Will my container tomato plants survive?

turnerm3June 20, 2012

Good Evening,

My grandfather passed away last week and I was out of town for 4 days. Due to this, my tomatoes (two celebrity plants in a large container with a cage) missed 3 days of watering. They had previously been thriving on 2 gallons of water daily. It was around 85 degrees each day with full sun. My plants have 20-25 green tomatoes on the vines. When I returned home, the vines had drooped below the cage and were relatively limp. A few of the 1-2" tomatoes had slightly shriveled skin, but the plant itself was still green. The larger 2-3" tomatoes currently look fine. The dirt was completely dry and had pulled away from the container. When I poured 1/2 gallon of water on the soil, it dripped through the vent holes within 30 seconds. If anyone else has had a similar experience, did your plant recover? If so, did you notice problems with the tomatoes later or at harvest? Also, this is my first attempt at growing tomatoes and I would appreciate any advice on nursing my plants back to life. I'm afraid I am overwatering at this point to revive them.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

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Hi turnerm,

I am new to growing tomatoes. I am growing some in containers like you. From what I have read tomatoes are fairly strong plants. I do not believe they will die off. As for the shriveled tomatoes you have I think those might fall off. just continue to add water as you have normally done I think they will make it through this. Also my condolence on the passing of your grandfather. My prayers will be with you and your family.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 6:07PM
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Like new_b said, keep watering normally. You could move them into shade for a day or two, monitor them and don't over water as that might cause additional problems. Sorry to hear about your grandfather. Good luck with your tomatoes.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 7:36PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

If the pots area size you can lift, set in a deep bucket/tub of water to rehydrate the potting mix. Maximum 20 minutes, or they'll drown

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:39PM
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The reason the 1/2 gal of water came out the bottom is because
the soil was very dry. It just ran through and not much of
it probably stayed in the soil. It's amazing how little
moisture really dry soil will absorb before it runs through
the pot.

Give the plant a shower. Just a short one. The plant will
take in water that way. I've revived dry plants just doing

Just keep adding water a little at a time. Give it a chance
to rehydrate that soil. Stick your finger down into the
soil. You'll be able to judge how much moisture your soil
has absorbed.

You'll only drown your plant if you let it sit in a pan of
water a long time, like a day or so. Give it an hour or
two at least.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 9:41PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

If the container mix contains peat moss, it will take time to re-wet the mix, as dry peat moss literally repels water. It will help to set the container in a larger pan of water for 30 minutes. Keep at it until all the mix is moist -- you don't want a dry spot in the middle of the root ball.

Keeping the plant out of strong sunlight (mid-day to early evening) for a few days will reduce the stress it's under.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:47PM
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I had the same thing happen when we were out of town for Memorial Day (about 4 days) and my timer malfunctioned. This is also my first year growing in containers so I had no idea what to expect. All my plants (squash, green beans, tomatoes, peppers) look as if the grim reaper was escorting them to the door. I considered throwing in the towel but my wife urged me to give it a shot. Much to my amazement, everything bounced back. I did lose quite a few blooms and very small tomatoes but I didn't lose the entire plant. I imagine you will have pretty bad radial cracking as the fruit matures (I did) but it still tastes great.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 12:57PM
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Bets(z6A S ID)


Sorry to hear of your loss.

As for your tomatoes, if the pots are difficult to move, you can rehydrate the growing medium by a slow steady application of water. Drip irrigation is a great way to do this. If you don't have a drip system set up, you can emulate it by taking a gallon milk jug or similar container, or even a couple of 2 liter bottles and poking a very small hole in the bottom then set them in the container on the growing medium and fill them with water. It will trickle out the hole in the bottom slowly and have time to be absorbed.

I hope that helps.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 1:38PM
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