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thecre8v1

Help! I need a tomato Doctor…STAT!

thecre8v1
2 months ago

I’m in zone 9b/10a (Sunset 16, but on some maps,also looks like I’m on the border of 14🤷‍♀️?)

This is my first year with my new raised beds and I got a little over-ambitious with 14 varieties of tomatoes 🤦‍♀️ that I started from seed in my new greenhouse. Some of the seeds were gifted to me by my son’s French girlfriend and they grew faster and heartier than the domestic seeds 🤔. Everything was going so well until ‘Tetons de Venus’ started drooping and sagging like…well….mature “tetons”! 🤭 In June, it had been extremely, uncharacteristically, hot for a few days, and then cooler and
windy, so I thought it was just enviornmental stress. I guess I compounded it, because I overwatered. Every bed is on a separate drip system, so I turned it off for a few days. But now, the two other plants (‘Anna Russe’ and a yellow cherry tomato) are drooping and curling too. Anna seems like she lost some fruit, but that might be squirrels.

In another bed, ‘coeur de boeuf’ started getting yellow patches on the leaves and now THAT’s affecting other plants as well. There are tons of green tomatoes that seem to be frozen in time and not ripening…except for a few ‘Prećoce de Quimper’, but prećoce = early, so that makes sense, I guess?

I think I’ve “loved them too much”…fertilizer, egg shells, banana peels, Epson salt, dutifully pinching out the suckers…

Here’s some photos: the first is ‘Tetons de Venus and the second is Coeur de Boeuf.

Comments (16)

  • nandina
    2 months ago

    I may have an answer to this question. Horticulture is in my genes, thanks to my father who was a former Editor of Horticulture magazine. I have enjoyed every aspect of my horticultural work through the years.


    In the following comments I will introduce a new thought into the gardening world. I expect some crazy reactions...but, I have been working with this problem for the past 5 years and it is time to send it out into the gardening world where I hope others with testing facilities will do more research. I am confident of my conclusions.


    Part of my horticultural time is spent as an advisor to community plot gardens and box garden renters. Five years ago a new box garden group offered me the use of three boxes in its brand new garden for the handicapped of 40 boxes. I jumped at the offer because of the detailed planning of its construction to raise seedlings under lights, keep out all animals, etc.


    I planted 3 tomato plants in each of the 3 boxes. In boxes 2 and 3 I included a handful or so of dried banana skins, something I have done over these many years. Not necessary, I know. More habit, probably. However. I did not use dried banana skin on the tomatoes in Box 1.


    The tomatoes grew well, with an excellent fruit set. Then one July morning the tomato plants in boxes 2 and 3 showed signs of sudden wilt. Box 1 tomatoes remained healthy. I checked the other 37 box gardens and their tomatoes were healthy.


    A week later I pulled all the tomatoes in boxes 2 and 3. However, whatever the virus was it also killed other plants growing in those same boxes except for the green beans.


    During the 2021 growing season Boxes 2 and 3 were severely diseased. All soil was removed/replaced last fall. Planted a few tomatoes in both boxes this spring. Pulled them today as apparently the wooden boxes had retained enough of the problem virus to spread throughout the box soils over the winter. However, spring planted tomatoes in Box 1 continue to be healthy as are all tomato plants and vegetables in the 37 other boxes within the garden.


    On a hunch I began searching for answers...asking questions such as 'what is killing the banana crops in Central America?' Bingo! I had my answer. Do your own research.


    My conclusion is that banana skins can carry the various Central American viral/fungus spores on their surface. And, by chance I caused the disease problems using skins from infected banana skins.


    As I study the pictures posted by this questioner who did add banana skins as an enrichment to tomatoes......... they show the same problems that I have been dealing with over 5 years. I am very certain of my conclusion and urge gardeners not to compost banana skins or add them to garden soils at this time. Better safe than sorry.


    Rather than stomp all over what I have written above I would appreciate help contacting facilities that would test my conclusion, a great student project. Thank you for listening.
































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  • Labradors
    2 months ago

    Your second picture looks like a nutrient deficiency. I think it is magnesium. An easy fix would be to buy some Epsom Salts, add 1 tablespoon to a gallon of water, stir, and water your plants. The curling of the leaves is probably due to weather conditions. Heat? Drought?


    Linda

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  • beesneeds
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    You might have a variety of things going on Some not so prime weather in June might have hurt a bit, but we are three weeks past that and it shouldn't still be playing a factor on current tomato unhappy. Uneven watering can cause some problems, but I'm not sure what you are decribing for your watering would cause so much plant unhappy. You could be over-feeding them, but that can kind of depend on what you are using for fertilizer and how often you are using it. The egg shells probably aren't part of the problem. The epsom salts might be if you used too much to cause a salt issue- but that more often causes a darkening rather than a lightening in the leaves.

