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tiffanytwisted

Tomato plant issues

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We're gardening newbies. We decided to plant tomatoes which were doing well until about 2 weeks ago when the leaves on one plant started turning brown. There are tomatoes on the vines but the plant looks like it's mostly dead and the other 2 plants are starting to do the same thing. Where did we go wrong? Should we pick the green tomatoes or leave them to ripen? I know it's late in the season but would appreciate any advice for future reference. 
 

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Oh Steve, you know us so well! :lol:

Is the stem also black, moldy looking and dead, or did this start from the bottom with yellowing and spotted leaves and move up the plant??  That would be Early Blight.

If it's the former, then you probably have Late Blight which could have come from your own soil or contaminated plants on the down wind side of your garden.  Those you can pick off of the vine, wash them lightly, put on a table out of the sun to ripen and eat fresh or cooked.  DO NOT CAN OR FREEZE THEM.  

If it's Early Blight, then as along as they look good, go ahead and let them ripen on the plant if they will.  They are fine to use any way you choose.

If you can send a picture of the foliage with a tomato also, then it would help.

Either way, get the entire plant out of the garden as soon as possible and either bag it for the trash or burn it.  Do not put it in your compost or let it lay around.  Cover crop that area with something that dies off over the winter so you can use it as mulch in the spring.


"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything"

Albert Einstein

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I probably should have mentioned that we're starving college students and that this isn't a conventional garden. We used large containers and assumed if we planted them they would grow. Haha, maybe not and not as simple as we thought. From what you wrote, I'm going with your early blight description. Yes? Someone also mentioned in passing that they should have been pruned but we weren't sure what to prune. It's been an adventure. 

This is the plant that started to go south first.

 

20190815_114104.jpg

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Pick the tomatoes and let them ripen off vine. We did this for years before "global warming" gave us a long enough growing season to ripen on the vine. Just don't put them too close together as some will rot and it will spread. As a preventative to the tomatoes becoming infected also dip them in a 10% bleach solution. Some diseases will infect the tomatoes and some won't . Whatever the plants have they are not going to be producing more tomatoes so put them in a plastic bag and let it lay in the sum for awhile. This will kill most things. Blight spores die at 150 degrees F. Burning green plants is difficult and you don't want to let they lay around until they dry. No, don't douse them with gasoline!;). Burning barrels and gasoline don't mix she said from experience. 

Early blight shows concentric circled brown or black spots and starts from the bottom up. Late blight is a wet gray spot that turns brown or black.  It too starts at the bottom of the plant.  Septoria leaf spot is another one that will eventually turn your leaves brown and it is prevalent at this time of year. It starts with yellow spots on the bottom of the leaves. They come through on the top and turn brown. If you have root rot from all the rain the plant will start to wilt as well as developing yellow and brown leaves. 

The problem is that all are these are caused by fungi that thrive in humid conditions and and are carried by water. See the problem? There isn't much you can do to prevent it this year and this late in the year I wouldn't bother with fungicides. You could remove and destroy the infected plants and spray the others. Depends on what you have as to how well it would work. 

At this point I was going to suggest growing them on black plastic then I saw your post. So 'nother whole ball game. I see no lesions on the leaves so since they are in containers you might look to growing conditions. We have had a lot of rain but it hasn't been sufficient to make it unnecessary to  water pots that contain big plants that are in the sun. Too much water? Those containers do have drainage holes? Irregular watering can stress the plant. No more than one plant to a container? Sufficient air flow? Since they are in pots if they did pick up something it was airborne but now your soil may be contaminated. Fun, huh? You might look into blight and wilt resistant tomatoes. Google it.  Grow them from seed. It isn't that difficult. Maybe the bio lab has some grow lights. 

Oh, and they did grow. Your tomatoes look better than mine. My garden is a swamp. 

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I do think the heavy rain either contributed to the problem or caused it. Some of the tomatoes split on the tops which Google told me was caused by uneven watering which I interpreted as heavy downpours vs regular watering. They suggested mulching around the plants for that but I'm finding that our plant skills are woefully inadequate and we didn't even attempt that.

The containers do have drainage holes but with all the rain, I'm not sure they were adequate either. 

Thanks, everyone for your input. At least I don't feel like our attempt failed or that it was something that we did and we did get some very good tomatoes. I'm not sure gardening will ever be on any of our resumes though. LOL

I'm guessing that we shouldn't use bleach solution on any split tomatoes?

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10% bleach is a general sterilizing solution which should not hurt the tomatoes, but don't even try to save damaged fruit. Toss it.  It's not worth the risk of getting sick or contaminating prepared food. Just be sure to rinse them well afterward a bleach treatment.  Unfortunately that will wash away any natural protection that the tomatoes might have so you may see as much or even more rot.

I don't think pruning would have helped so don't fret about it.  The only improvement it may have made is that your tomatoes get a little more sun and ripen a little faster.

