Problems With Tomato Plants
Here is my list of problems with tomato plants, what causes it and what to do about it. With
any luck we’ll have your tomato growing problems solved in no time. Don’t be scared off lists like this often make me feel that it is a miracle if I get one good tomato. I’ve never had many of these problems if you rotate your crop and keep the water regular you should be fine – just have a go. If you have a problem that I haven’t covered just leave me a question in the comments and I’ll try to solve it for you. Remember that tomatoes like most vegetables are actually an annual crop so they will grow like crazy put all their energy into producing fruit then die. So the plant will often look pretty shabby toward the end of the harvest.
Lots of beautiful lush green growth but no fruit
This is probably Blossom end rot and is caused by a calcium deficiency. This can be caused by irregular watering – too much then not enough. The plant just can’t suck up the calcium it needs. You can test the soil for a calcium deficiency if you like but I’d just make sure I use a fertilizer that has added calcium and see if that helps. It is still OK to eat the fruit if it’s not too bad you can just cut off the yucky bit.
This image is from the Center Of Agriculture Food and environment – University of Massachusetts
The flowers fall of before it gets fruit
This is usually caused by the weather being too cool for the plant – this problem will solve itself once the weather warms up. Tomatoes are best in hot dry climates. The leaves may also curl if it’s too cool. This can also happen if it gets too hot. If it continues choose a different variety they may suit your conditions better.
The tomatoes split like as if they are too fat for their skin- like an overfilled balloon
This will happen if there is an irregular supply of water. I’ve had this happen when we get a lot of rain all at once there is not much you can do about it when Mother Nature lets go but if the watering is up to you just keep the water regular. While you don’t want the palnt to dry out it’s better to do regular deep watering every few days rather than a little bit more often so that it soaks deep into the soil and therefore to where the roots are. It is still OK to eat split tomatoes.
This happened to me a few years ago it almost drove me crazy. Lots of big fat perfectly formed green tomatoes. This is what I found out. Tomatoes usually grow to there full size in about 25 days then they take about another 25 days to ripen. But all this will only happen if the conditions are perfect. The strangest thing I discovered is that if it gets too warm they don’t go red. If the air temperature goes above 85 degrees they apparently stop making carotene which is what they need to go red. Also if the soil isn’t warm enough that mucks it all up as well – below 80 degrees. We had a really hot summer and so this all explained it perfectly but it is all still weird. I have read that removing some of the fruit may help to ripen the others but generally I think it’s best to just be patient Mother Nature will figure it out in her own time.
The tomatoes are weird shapes
Many tomatoes that have the best flavor are weird shapes. They are usually the more old fashioned varieties. If it has a big scar on it it it may mean that the nights have been too cold while the fruit was forming I read that they call this a “catface”. Cold weather at pollination time could also cause misshapen fruit. It is OK to eat misshapen fruit.
Wilting or yellow leaves
Could be a fungal disease. The most serious is verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt and wilting caused by nematodes which attack the root system. Cut through through a major stem and see if the find the inside is discolored and not green like the rest of the plant.These diseases all come from the soil.
If you get any of these sorry but you will need to dig out the plants and start again. Don’t put them in the compost heap and don’t shake the soil off. You really need to put some effort into prevention by interrupting the life cycle of the disease or pest.
- Make sure you rotate your crops never planting your tomatoes or peppers in the same soil two years in a row. Never in the same spot more than once in three years.
- Water the soil not the leaves of the plants as the diseases travel via moisture.
- Mulch your plants so that the leaves don’t come into contact with the soil.
- Don’t reuse potting mix that has had diseased plants in it.
- Plant marigolds to deter nematodes.
- Sow mustard seeds in the effected area.
- Keep your soil moist not wet.
- Choose varieties that are disease resistant – look for a code “VF” on seed packs.
- I’ve found that mulching my plants and avoiding overhead watering has really helped.
My leaves have spots
Do they move? May be spider mites or aphids. A good spray from the hose will often shoo them away. I usually just wipe them away with my fingers (I put my gloves on) as I try to avoid water on my tomato leaves it seems to work for me. If you have lots of bugs try an insecticidal soap. Non moving spots could be a fungus. To deter fungus problems, avoid keeping your plants really wet try staking plants so they get good air circulation. There are lots of different things that cause spots on tomatoes my advice is to pick a few leaves and take it to the local garden center or ask a grower at the farmers markets as it seems spots are a bit regional in there appearance.
Spots on the stems
Spots or patches near the joints of the stems could be firsts signs of late blight which spreads from potatoes, often after a wet spell. Dispose of the infected plant before the disease spreads – not in the compost heap.
I’ve got light patches on the fruit
Have you cut some of the leaves off and exposed the fruit to the sun – could be sun burn You need to make sure you don’t take the shade away when you prune. If they a little round patches it could be stink bugs. This could also be caused by a lack of potash in the soil. try adding sulfate of potash to the soil if the other reasons don’t seem to apply. This will also increase the strength of the plant and promote early flowering. If you are using a low nitrogen fertilizer as mentioned in the too many leave no fruit point above you shouldn’t need extra potash.
It is OK to eat the undamaged parts of the tomato.
I have what looks like tiny bites out of the leaves or holes in the fruit
Look for something that chews like a grub or a caterpillar they will probably be the same color as the plant. I usually find that it is easier to look for signs of poo then look where it may have dropped from. I don’t care what the name of these things are if they chew or burrow into my plants they have to go. I usually pick them off with my fingers and I encourage wasps which seem to eat the eggs. Also make sure you check under the leaves for eggs that are waiting to hatch. Perfect solution no chemicals.
There are bites out of the fruit
Squirrels possums or birds are hungry too. Depending where you live you may have other critters that want their share. Interesting from my experience they all seem to know exactly the day before I’m going to pick them and they take one a bite out of everything. You can’t eat them then as the critters may have some exotic disease. One solution is a physical barrier to stop them getting to the fruit. I hate the idea of enclosing my garden it’s a pain every time you want to do something so what I do is pick the tomatoes when they show the first sign of pinking up and put them on the other a table on the other side of the yard amazingly they haven’t found them yet. This method also seems to stop grubs getting into the fruit
Flowers but no fruit
Are there any bees? Most of the time tomatoes don’t have problems with pollination but if it is really still(as in no breeze) or there are no bees you may get reduced fruit. Just give the plant a bit of a shake the pollen from one flower will drop onto the others thus pollinating the flowers should work.