    It looks like interveinal chlorsis, and first thought is magnesium defiency. But you say you already put down epsom salts. Something else can cause it as well- too much potassium can cause a decrease in the ability to uptake magnesium, and if the soil pH is too low (below 6.0), that can cause the magnesium to be less available to the plants. If you are using a fertilizer that is high in potassium and also applying banana peels because of the high potassium, you might have overdone it there. You can test you soil for pH.

    I doubt your tomato plants are suffering from Panama disease- that's the kind of fusarium wilt that hurts banana plants. It's a tropical disease that while it can kill banana plants, it is not the same kind of fusarium wilt that hurts tomato plants. Also, fursarium wilts of various kinds symptoms do not look like what is in the OP photos.

  • thecre8v1
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Thanks so much Nandina, Labradors and Beesneeds…..I really appreciate your input! Nandina and the banana peels got me thinking…
    There’s three huge trees in my neighbor’s yard (behind me). So big that they reach over the utility easement that’s between our properties and some branches reach our yard…which is right over the raised beds where the tomatoes are. Although they don’t shade them because they are NE, they do drop leaves into the beds. One is an oak tree, but the other two have long, thin leaves…and they are spotted like they have mold spores! If they are diseased and falling in with my tomatoes, they might be affecting the soil!

  • beesneeds
    2 months ago

    What kind of trees are they?

  • thecre8v1
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    I’m not sure…but I did some research…maybe a California pepper tree. Leaflets look similar.

  • nanelle_gw (usda 9/Sunset 14)
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    How about potassium? .

    Nutritional Deficiencies of Tomato


    On the other hand, I read "Over-use of high-potassium fertilisers (such as tomato feed) can cause magnesium deficiency, as plants take up potassium in preference to magnesium."

    Or spider mites?



    Gardening with Allen: What’s up with discolored leaves?

    I usually get leaves that look like that when it's hot and dry, and I recall finding some information that says in addition to thinking of calcium and magnesium, I should also think of spider mites. But there are usually other symptoms, so probably not.

    Or pH?



  • thecre8v1
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Thank you nanelle_gw! Great info! I considered spider mites. Bought some ladybugs that I have been releasing at dusk….my nearby English cucumber is looking much better, but not so much the tomatoes😖. I think I have more than one issue concurrently (I mean my tomatoes do…🤣)

    To continue with the neighboring tree idea….I took a pic of some of the leaves that I cleaned out of the bed.

    The second photo is of leaves from ‘Anna Russe’ which is in the same bed as the poor ‘Tetons de Venus’.

    The third photo is from Prećoce de Quimper, the one plant that has given me the most fruit thus far. That looks like powdery mildew…?

  • nandina
    2 months ago

    Here are some additional thoughts re my banana comments above. The space where I am gardening has 40 new constructed box gardens, each filled with the same type of soil mixture based on careful soil sampling. My problem is with my two boxes into which I scattered several handfuls of dried banana skin. The remaining 48 box garden growers did not add banana skins to their soil. All produced very healthy crops with no signs of magnesium, virus, etc. problems and continue to do so. They are my "control" group.


    I am very certain that I chanced upon banana skins carrying some spores of the Panama banana problem five years ago.

    Better safe than sorry! I think our questioner will have more to add about the subject over the next several years based on experience.


    Quietly I strongly suggest:

    1. Stop adding banana skin to soils and compost.


    And when in doubt:

    2. Carefully sterilize garden tools used in the tomato beds to prevent spreading possible disease problems.





  • thecre8v1
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Just to be safe…no more banana skins. I’m also ordering a soil test kit…but the more research I do, the more I think it’s some type of bacteria or virus. Now my mascot tells beans are affected. They’re not in the same box but they are in a lower section/adjacent 4x6 box. My raised beds stair step…higher ones against the fence and lower ones in front.

    Any thoughts about the leaves coming from the tree in the neighbors yard?

    Aaaannnnnddddd now I have squirrels taking little chomps out of every squash/tiny melons/some cherry tomatoes. 😩

  • Stephanie
    2 months ago

    The banana wilt from the tropics has a specific host - bananas - so i doubt that is what you have specificly. that said you should never put something in your garden that you did not buy specifically for garden use. For example dont cut up a potato you bought at the store and plant it - this is how pests and diseases spread that can destroy lives of farmers, cause more pesticide use, etc.

  • kevin9408
    2 months ago

    looking at the first picture I'd suspect herbicide damage but it would be premature without knowing more. From the 2nd picture I'd suspect a magnesium uptake problem or deficiency but I need to ask some questions first.