Splitting is both a genetic and cultivation problem.  Some varieties are prone to it as they grow very rapidly, and other times it's because they got a little shriveled (not even noticeably) and then a big water event will make the flesh swell more than the skin can handle, so it splits.  Just pick it immediately and eat it.  Mulching helps keep moisture in the soil more evenly, so it will help.  It's the big change from dry to wet that causes the problem.

The leaves drying up and turning crispy black is Early Blight.  Just clean off the dead leaves and keep the area around the plant as clean as possible.  Be sure no soil bounces up from under the plant onto the lower leaves.  Watch your tomatoes, and haul them inside to ripen as soon as you see the bottoms starting to turn red.  

If the plant had gray, fuzzy, soggy leaves at the top or on the stems, then that would be Late Blight.  The infection floats through the air and lands on top of the leaves.  Your plant does not look that way, and it's fairly early for Late Blight although I have seen it already.  Contamination from a previous garden is usually the reason for an earlier infection.

Keep an eye on your tomatoes every day.  Learn what looks normal and what doesn't.  


"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything"

Albert Einstein

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4 hours ago, tiffanytwisted said:

Thanks so much for all the information. We picked the tomatoes and put the plants in garbage bags. I think we'll be eating tomatoes for awhile. 🙂

Be sure to cover crop the area where you pulled out the plants.  Otherwise it will grow up in hellaceous weeds before winter and the seeds will still be there in the spring.  Depending on what you use, you will either have a mat of clean dead vegetation into which you can plant next year's garden, or you will find a living crop growing which will need to be turned upside down in the spring which will be green manure.


"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything"

Albert Einstein

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42 minutes ago, Petee said:

Be sure to cover crop the area where you pulled out the plants.  Otherwise it will grow up in hellaceous weeds before winter and the seeds will still be there in the spring.  Depending on what you use, you will either have a mat of clean dead vegetation into which you can plant next year's garden, or you will find a living crop growing which will need to be turned upside down in the spring which will be green manure.

We didn't deal with the soil yet. It's still in the containers. Can we just dump it? 

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8 hours ago, tiffanytwisted said:

We didn't deal with the soil yet. It's still in the containers. Can we just dump it? 

Yes, I forgot that you are growing in pots.  You definitely don't want to leave it in the pots over winter in case the pots might crack, and the soil needs to freeze and stay frozen.  You might want to dump it out onto a tarp and then cover it for the winter. That should kill off any insects or diseases that might be in it.  In the spring, re-cover it with some kind of clear plastic to let the sun sterilize it for a couple of weeks.  Amend it and then you can try using it in the pots again, or just dump it into a planting bed.  Sterilize the pots before refilling them.  Clorox 2 should work fine but rinse it well.  When refilling it, add some stones to the bottom (maybe 2 inches) a layer of thin landscape fabric, then amended soil, and finally a layer of mulch such as bark mulch one layer thick. Amend according to what you intend to grow in it.


"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything"

Albert Einstein

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I have an upper and lower garden. Both suffer from early blight. Last year, the tomatoes in the upper garden were plentiful while I battled the blight. This year the tomatoes were rotated to the lower garden. The upper got  peppers, zucchini, summer squash, and cucs. Here is where it gets interesting. Some tomato seeds from last years crop germinated and grew in the upper garden along side the peppers I had planted. I left a few grow to observe. The peppers and zucchini were attacked by the same fungi as usual while the over-wintered tomatoes were completely impervious to it. One plant is touching a Cheyenne pepper plant with yellowed leaves and remains green from ground to tip. It appears the seeds that were impervious were the only ones to germinate. One tomato plant has several clusters of fruit I'm hoping will ripen enough to save the seeds and see if the genetics carry over to the next generation. I'll plant resistant varieties now but they are just that, resistant. They still succumb to the blight eventually. I've never seen plants this impervious to the blight.

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We're going to give the black plastic bags a whirl and sterilize the pots. That approach seems to resonate with all of the gardeners in training. 👩‍🌾👨‍🌾👩‍🌾👩‍🌾👨‍🌾 

Thanks again for all of your help. You guys are the best! 🙂

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7 hours ago, Lupara said:

I have an upper and lower garden. Both suffer from early blight. Last year, the tomatoes in the upper garden were plentiful while I battled the blight. This year the tomatoes were rotated to the lower garden. The upper got  peppers, zucchini, summer squash, and cucs. Here is where it gets interesting. Some tomato seeds from last years crop germinated and grew in the upper garden along side the peppers I had planted. I left a few grow to observe. The peppers and zucchini were attacked by the same fungi as usual while the over-wintered tomatoes were completely impervious to it. One plant is touching a Cheyenne pepper plant with yellowed leaves and remains green from ground to tip. It appears the seeds that were impervious were the only ones to germinate. One tomato plant has several clusters of fruit I'm hoping will ripen enough to save the seeds and see if the genetics carry over to the next generation. I'll plant resistant varieties now but they are just that, resistant. They still succumb to the blight eventually. I've never seen plants this impervious to the blight.

