium.

If you have a commercial growing medium in them, why do a soil test? It should have been fine unless you were amending it.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 5:01PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

I agree with Betsy - flush those pots with lots and lots and lots of water!! Get a chair and your hose get comfortable -- and with a gentle flow let the water literally 'wash' the dirt in your containers. You are in Richmond and I am in Central Virginia so you can go to Lowe's or Home Depot and get new plants AND a few bags of POTTING MIX and start over. It is not too late to start over for our region of the country. You should not buy "garden soil" because that is not for use in containers/pots -- it is to be mixed with soil in the ground. Potting soil is OK but I find it does not work for me.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 5:14PM
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Lime is alkaline, not acidic, and will bring the pH even higher. To make soil more acidic and to LOWER the pH, use sulfur. But I definitely agree with everyone that has posted thus far--- flushing is vital, maybe the only chance the tomato plants have to pull through. In the future, use a potting soil that is lightened up with peat moss or coco coir to prevent compaction and allow O2 and H2O to circulate in the root zone, and mix in a fertilizer with the soil, something with plenty of calcium, magnesium and of course the correct dose of N-P-K.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 5:55PM
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Why did you assume akenny had garden soil in his/her container?!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 11:01PM
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spiced_ham(z5 OH)

What exactly did you add? Garden lime is powdered or pelleted limestone and will not directly harm the plants. It will just reduce the levels of some nutrients and won't take the soil above about pH 8. If you added wood ash (quicklime-calcium oxide) or slaked lime (pickling lime--calcium hydroxide)they are very caustic and would kill the plant.

Tap water is adjusted to about pH8 to prevent pipes from corroding so it won't dissolve/flush garden lime out of soil. If you added the other stuff I would pull the plants and replace the soil.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 12:00AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Assume garden soil because he did a soil test/why do a test on bagged mix ?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 12:28AM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

@ HarLeo - Dickiefickle has it right. I just could not imagine why anyone would test a commercial growing medium, ergo ipso facto columbo oreo: dirt in the container. (See the red quote.)

@ Spiced Ham - Not all tap water is adjusted to a pH of 8, and even if it were, the original poster must have added so much lime that it is above that since tomatoes will tolerate a pH of 8 even if they are not fond of it. So flushing, even with pH 8 water is likely to help bring the pH into a "normal" range.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 2:43AM
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spiced_ham(z5 OH)

Calcium carbonate-limestone, unlike the salts we are used to dealing with (table salt, fertilizer salts) which dissociate/ionize in response to the partial charges on water molecules, dissociates in response to the pH of the solvent. Neutral and or slightly basic water is not going to do much at all to it. The organic acids produced from decaying vegetation in soil and the acidity of pure rain water (due to the formation of carbonic acid when CO2 contacts it) are what slowly dissolves it out of soil.

It is used in saltwater aquarium filtering systems to stabilize the pH at around 8. The more acidic the solution added to it the more it dissociates. Streams running through limstone caves are not poisonous. All of the Florida peninsula is limstone and that groundwater is not poisonous, nor is the soil, which often is a high concentraion of limestone sand.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 10:13AM
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@Betsy and Dickiefickle

Thanks, gotcha now.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 10:37AM
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tomakers(SE MA Zone 5/6 or ?)

I think the only hope for these tomatoes is to replace the contents of the planter, whatever it is filled with and start over.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 7:22AM
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Shule(about 4a)

If your tomato plants have stuff in the soil that's killing them, you can always do this (for tomato plants specifically): pull or dig the plant out (and as many of the roots as will come) and put the roots in water for two or three days (there's no reason it should die in the water, but it should grow out its roots some). Then repot in new soil. Keep the plant away from direct sun during this process (and for a short while afterward, maybe).

You also might consider rooting cuttings from your tomato plant. People say you can do it in soil. I root them in water, though, so far (just stick it in water and wait a couple weeks, and it should grow roots). If you add something crazy like diatomaceous earth or 24-8-16 fertilizer to the water it probably won't grow roots (and will likely die). However, the plants tend to lose nutrients after being in plain water so long. So, maybe an even, mild fertilizer would help (like 7-7-7). A tomato cutting I took last night and added 7-7-7 fertilizer to is still looking healthy. So, it won't immediately kill it, at the very least. Remind me to update this after a couple weeks to tell you if it worked better than plain water.

Some people say to add hydrogen peroxide to cuttings to help them root. I've tried this and it cleaned the cuttings, but it actually made them so they didn't grow roots in the portions of the plants that were under water. So, it seems kind of counterproductive. I haven't tried the food grade kind (the food grade kind is much safer, at least if you dilute it considerably due to its potency, considering the regular kind may have organophosphates, heavy metals or other chemicals in it). After I changed the water (and added no hydrogen peroxide), they grew roots (but not before).

[Hydrogen peroxide does seem to be great for helping seeds to germinate faster, though (soak the seeds for an hour in a diluted solution of it and water). I've tried that. I'd recommend the food grade kind there, too. If you use the regular kind, drain the solution and rinse the seeds before planting (so the chemicals don't pollute your soil).]

If you root tomato cuttings in soil, keep them out of direct sun. I think that's why my first attempt at that failed. Plants with disturbed (or no) roots seem to wilt quickly in direct sun.

This post was edited by Shule on Tue, Dec 9, 14 at 23:51

    Bookmark   December 9, 2014 at 11:14PM
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