    How did the plant in the first picture change over time? Did the abnormalities start at the bottom and move up, or did the change happen over the entire plant all at once? Describe how it transitioned from healthy green to curled droopy leaves half dead. There are a lot of curled leaves with brown parts, were those dead parts yellow before they went brown?

    What kind of soil did you use to fill the raised beds? If from a bag did the soil have any fertilizer in it? What size is each of the raise beds you built? How many drip emitters did you use, and the raise of irrigation? Gallons or parts of a gallon per hour, or rate of drips.

    Please take more pictures and include some shots of the entire raised beds.

    About your banana peel, Was it a hole peel or was it dried and ground up? I peel takes time for microbes to Mineralize the potassium, and why I'm asking. BTW a tomato plants needs for potassium would require 4 peels.

    How are you sure the plants are getting enough water? Soil can feel slightly moist but still be an inadequacy moisture level for the plants.

    Now it's up to you.

  • thecre8v1
    Original Author
    last month

    Wow, thanks kevin9408! Let’s see if I can give some further information.

    The plant in the first photo is a French heirloom. I found out that variety naturally has droopy leaves even under the best of conditions. We had a couple of + 90 degree days in June and I noticed it’s leaves curling, which I learned is a response for the plant to conserve water. So I wasn’t too worried at this point. Unfortunately, because it was so hot, I thought I was doing a good thing by giving them some water in the afternoon in addition to the drippers that go off in the AM. (I had 2 1-gal drippers and I didn’t realize that it was set for 10 min every morning. I’ll blame hubby for that one…but I should have checked. If my math is right, 1 gal=133oz./6=22.1x2=44.2. That’s the equivalent of 2 travel mugs of water every day! Yikes!).
    So, that was my first big mistake.

    The beds that most of the tomatoes are in are are 2’ high and going back to that first plant…it’s in a box that is roughly 3’ x 4’ with 2 other plants, staggered in a v shape. Since they are so deep, the bottom 1/3 - 1/2 is native soil and composted material. There is gopher screen on the bottom, but otherwise there is more native soil below, although that is clay type. I filled them with a mix of vegetable planting mix and compost in about a 3:1 ratio. The vegetable mix is : “Organic Lyngso Vegetable Blend is a ready-to-plant blend of Sandy Loam, Organic Diestel Structured Compost, and Redwood Sawdust. The Sandy Loam provides some minerals and clay which will help the soil retain moisture, the Diestel Structured Compost is a composted turkey manure filled with life and food and the Redwood Sawdust will break down very slowly over time and help keep the soil open and aerated. Lyngso Vegetable Blend is listed as OIM for organic use by CDFA.” And the compost, is: “The ingredients are sourced directly from the Diestel family turkey ranch where turkeys are allowed to develop at a natural growth rate. The carbon used to make the Diestel Structured Compost comes from forest trimmings from the Sierra Nevada Foothills. “ I added crushed eggshells to the bottom of each planting hole.

    I transplanted the tomatoes the beginning of April (first photo)…and they grew like crazy until the June heat spike, (second photo June 16) suddenly looking bad all over, all at once. The last photo is July 6, after I backed off the watering. I gave it chopped up banana peel (just one) and some Epsom salt the end of June/ beginning of July.

    I have the same variety in a container between the beds and it looks a little better than the one in the bed. The other 2 tomatoes in the same bed started looking pretty bad around the beginning of July. The ‘Coeur de boeuf’ had been growing like a maniac prior….and the yellow cherry tomato had started to suffer because of the larva from the white cabbage moths that suddenly ravaged the broccoli in the bed right below it.

    There’s some healthy new growth on the original plant in question, but I think once I harvest the fruit, I should probably pull it out.

    A few days ago, I noticed spider mites on two other tomato plants and powdery mildew on yet another. One of the others, ‘Italian purple’ has turned brown and withered suddenly. The ‘Chocolate cherry’ pole tomato next to it is going strong.

    I realize there’s going to be a learning curve in my tomato growing experience, so I am deeply appreciative of the help I receive here. I’m taking copious notes so I can remember what NOT to do next year!

  • kevin9408
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Assessing the information you provided I've identified some issues that may have directly, or indirectly caused you problems with the tomato plants. It appears you've planted 5 to 6 plants in each raise bed of about 3' by 4' in size and would be a little crowded for 12 sq. feet. If this is the case some intensive fertilizing would be in order to maintain the overall health of all the plants.