I've found the same thing. "Volunteers" are much healthier than the plants that we grow from bought seed. The problem is that they get such a late start that they often don't produce fruit. I get early blight each year but it comes so late that it doesn't seem to have much effect except for a lot of the lower leaves brown off. This year the Celebrity tomatoes have septoria leaf spot and those are the only plants that are producing anything. Last year it was something, I forget what, that was rotting the tomatoes, peppers and egg plant stems at ground level. I think that was our fault though because we mulched with grass clippings that evidently brought whatever it was in. I identified it but can't remember what it was. Fungicide got rid of it but it was too late for many of the plants.  It seems to be gone this year. 

The newer tomatoes are pretty much self pollinating so unless you are growing a hybrid it should come pretty much like the parent. It will be interesting to see what you get. 

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Natural selection will almost always produce a stronger (if maybe strange) plant.  There would be no problem saving the seeds and testing them next year.  Just squeeze the seeds out of the tomato into something like a cottage cheese container.  Cover it against bugs, and let it set at room temperature till it begins to grow a layer of sludgy stuff on top.  Then scoop off what you can and dump the seeds into a sieve.  Wash them off and dump the cleaned seeds onto a dry paper towel till they are dry.  Maybe overnight.

A waxed paper envelope works great to store them for the winter.  Label them with the date and any other info that you may need. Store in an old refrigerator or a sealed container in a very cool basement for the winter.  In the spring, if you need help germinating them, just ask here again or contact a Penn State Certified Master Gardener at JeffersonMG@psu.edu.  That works no matter which county you live in.

One Master Gardener grows lots of bush string beans, and has received pole beans for the second year.  Sometimes what you grow yourself can be more to you liking, definitely cheaper and more rewarding.


"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything"

Albert Einstein

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On 8/17/2019 at 2:15 PM, lavender said:

I've found the same thing. "Volunteers" are much healthier than the plants that we grow from bought seed. The problem is that they get such a late start that they often don't produce fruit. I get early blight each year but it comes so late that it doesn't seem to have much effect except for a lot of the lower leaves brown off. This year the Celebrity tomatoes have septoria leaf spot and those are the only plants that are producing anything. Last year it was something, I forget what, that was rotting the tomatoes, peppers and egg plant stems at ground level. I think that was our fault though because we mulched with grass clippings that evidently brought whatever it was in. I identified it but can't remember what it was. Fungicide got rid of it but it was too late for many of the plants.  It seems to be gone this year. 

The newer tomatoes are pretty much self pollinating so unless you are growing a hybrid it should come pretty much like the parent. It will be interesting to see what you get. 

 

On 8/17/2019 at 3:07 PM, Petee said:

Natural selection will almost always produce a stronger (if maybe strange) plant.  There would be no problem saving the seeds and testing them next year.  Just squeeze the seeds out of the tomato into something like a cottage cheese container.  Cover it against bugs, and let it set at room temperature till it begins to grow a layer of sludgy stuff on top.  Then scoop off what you can and dump the seeds into a sieve.  Wash them off and dump the cleaned seeds onto a dry paper towel till they are dry.  Maybe overnight.

A waxed paper envelope works great to store them for the winter.  Label them with the date and any other info that you may need. Store in an old refrigerator or a sealed container in a very cool basement for the winter.  In the spring, if you need help germinating them, just ask here again or contact a Penn State Certified Master Gardener at JeffersonMG@psu.edu.  That works no matter which county you live in.

One Master Gardener grows lots of bush string beans, and has received pole beans for the second year.  Sometimes what you grow yourself can be more to you liking, definitely cheaper and more rewarding.

Woot woot. Two tomatoes in the bottom cluster are ripening nicely. Probably an early variety and an early spring and we got lucky! We will have some viable seeds for sure. The tomato appears to be a  hybrid. This section had Sun Gold Cherry, San Marzano, Purple Cherokee, Yellow Pear and  Celebrity. The fruit is round and has the color of the Sun Gold. They are twice the size though. Not a large tomato,  just over and inch in diameter but larger than any Sun Gold. . The plant is indeterminate. No matter, I'll follow Petees's instructions on saving the seeds for next season. I used to start from seed years ago. This should be fun.

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Some tomatoes will cross pollinate and others are only self pollinating. Generally tomatoes self pollinate unless deliberately crossed.  San Marzano, purple Cherokee and yellow pear are  heirlooms and the seed is stable. If you save the seed you will get the same tomato if they self pollinate which they do.    Sun Gold is an F1 hybrid which means that even a self pollinated seed will not match the parent. Celebrity tomatoes are hybrids and I don't know if the seed is stable or not. Some hybrids are back bred until the seed stabilizes. Tomato breeders generally keep this a deep dark secret. From your description here I'm guessing that the F1 Sun Gold self pollinated and the resulting seed had some of the characteristics of whatever was crossed to produce the hybrid thus the larger size. What you have may or may not produce the same tomato from he saved seed. F2 hybrids are rarely stable.  I hope it tastes good!

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