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Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
Tue, Jul 17, 12 at 13:41

Hello Front Rangers,

I'm still new to gardening but it just seems really hard this year. Diseases setting in early. Fewer fruit setting, some wilting. Can I ask what you're doing to deal with the weather we're having?

I'm at a loss. Water more, fertilize more, spray? We've been watering for 20 mins every other day and are thinking of changing it to every 3 days on 1 gallon drippers. But, on hot days, the soil dries out. It's mulched. I gave 2 tbls of 4-6-2 to each plant last week. I guess you do this every month?

I have black spot, curly leaf and blight on some plants. But, I just picked my first half ripe stupice today and it's spotted with yellow sun dots. I'm curious what's happening with other local gardeners. Wondering what I can do to help my plants along and hopefully survive the season.

Thanks,
Leslie


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

Hi Leslie,

I have several kinds of tomatoes growing, and they're looking pretty good here in Utah. However, I did pull up two of them with leaf curl too, and threw them away. I was watering every other day also, and someone said that's way too much, so, like you, I've also decided to water every three days. There was a week when we had temps over 100 every day, so I don't regret watering every day during that period.

Here's what a local garden expert told us: Late in the growing season, cut the tops off the tomato plants because you're just nurturing the plant itself, and not the tomatoes which no longer have time to ripen. So I'll start doing that in 3-4 more weeks. He said also to "stress" the plant a little by watering less, and that tomatoes are really a desert plant.

I don't know if this helps you, but I hope so.

Carolyn


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

Mine are looking pretty good so far here in Denver, but that doesn't mean tomorrow they won't all shrivel up and die. Seems to be a crapshoot for the most part, some years are better than others. Mine did start to get some aphids during that long hot/dry spell we had, but I sprayed and got them under control, and they haven't been back since. Last year I started getting some spotted tomatoes like you describe. Only ripe ones I've had this year are cherries so far, but the others have lots of big green ones on the cusp right now.

As for watering, in my raised bed I do 15 minutes every other day with a drip line, and I mulch with a plastic drop cloth. Seems to be about right. I fertilize about once a month with miracle grow tomato food.

I do think that's good advice to cut the tops off late in the season, perhaps some time in September. Withholding water late in the season helps also, but for now I like to let them grow big and healthy.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

Tomatoes are considered a subtropical plant even though they originated from a country in the tropical zone,Peru. They were found growing wild in the Andes mountains.
There are many ideas about how to grow, feed and water tomatoes in a hot, dry climate. I garden in extreme SW KS and will add my 2 cents. When it comes to watering soil type is the first consideration of how long and how often. I have deep sandy loam soil here. I mulch the plants heavily. I usually water between 4-7 days depending on what the soil and plants tell me. I use soaker hoses and usually water for 60-90 minutes. I give them a good deep soak and then don't need to again for several days. If I was in tight ground I would have to change up my watering method some. Any windbreak or afternoon shade a plant can get helps also. I lay 3 soaker hoses down for each row of tomatoes. One next to the plants and another on 6-8 inches to each side of the one by the plants. This soaks a wider area so the roots can spread out, obtain and carry more water to the plants foliage.
I have tried different methods of feeding through my many years of gardening and growing tomatoes. During the heat I've tried from none at all to many different forms including foliar feeding, liquid soil drench and dry fertilizer scratched in around the plant. My garden soil tests high in most nutrients and minerals. The main reason I feed the plants at all is to encourage root growth/blooms. Many times during a hot, dry spell it is hard for a plant to get enough of some nutrients in a form that they can use. I didn't add anything around most of my plants when I transplanted them this year. I did mix a dry mix, along with some manure compost in the containers. I'm using liquid organic based fertilizers from AgGrand this year. While the temps were cooler I foliar fed the plants. I mainly use 3 of their products. Now I give the plants one 16 oz cup around the base of the plants every 14-20 days. The products I'm using are a base fertilizer (4-3-3), liquid bonemeal(0-12-0) and a Natural Kelp and Sulphate of Potash mix (0-0-8). I like the liquid products as it lets me make a mix according to what I feel a plats needs at the time of application. On tomatoes during the heat I will usually mix around two tablespoons of the liquid bonemeal, one tablespoon of the 0-0-8 Kelp/Potash, a 1/2 tablespoon at most of the 4-3-3 base and 1-2 tablespoons per gal of unsulphured molasses. You can use the molasses you can buy at the grocery store or if you have a local feed mill what they use. I wouldn't pay the high price and shipping for that they sell online. I'm a firm believer in that it will activate the good things in the soil. I want to encourage root growth during these periods and don't want to grow a lot of additional foliage for the plant to have to maintain. That is why I want the mix to be high in P and low in N. Stress in my opinion is the reason many times you see disease problems increase during these times along with stunted plant growth. A healthy plant that has minimal stress with handle a hot dry spell a lot better and also resist disease issues better. Overall my plants look good. There are a few exceptions. The leaf roll you see is often the result of stress.
When you say yellow sun spots I assume you mean the smooth yellow spots that show up at times? These are common and don't really hurt anything except the cosmetic appearance of the fruit. I will attach a link to a site that has some good diagnostic pictures. It shows a good pictures of the raised spots/rings you see many times on plants that have the TSWV. Jay

Here is a link that might be useful: Aggie Disease problem solver


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

This years' results are still open to question - hot spring, then late frosts, then heat, and I haven't been able to water them regularly. But its the next two weeks that will determine the season success.

