Curling leaves + flies on tomato plant (early Girl)

aznboi385June 19, 2011

I have an early girl tomato plant and it was doing fine until now. The leaves are curling up and there seems to be some yellowing on some leaves, some dark spots on the underside of some others while some looks unaffected. THere are also these small flies all over. THey look like small fleas and they seem to like to stick onto the tomatoes. I am assuming they are sucking out all the goodness. I have a bunch of tomatoes on the plant and this is my first time planting anything.

Please tell me what I can do to restore its health. Another note is that I usually water it daily before I go to work. This usually depends on if the soil looks dry to me. If it's wet, I leave it alone.

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The leaf curl could be caused by either over or under watering. It could also be a response to stress from the roots curling in the container. I have two Old German plants, one in the ground, and another planted directly in a bag of potting soil. The one in the ground is fine, but the one in the bag has some serious leaf curl. I have tried skipping multiple days between waterings on the bagged plant, but it still has curled leaves. Nonetheless, it is growing well and producing fruit, so I'm not that worried about it.

I had a mortgage lifter do the same thing to me early this season, and I freaked out and pulled it out of the ground because I thought it had curly top, which is a virus that can destroy a crop of tomatoes easily. I did some research and realized that it was just my soil conditions and the habit of that plant. I replanted it and it has fruit on it curly leaves.

All that to say, try letting it go a day without watering, and see if the leaves uncurl. If they do, or start to, then give it another day, then water after that. If the plant shows any sign of leaf wilt during this period, then immediately water it.

Leaf curl isn't really too much to worry about though in my experience, as long as your plant continues to grow and produce fruit.

I would definitely prune off those yellow leaves though. If there is any blight fungus on there, it can spread to the rest of the plant and kill it.

Hope that helps,


    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 1:09AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

I am guessing too much water .The top may look dry ,but is not a good indicator .
Poke a stick or finger down into the soil three inches ,if its damp no need to water ,if dry on the end of the stick add water .
You can also tell if water is needed by lifting the container .
Just clip off the bad leaves .
What soil mix did you use ? Is this your first container growing experience?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 1:19AM
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Oh yeah, I forgot about the flies.

It sounds like they're probably fungus gnats. I don't think they'll hurt your plant, but if you want to have it bug free, then you could use an insecticide spray. I've used Green Light Neem II with pretty good results for insect control. It's organic and natural as far as I know. I'll post a link to a site that has it so you can check it out if you want to.

Happy Gardening,


Here is a link that might be useful: green light neem II

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 1:21AM
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Thanks for the tips. I'll try not watering it for a few days and see what happens.

Dickie: This is my first time planting in a pot. I mixed in some soil from the ground with some steer manure...not sure what the ground soil is composed of but there's an avocado tree in that area that's thriving. I also used some 10-10-10 granule 2 weeks ago.

Michael: I wish I could take a pic of the flies, but they're too small. I kinda tried to pick them off one by one but there are way too many lol. I have not a clue what they are doing but it almost seems like they're trying to suck juice out of my plant. Would a pray of water and soap work?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 2:52AM
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Are they tiny black flies with clear wings? If so, those are fungus gnats. I don't think they will hurt the plant, but apparently their larva can eat the roots.

Here's a link to a good discussion on these from a previous post on GW.


Here is a link that might be useful: GW Discussion on fungus gnats

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 1:26AM
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It's been 3 days since I took those pictures. It doesn't look like the leaves are uncurling and I haven't watered the plant...Can it be that it needs some more fertilizer? I already gave it some like 2-3 weeks ago.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 3:17AM
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First, in containers you should use potting mix, not dirt. It's probably too late to fix this.

I very very much doubt that you could overwater a potted tomato in zone 9 CA. It's just hard to give a potted plant enough water, much less too much water, but I guess it could be possible if you've got heavy clay soil in there? Really, as the season progresses, the chances are that you'll need to water twice daily to give it enough water.

I'd use insecticidal soap on the plant. Spray it at night, to avoid burning the foliage.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 12:04PM
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Would spraying at night cause fungus though? Can I use dawn and water or something?

I've also read somewhere that coffee grounds would be a great fertilizer but also read that it's high in nitrogen. Wouldn't that give me a "tomato tree" and limit the tomatos I get...? I'm confused.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 7:38PM
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Curly leaves still there. Bigger problem at hand...the tomato is the size of a ping pong ball and it's already starting to turn orange. Is it going to ripen and still be this size? That's an awfully small tomato...Am I screwing this up real bad?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 2:44PM
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Heck, if you're getting tomatoes out of that pot on your first try, you're doing fine. As you read other posts here or in the FAQ page you'll quickly get ideas about how to do better next time. Keep in mind that you can still start another Early Girl from the nursery. We've got plenty of summer and fall left.

Leaf curl can be caused by uneven watering but is a physiological reaction, and thus could be caused by other factors too. Cold nights (below 50) for example.

While leaf roll isn't something you want to see, it isn't the end of the world. By way of example, I pulled a 1 lb 3 oz Brad's Black Heart of a heavily leaf curled plant last week. Yum it was tasty. Not bad for June! So obviously, leaf roll wasn't too big a deal.

Be sure to take a look at the container forum for ideas about how to grow tomatoes successfully in containers. Most of mine are in ground, but I do have 11 plants growing in containers and they're doing fairly well. It just takes time to get figured out.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 3:07PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Do you give it a good, water running out the drain holes watering? We are very dry here due to lack of rain and our tomato plant leaves are curling.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 6:17PM
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Looking at the soil level in that pot, my guess is it's root bound.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 7:07PM
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NEVER water a tomato plant from top to bottom!!!! This WILL Allow the plant to remain wet and cause fungus. And most people to NOT pinch out the SUCKERS that grow beneath the top lead stem. This causes small tomato's but will keep the main stem strong and healthy :) I love LoVe LOVE my beefmaster tomatos, they are sweet and tasty but the WADDA Margo are the size of a baseball, meaty AND pretty

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 1:06PM
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FYI "Tomato Leaf Roll" is a good search term. As a new gardener I have had this happen on all thirty tomato plants indicating something in the soil. It turned out to be over fertilization. Fortunately, I am using only natural ferts. I didn't think it possible, but I did place bonemeal in the pot and when the roots reached this section they became stressed. In some cases repotting solved the problem. In other cases a heavy dose of rain washed out the excess from the pots and the tomatoes were fine.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 8:00PM
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You will have nothing but problems planting in garden soil in a container. It is likely the cause of both problems you have. Check out the 5-1-1 mix from the container forum. I wish I had a better solution for you, but you'll just have to live with your results until next crop. Consider it a learning experience. The only advice I can give you at this point is to cut the bottom off (or the entire pot) and bury it in the ground. That way the ground will help with drainage.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 1:23PM
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