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Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

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Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

Post  Ericka2385 on 7/25/2012, 8:10 pm

I just put these guys out in the garden about two weeks ago. They're a Roma variety, San Marizano, not that it really matters.

This is the only plant of my dozen or so that is showing the yellow/brown leaves and appears to be dying, but I have a few other leaves with the 'squiggles'. I'm sure there is something crawling on them at night, I'm not sure how concerned to be with it.

So I guess there are two diagnosis I'm looking for.

What are the 'squiggles', do I need to spray? And what is causing the leaves to turn? There were one or two plants that had a hard time while I was transitioning them outside, so I was thinking of a possible damping off problem maybe, but the example pictures I was looking at didn't really fit.

Help me, please. I'm a newb.


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Re: Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

Post  cheyannarach on 7/30/2012, 12:22 pm

Is that dirt on the stem or is there blackening on the stems? I had a tomato that had leaves that looked just like that and it fruited but had blossom end rot.


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Re: Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

Post  rozidays on 7/30/2012, 1:00 pm

Here's the list to run through:

1) Plants are too dry.
2) Plants are too wet.
3) Foliar leaf damage from a bacteria or virus, especially if the yellowing of the leaves is accompanied by small dark spots (probably bacterial speck) or larger brown spots with concentric circles (probably early blight).
4) A more serious disease like verticillium wilt or fusarium wilt.
5) Nutritional deficiency, with the likely culprit being a lack of one of the following: nitrogen, iron, zinc, potassium, or calcium.
6) Aphids or spider mites.
7) Root-knot nematodes. Only a issue if you are growing them in sandy soil though.
Cool Tobacco mosaic virus.
9) Being too close to--and especially if grown directly underneath--a black walnut tree or trees.

So, let's take them one by one.

For (1) and (2) above, check the soil moisture. Tomato plants like to be watered consistently, but don't like having wild swings between being "too wet" and "too dry".

For (5) above, if you have fed them a couple of times this season, it is hard to imagine they have a nutritional deficiency. And, if you want to feed them the Sam's Miracle Grow, I doubt it would hurt them. I think it is a complete and balanced plant food, so plants that have been fed with it shouldn't be showing a defiency. That said, I don't feed my plants at all--I feed the soil with compost, Texas greensand, blood meal, bone meal, etc. etc. and let the soil feed the plants.

For item (6) insect damage can leave the plants yellowing. Look at your leaves. Do you see any small oval bugs that might be aphids? Turn over the leaves and look at the underside of them, especially the leaves down near the bottom of the plant. Red spider mites are tiny and barely visable to the human eye. You can tap the leaves with your finger over a sheet of paper. If tiny specks fall off the leaves and onto the paper and start crawling around, you have spider mites. For aphids, release lady bugs and they will gobble them up within a few weeks. For spider mites, spray the entire plant, and esp. the leaf undersides, with a liquid seaweed solution. The spider mite damage is likely to show up as mottled discoloration of the leaf. Some tiny webbing similar to spider webs may be visable on individual leaves.

For (7) above, root knot nematodes are a horrible problem in sandy soils. The nematodes infest the roots of the plants causing a swelling, or "knot", to appear sporadically within the root system. If you have them, there is nothing you can do now. Eradicating them is almost impossible, although there are a couple of organic solutions that help control them--like crop rotation, planting nematode-resistant varieties and planting a winter crop of cereal rye (not rye grass) and then tilling it into the soil. I hope that nematodes are not the problem.

For item (9) above, black walnut trees release a chemical called juglone. It can make it impossible to grow many plants beneath the tree. If this is the problem, the only solution is to plant the tomato plants somewhere else next time.

You'll notice I left items (3), (4) and (Cool for last. These are 3 very likely culprits and can be hard to diagnose without seeing the plants.

If (Cool tobacco mosaic virus is the culprit, you'll see a mosaic type pattern on the leaves, and maybe also on the fruit. If the problem is item (4) above, one of the wilts, like fusarium wilt (more likely in our climate) or verticillium wilt (usually found in cooler climates than ours), then I don't know of a good "fix". However, if you feed the plants and water them consistently, sometimes a plant can grow enough to "outrun" these 2 diseases and continue producing fruit, although the plants will not look good at all.