About half of what I set out look healthy. The rest are in various stages of dying.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 18, 12 at 10:42

Jay- wish I had asked this question earlier. We put in a drip system this year- 1 dripper per plant. What you're saying makes sense.

How hot is too hot to foliar feed? I was just going to give them compost tea at night. But it is getting around 90s during the day.

Also- I had someone mention I should trim the tops of my tomatoes in 3-4 weeks. I don't quite understand what that means but they said it stops the plants from focusing on foliage and encourages tomatoes to ripen faster. But, we still had tomatoes growing into september.

I'm going to cut the top off of a diseased plant today to see what happens.

Thanks everyone. BTW, if someone wants to just tell me how to have a great garden- please do.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

Lesuko - I will give my 2 cents again. That and a couple of dollars will still buy you a cup of coffee at a few places. Not knowing when your first average frost is it is hard to say when you should top your plants if you decide too. I personally would never top a determinate plant. Don't see any advantage to it. I've tried topping indeterminates a few times and could see the tomatoes on those I topped ripened any faster than those I didn't. Some people will go around a plant in a few places and with a spade cut part of the roots. They claim they see the tomatoes ripen faster. Myself anymore I don't do anything. Then if a frost/freeze is imminent I will either cover the plant, pick the largest or pull the whole plant and hand in the garage to ripen. Once you pull them and hang them upside down many of them will ripen.
If you are going to foliar feed during the heat do it late of an evening after temps have cooled off some. I've seen some damage when I tried doing it early of a morning. I never foliar feed if temps are the mid 80's and up. Try several of the methods and find what works for you in your garden. Many times what works for me won't work for another gardener and vice versa. Jay


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

Yes, I've had problems with my tomatoes this year, and have never had problems like this before. First of all, my new-fangled grafted amish paste tomatoes started showing something... I looked up (being unfamiliar with tomato problems) and couldn't determine that it was blight, and definitely wasn't curly leaf or black spot, but the one just kept looking worse and worse. I kept pruning back the individual parts that were looking poorly, and ended up with none of the original main branches and only a few shooters that, fortunately, I hadn't pruned yet. The other grafted plant appears to now be succumbing to the same thing. Now, normally, I wouldn't mess with nature by having a grafted tomato in my garden (not that it's wrong, but I'm not sure why it's "supposedly" better than the full-on from-seed that has thrived in my garden in past years), but the thought of not having some season-end ketchup and tomato paste from my favorites had me try the ridiculously expensive beasts anyway. Epic fail. Guess who is starting from seed next year, and if not, I'm not gardening at all? Fortunately, the rest of the tomatoes seem to be immune to whatever it is that is causing problems, as they look pretty healthy so far.

On another note, some of my peppers look like crap, too. when you have 128 plants, it's not unlikely to lose one or two (actually, I never have before, but have only been gardening here for 6 years), and about 2 weeks after planting out, one started looking anemic, and within days, it had completely withered and died. Then another. Then... ANOTHER. I'm down by 5 plants so far, and just today, I saw another one--nowhere near the others--that's looking poorly. *sigh* Too much money spent at a hothouse, and maybe that's where they got the problems?

Of both peppers and tomatoes, I have a number of plants that are (at the moment) healthy and very productive, and we've been having some of both pretty much every night for about 3 weeks now. Tomatillos are ripe TWO MONTHS earlier than they ever have been before. Egyptian onions have started their hike--I picked up three off the ground today, and realized that one was missing only after hubby had mowed :-0


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

I take back what I said - seem to have jinxed myself!


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

Beautiful plants, 6 foot tall in raised beds, no flowers.
KennyP


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 23, 12 at 9:56

I was just going to ask about fruiting. My plants are 4ft tall but some have no fruit, some with 4-5 starting. Only my stupice and sungold have more than 10. Is there something I can do to encourage fruiting?

I'll look it up too- just wondering about methods that actually work.

jeremywildcat- sorry to hear that. I may be pulling up another plant today. I feel it's early in the season for this but I don't really know.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

I did a small experiment this spring - I use 4 x 4 x 6" deep pots to start the seedlings. That allows for a pretty good root mass. When I set them out, I tried two techniques. Two rows, I just buried the root mass and trained up the 2 foot high plants on the trellis. The others, I did my usual of burying the first 12-18 inches of stalk as well as the root ball, leaving just a few inches above the ground, knowing that the buried stem will produce more roots.

The plants with the buried stems are now twice the size as the others.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 24, 12 at 13:50

Although I don't know why, i watered with some liquid bonemeal and molasses.

Do you know if you can just mix dry fertilizer with water instead? It's much more pocket friendly.

David- good to know that digging deeper holes is worth the effort. Luckily I was told this from our local tomato guy.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

Not so much 'deep' - its more burying the stem under 3-4 inches of soil/compost. So I'm essentially planting these things horizontally, like a hockey stick.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 24, 12 at 22:59

I've been told that you're supposed to plant like a hockey stick but didn't understand how to get the plant upright, eventually. So, I've just dug deep for fear of breaking the stem or something.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

I try for a 45 degree angle coming out of the ground, aimed in the same direction as the prevailing wind - which can be considerable that time of year. They sort of sit there growing roots for a few weeks, then the tops start to grow, and its pretty easy to train them upwards.


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RE: Tomatoes- anyone else having difficulties?

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 25, 12 at 16:40

Thanks David! Especially for mentioning the wind factor! It's been quite windy this season and I've had to stake more plants than last year. I'll try it next year.


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