Will these plants recover?

Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)July 2, 2014

I have two Early Annie determinate tomato plants in 5 gal buckets. I think I may have overwatered them by mistake, as they're turning quite an ugly shade of yellow. They're also not in a potting mix that's recommended by people here (didn't read up on it until after I'd planted them), they're in 50% potting soil, 40% compost, 10% perlite, with a layer of dried grass on top for mulch. They've got lots of flowers still and a few small fruit, which look fine. I'll prune out the worst of the yellow leaves, but realistically, what are their chances of bouncing back? I've been much more careful about watering since this started...

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Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)

Pic of the other one, which isn't quite as bad.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 3:14AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I think you should be ok.
I would just reduce the amount/frequency of watering and fertilize with liquid/water soluble ferts at about 1/3 strength every time for a while. Then make it every other time. You need to read your plants.
I would also trim all yellowed lower leaves. They won't come back.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 8:45AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

It also looks very hot where you are, and those buckets arent getting much shade, and are probably getting very warm...stressing the roots/plant. Your mix sounds a bit heavy and water retentive. How well do your containers drain? What kind of potting "soil" did you use in your mix? The compost is a problem too...not recommended. Hard to say if they are over-watered. Yellow can mean over-water. Wilting is underwatered. Maybe shade the buckets a bit, and use a wooden probe of some kind to test the moisture of the buckets. I use simple bamboo skewers which cost about $1 per bag at any Walmart or dollar store.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:59AM
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Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)

This picture was taken on our one and only 90 degree day so far this year. I haven't been watering the grass back here, as it's more weeds than grass, so the stuff on the ground is certainly dried up. There's not any shade back there either, and you make a good point about the buckets getting hot. I'll see about whipping up some kind of shade structure. Cardboard boxes, maybe?

I went out to check on them tonight, buckets felt light and a bamboo skewer came out clean and dry, so I decided to give them some water/fish dilution. Water poured onto the mulch at the base of the plants came out of the drainage holes at the bottom only a few seconds later. Removing the mulch layer showed the top of the soil to be bone dry, which leads me to believe the mulch is just funneling the water down the sides of the bucket. The 'potting soil' I used is made by earthgro, I linked it below. Once dry, it seems to be pretty hydrophobic. I dug a little trench around the base of the plants and tried watering into that, which resulted in the water sitting there for probably 30 seconds before sinking in. So maybe they're not overwatered? Wouldn't lack of water cause wilting before yellowing? I'm a little confused now... I do know that next time I grow in containers, I'll definitely look into the 5.1.1 mix everybody seems to love.

Here is a link that might be useful: Earthgro Potting Soil

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 4:36AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

If the soil is bone dry and the buckets are light then it's definitely not overwatering. Got a plastic tote or something similar that you can set the buckets into and bottom water them? That way you can leave them in there until the top of the soil is moist.

Also, why not just sink the bucket into the soil? It would be a lot easier than trying to construct something to shade the buckets.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 10:05AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Is this is some tamatoes-only technique for very dry climates? In my 25+ years of horticultural experience I'm not aware of growing in a non-draining container ever being considered a good idea.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 10:09AM
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Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)

Would bottom watering work for a container of this size? I did that back when they were in seed cells, but didn't consider it an option for large containers...

Sinking them into the ground would be a serious chore. I have raised beds back there too, and digging out all the rock that I seem to have in the ground is serious hard work. I just took an appropriate sized cardboard box which I had on hand, opened both the bottom and top, and slid it over the bucket. With the lids, it's just big enough to provide a shade ring around the bucket while the plant is still in full sun.

As far as watering goes, would poking some couple inch deep holes every few inches around the plant be an idea? Water into the holes so it has more surface area to absorb into?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 3:59PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

You said "came out of the drainage holes at the bottom only a few seconds later"

That means the root zone is far too dry.

If possible, get a large tub, fill with water which will over the potting mix, and allow the pots to soak until bubbles stop coming to the surface.

If not possible, put a trickling hose on the surface and allow to drip/trickle long enough to rehydrate the growing mix.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 8:20PM
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