Curling leaves, BER - cause??

robhan(8/PNW)July 9, 2014

Hi,
My tomato leaves have been curling for a few weeks, and I just noticed the first signs of blossom-end rot on my "Paul Robeson" tomatoes. I'm trying to figure out the cause, so I can stop doing whatever it is I'm doing wrong.

The soil began as newly-dug sod, to which I added about 3 inches of compost. I fertilized with organic 5-5-5 in May after transplanting, then again last week, both times following bag instructions.

I water every other day. I haven't been measuring the amount of water I give, I just get the soil "nice and wet". This amount of water seems to be working well with everything else in the garden (squash, beans, etc.).

The bottom leaves of one of my other plants are starting to yellow. The plants otherwise seem healthy - growing tall, thick stem, lots of flowers and fruit setting.

Am I over-watering? Under-watering? Are the plants over-fertilized?

Thanks!

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robhan(8/PNW)

Here's a picture of a Brandywine next to the plant shown above. What do the yellowing, curling leaves tell me? These fruit show no signs of BER.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 5:55PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Tomato leaf roll and BER are both tied to your watering regimen. The lack of consistent soil moisture levels triggers both.

You indicate you water every other day. That is far more frequent than normal, especially if you are giving them a deep watering as it should be. Frequent shallow watering only results in shallow rooted plants, stunted root development, and stressed plants. Plus I note your plants are not mulched so the shallow water you give them quickly evaporates.

Recommended watering regimens usually read something like deep watering until the soil deep below the root level is moist 1x per week. Of course if you get lots of rain then you'd water less frequently.

Meanwhile remove all the BER fruit and pitch it, mulch your plants heavily - especially important in your zone - and water for a much longer period of time only once every 5-7 days. Then see how your plants are doing.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 11:17PM
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robhan(8/PNW)

Thanks for the info Dave. I'll cut back on the water! Hopefully that'll fix things up.

I'm curious - why is mulching especially important in my zone? And what would you recommend for mulch? I see many recommendations for straw or hay, but I'd worry that a light-colored mulch would result in cooler soil.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 1:16PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

"I'm curious - why is mulching especially important in my zone? And what would you recommend for mulch? I see many recommendations for straw or hay, but I'd worry that a light-colored mulch would result in cooler soil."

Because you are in zone 8a. If you are located in the south the the soil will dry out too quickly due to the heat and mulch keeps the soil moisture more consistent helping with BER and leaf curl. If you're somewhere in the Pacific Northwest the lack of mulch is less of an issue. The mulch will keep the sun from baking your ground so it will result in cooler soil but that cooler soil is not a problem at this time of year.

Any mulch will work.

Rodney

This post was edited by theforgottenone1013 on Fri, Jul 11, 14 at 13:39

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 1:31PM
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robhan(8/PNW)

I'm in Seattle, where we think an 80-degree day is hot :) My assumption (while uninformed) has always been that I should do whatever I can to retain heat.

The recommendations I read for tomatoes in my area don't seem to mention mulching, unless it's black plastic to heat the soil.

So - cooler soil vs. better water retention - should I mulch?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 2:05PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

robhan ,
I am also in Seattle area, (in Sammamish).

Up until now we have had very cool weather. I used to water my bed like once a week. But now getting into 90s, that is going to be differen.

MULCHING:
In our area there is no need for traditional mulching( to prevent evaporation ..) Our generally rainy weather does not require that. I just took my black plastic out. I sprinkle the beds with small pine bark , about 1/2" thick (from Lowes), just to prevent soil splash.

TRIMMING:
I trim all lower leaf branche to clear off the ground. Obviously the yellow half dead leaves have no benefit but being a haven for diseases. I look, and as soon as I see leaves yellowing, I just trim them off. There are leaves that you know they will not recover. I would just get rid of them.

BER:
I have not any this year (so far) and last year. If you have ever limed your beds, then there should be plenty of calcium. I just sprinkle some fast acting lime. That is ok since our soil is generally on the acid side.
Then, BER is an early season, problem. Also certain varieties are more prone to it, such as Romas, SanMarzanos, .. I have stopped growing them.

Now How do you like the current heat wave :

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 3:52PM
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robhan(8/PNW)

seysonn - thanks for all the info!

My tomatoes and I are very much looking forward to the coming heat wave. I'm hoping to finally start seeing some ripen with the higher temps. Have you harvested any yet? I have lots of fruit, but no signs yet of ripening.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 6:59PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

robhan,

I have picked a single BB so far but a lot more any day now, with this warm weather. The nice thing about the heat is that it cools off at night down to 58 to 63F. So the plants get a good night of rest.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 1:34AM
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