The most likely culprit, I think, is going to be item (3) above. At least, that is what the problem is in my large tomato garden 95% of the time when leaves begin yellowing and/or curling.

If you have bacterical speck, you will notice tiny specks of brown to black to almost purple on the leave surfaces.

If it is early blight, and I think it very well might be, you will notice the yellowing begins at the base of the plant and works its way up, day after day after day. You should see brown spots, usually with concentric rings, on the yellowed areas of the leaves.

To fight early blight:

a) Keep water off the leaves as much as possible. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation.

b) Mulch under your plants to keep water from hitting the dirt and splashing back up onto the plants thereby spreading disease.

c) Remove all the damaged foliage from the plants. Usually new leaves will sprout to replace the damaged foliage. You may not be able to remove ALL the damaged foliage at once if doing so will leave your green tomatoes exposed to too much sun which can cause sunscald and ruin the fruit.

d) Spray your plants with a solution of baking soda, oil and water. To one gallon of water, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of a lightweight horticultural oil and 1 or 2 drops of dishwashing liquid. If you don't have horticultural oil, you can substitute vegetable oil, but I don't think it works as well. Shake this mixture well to blend it. Apply it to the plants thoroughly with a pump-up sprayer. It is best to apply it early in the morning or in the late evening. Do not apply during the heat of the day or further leaf damage can occur, especially in our hot climate. You can also try spraying with compost tea or Garret Juice (recipe can be found at the free side of the Dirt Doctor website (www.dirtdoctor.com).

Another organic solution is Serenade, a bacteria product that combats the diseases. It is new this year (as far as being labeled for use in the vegetable garden) and I am trying it for the first time. It seems to have some effectiveness. A 20-oz. bottle will cost under $10.00 at Wal-Mart. Just follow the label directions.

With regard to the leaf curl, leaf curl is like yellowing leaves and can indicate many different types of problems. I don't generally even worry about leaf curl if it shows up by itself. But, leaf curl accompanied by yellowing leaves almost always indicates that a tomato disease is present and is bacterial/viral/fungal related.

In my garden, early blight can show up anywhere between the 3rd week of May and the 3rd week of June. It is one of the most common tomato problems. If you want a heavy-duty treatement, you can try the more organic approach of spraying with a copper-based fungicide like Kocide. If you want a non-organic approach, Daconil is the solution. I don't use either of them in my garden as I believe both are more toxic than I care to be exposed to.

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Re: Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

Post  littlesapphire on 7/30/2012, 1:18 pm

I know for certain that the squiggles are leaf miners, but I can't really tell what the other problems are. Leaf miners are really only annoying and don't cause much damage to the plant unless it's lettuce or spinach it's attacking. I squish the leaves when I see the damage in the hopes it'll kill the little critter inside the leaf.

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Re: Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

Post  No_Such_Reality on 7/30/2012, 1:44 pm

The black specks are most likely thrips feces. The brown dead leaf parts and yellow dying parts are likely thrip damage. The squiggles are lead miners.


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Re: Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

Post  Ericka2385 on 7/30/2012, 3:51 pm

It looks like it was early blight. Today the stem showed blotched of brown patches, that I imagine would turn into the nasty black patches I see on pictures of tomatoes with blight. It was the only one of my 15 or so tomatoes showing the signs, but I plan to treat the rest of them with the baking soda/oil/water mix tomorrow as a precaution.

Thank you for all the wonderful information rozidays. I have been looking through everything I could find for information, but its hard to make the symptoms 'fit'. Oh well, I guess it'll just take time and experience.

Hopefully these leaf miners don't jump to my lettuce bed...

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Re: Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

Post  cheyannarach on 7/30/2012, 6:49 pm

Early blight is spread through the soil so you will deffinately want to pretreat the tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes that are in the same soil.

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Re: Tomatoes - I've tried to figure this one out but need help

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