    Your watering amount and distribution is not adequate. To give the soil 1" per week it would require at least 7.48 gallons of water per planter box. 36" x 48" x 1" = 1728 cubic inches. One gallon of water equals 128 cubic inches, so 7.48 gallons would be needed to saturate the soil 6" down, and personally I'd be fine giving them the equivalent of 2" or 3" a week. With only two drip emitters for each 12 sq. ft. bed the water distribution through horizontal capillarity action is limited. I believe at least 4 emitters are needed for each bed and even would suggest each plant should have it's own adjustable emitter adjusted to a very slow drip and let it drop continuously. 10 drips per minute will provide one gallon per day for each plant, or increase the drip rate and turn irrigation off from evening to morning. This method will allow better horizontal capillarity action, while a higher volume of water for a short duration will fall victim to gravity allowing a large percentage of the water to move down vertically.

    You stated 3 parts Lyngso blend to one part compost, is this correct? I evaluated your selection for the soil blend and compost and would say they're top quality products but both have limits on how much of any nutrient is available to the plants. With organic soils as you're using they have available nutrients, which the plants can use immediately, and nutrients unavailable which must be broken down more by microbes to make them available to the plants to use and this is classified as slow release. Your plants have basically exhausted one or more of the nutrients in the soil that was presently available to them, they need fertilized but what are they missing.

    The Lyngso blend is designed to aerate and retain moisture but not necessarily to provide nutrients. On the manufacturer's web site for the product they state to fertilize with a balanced fertilizer at least twice during the season. Here is the soil and PH results for Lyngo, From what I see from the soil test results it has a severe lack of nitrogen with no value of the immediate availability to the plants, and basically the nitrogen well ran dry. You used one part compost also but very little of any nitrogen in most compost is immediately available to plants. Maybe 20% the first year and the rest is slow release over 3 to 5 years. The total nitrogen, (available and unavailable) in compost could be <1% but we don't know how much is in the Diestel product nor do they give a value for the compost on there web site.

    Also from the soil and PH results for the Lyngso blend I noticed it has a PH of 6.1 showing it's slightly acidic. We don't know the PH of the compost so I suggest a PH test on your mixture. The PH should be closer to 6.5 and even though if it doesn't sound by much it makes a difference in a plants ability to take up nutrients as seen by the chart posted by @nanelle_gw (usda 9/Sunset 14) 4 days ago.

    Any fungus now infecting your plants is basically a secondary effect from the results of weak and stressed plants and what fungus do. To summarize correct the watering problem and fertilize with nitrogen and calcium. The theory of a potassium and magnesium deficiency holds partly true but not from a deficiency in the soil but the plants inability to take it in because of drought stress and I've seen it way to often . I'm not Mr. Organic and use mostly synthesized chemical fertilizers, so I don't know and can't recommend any specific organic fertilizer with nutrients immediately available for your plants to add. Most organics are slow release and has a large lag from the time of application to the availability of nutrients to the plants. Your banana peel could decompose to supply minerals in a compost pile in about a month, but in your raised bed without the heat generated by a compost pile it could take potentially a year or more.

    An egg shell is almost entirely of calcium carbonate crystals and even crushed may take decades to decompose if not a century to the point a plant could use the calcium, and won't give any benefits at all. My plants don't have time to wait a month or century to feed, so I use chemicals, and I would personally add two teaspoons of calcium nitrate to each of your plants.

    I know this post is getting long but I can't sum it up in a simple single paragraph, sorry.

  • thecre8v1
    Original Author
    last month

    Kevin9478….you sir, are a rockstar!

    Sorry…I wasn’t as clear as I should have been. I have 3 plants in each of the 3x4 beds…one back left , one back right and one front center….so in a triangle. I have 2 drippers per plant, not 2 drippers for the entire bed. I appreciate the detail of how you figured out water volume….I’m writing that down! Each bed can be controlled independently by shutting it on/off manually but the entire system is on a timer that I don’t believe will allow me to do a continuous slow drip. I will check that out further, though. Your point makes sense.

    I can’t be precise about the ratio of soil mix to compost….we bought mostly vegetable mix…some compost…and had to haul it all down to the lowest part of the yard so we didn’t do it all in one go. Since they weren’t full, I got some EB Stone bagged mix (didn’t have to sack it ourselves and it was closer) and added it in…and threw in some earthworm castings for good measure. In any case, there’s at least 2x as much mix as compost…probably not 3x, though…so I misstated that. I so appreciate the explanation of the soil nutrients and the plant’s capacity to utilize them. This is all part of the learning curve, that I must say, I am enjoying very much!

    I got the testing kit and tried testing some soil samples yesterday, but I didn’t do it right and ended up with a muddy little mess. I’m going to try again today and test for ph, N, K and P. I’ll post the results. Hopefully all of this learning and discovery can help other tomato growers who stumble across this thread! Once again….appreciate your time and sharing your knowledge.

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