Trouble Shooting Tomato Problems

One of the greatest joys of the gardening season is harvesting plump juicy tomatoes. If your harvest is less than you hoped for this year, here is a guide to diagnosing and treating some common tomato troubles.
Symptom Possible Causes Possible Cures

Young plants dying Fertilizer burn Mix fertilizer in thoroughly with soil.
Disease (damping-off) Treat seed; avoid over watering.

Stunted plants Low soil fertility Test soil to determine fertilizer needs.

Stunted plants-pale yellow in color Low soil pH (too acid) Test soil for lime recommendations.
Poor soil drainage Increase drainage by adding organic matter.
Shallow compacted soil Work soil to greater depth
Insects or diseases Identify and use control measures.
Nematodes Test soil and treat as recommended.

Symptom Possible Causes Possible Cures

Stunted plants-purplish in color Temperatures too cool Plant at recommended time
Lack of phosphorus Add phosphorus fertilizer

Holes in leaves Insects Identify and control as recommended
Hail Be thankful your plants are still standing!

Spots, molds, darkened areas on leaves and stems Disease Identify, spray or dust with environmentally safe control, use disease resistant varieties.
Fertilizer burn Keep fertilizer off plants

Symptom Possible Causes Possible Cures

Wilting plants Dry soil Excess water in soil Irrigate consistently Drain if possible, reduce watering until soil is dry
Nematodes Test soil and treat as recommended
Disease Use resistant varieties if possible

Symptom Possible Causes Possible Cures

Weak, spindly plants Too much shade Excessive water Move to sunny location Avoid over watering
Plants planted too thickly Excess of nitrogen Space plants farther apart Avoid over fertilization

Blossoms appear, but few fruits develop Temperatures too hot Plant at recommended times
Excessive nitrogen Avoid excessive fertilization
Insects Identify and control as needed

Tomato leaf curl Heavy pruning in hot weather Dont prune in hot weather
Disease Identify and control as needed

Dry brown to black rot on blossom end of tomato Low soil calcium levels Amend soil with lime
Excessively dry soil. Amend soil with lime. Irrigate if possible

Symptom Possible Causes Possible Cures

Misshapen tomatoes (cat facing) Blooming during cool temperatures Plant at recommended time

Abnormal leaves and growth Damages from weed killer Use chemical-free methods to combat weeds.
Virus disease Remove infested plants to prevent spreading. Control virus transmitting insects.

Deep holes chewed in fruits Bird or chipmunk damage Slip nylon stockings over fruit to prevent access.

Concentric cracks in fruit around stems Growth cracks Consume cracked fruit quickly. Mulch plants and keep soil evenly moist while fruit ripens

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.


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March 10, 20070 found this helpful

Thanks Ellen for this as I have had problems with mine not fruiting properly with brown colour at tip of fruit, wilting leaves, not ripping fully, but it has been very hot here in Australia with water restrictions too, trying to enjoy a veggie garden at the moment is difficult. Some seeds don't grow after placing in soil as I have had 2 lots of packets not germinate it's diappointing as it cost money to buy. I haven't mulched as yet as it's hard to find good mulch in the country where I live.
Thanks once again for your tips.

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