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Tomato plants slowly dying, can't make sense of it

Posted by midwesterndirt Ohio (My Page) on
Sat, Aug 14, 10 at 17:07

This is my first year growing tomatoes, and I've got five plants growing in pots on my back porch. They have done really well up to this point, although I haven't gotten more than a dozen or so fruit because many blossoms have dropped off. In the last few weeks, one plant started to turn yellow at the leaves (not from the bottom, but more from the middle and top), then at the stems, then brown at the leaves, and now they are drying up. One by one, each plant started showing symptoms and I can't figure out if this is a disease, nutrient deficiency or watering issue. I've looked over this forum and cannot find a definitive answer. As the plants start to discolor, the fruit stops developing and no new leaves appear. I'm really sad because I've worked so hard to keep these few plants going. I'm watering every day or two because they are in pots and I give them Miracle-Gro tomato food every 7-10 days. The weather has been unseasonably warm, in the upper eighties and lower nineties for weeks.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Tomato plants slowly dying, can't make sense of it

First, next time please reduce your pics to message board size (600x400) as photos this size make the entire thread distorted and difficult to load and read - even with a wide angle flat screen.

Given the info available the odds are this is environmental, not a disease. But much more info is needed. Your watering regimen, the type of container mix used, and the size of the containers your plants are in. All of this could be as simple as root bound plants and root death or root rot.

Second, MG weekly if used at full strength is way overdosed and nitrogen burn of roots and salt build up in the soil is another real possibility. It would also explain the "no new growth" and the blossom drop. MG has a LOT of salt in it and it builds up in the soil so while container plants need weekly feedings, if you are going to use MG then dilute it to 1/2 strength.

Last there is some 'possible' fungus spores visible in the pics so a spraying with a good fungicide isn't going to hurt it and will likely help.

I would suggest you snip off all the affected foliage, spray the fungicide, cut way back on the MG use, give the container soil a really good water flushing 1x, and continue to monitor the plants.

Dave


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RE: Tomato plants slowly dying, can't make sense of it

Sorry about the pics, I will take note of that next time. I use Miracle-Gro organic potting mix and I water every day or two, depending on how moist the soil is that day. The pots are probably a tad too small but they have been doing great and just not growing as large as they could, which is fine with me, but I have noticed that some rodents keep digging in them, which could be disturbing the root system. Also, if the plant food is meant to be used at half strength, which I have read more and more recently, it would be nice if the package directions made some sort of reference to this fact. I had actually been feeding them every two weeks, but then some of the leaves started to die, so I thought maybe they needed more.

A few weeks ago, I cut off the offending leaves and branches on one plant, but it didn't really help, so maybe I do need to look into some fungicide. Also of note is that some new branches are trying to grow towards the bottom of the most badly damaged plant, as if it is trying to recover, although some of the leaves are shaped very oddly.


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RE: Tomato plants slowly dying, can't make sense of it

The pots are probably a tad too small but they have been doing great and just not growing as large as they could, which is fine with me, but I have noticed that some rodents keep digging in them, which could be disturbing the root system.

But what size are they? If the pots are smaller than 7-10 gallons (5 gallons is the MINIMUM recommended size) then the plants are root bound. They will grow fine initially but then begin to die as the limits of the container are reached. Something digging on the surface of the container shouldn't have much effect initially as the roots are deeper. But as the pot becomes root bound the roots develop on the surface as the plant struggles to stay alive and they can easily be damaged by digging.

Also, if the plant food is meant to be used at half strength, which I have read more and more recently, it would be nice if the package directions made some sort of reference to this fact.

True but their goal is to sell you more, not less.

Also of note is that some new branches are trying to grow towards the bottom of the most badly damaged plant, as if it is trying to recover, although some of the leaves are shaped very oddly.

More evidence of root bound plants. As older parts of the plant die off there is room for new growth to develop the roots they need - for a short time anyway.

As I said, since it is too late to try to transplant them now into larger containers, keep removing the affected foliage, try a fungicide, cut back on the feeding and harvest what you can.

Dave


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RE: Tomato plants slowly dying, can't make sense of it

Okay, so this is sort of weird. I sprayed to plants with fungicide and cut back the affected parts of the plants. In the past week or so, the discoloration has slowed greatly, and I'm starting to get new, green growth again. The odd part is that while existing leaves aren't curling, some of the new leaves and branches are coming in curly from the get-go. Even stranger is that new blossoms are much shorter and fatter than the usual flowers, but they are still setting fruit. Right now, I'm not expecting to get any more edible fruit, but I am really interested to see where this is going.


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