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Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

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Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  boffer on 5/29/2013, 6:26 pm

I'm thinking that the rash of sick tomatoes that we're seeing on the forum is a good opportunity to reassess how we approach the application of amendments to our gardens. Many gardeners of all gardening types, not just SFG, have a natural inclination, a 'need' if you will, to apply amendments to their gardens. Sometimes they are addressing a specific problem, and sometimes they are looking for an overall general improvement. The 'need' to add amendments is a topic for another time. Let's assume for now that the decision to apply amendments has been made. How can we apply the amendments such that we can evaluate their effectiveness? How can we learn if our efforts were worthwhile or worthless? The simple answer is to have controls for comparisons.

(This example is from the perspective of a lay person, and not a trained medical professional.)
If I'm sick, I go to the doctor and present my symptoms. My symptoms may not be sufficient for the doctor to reach a black and white conclusion. He will have a pretty good idea what is ailing me, but not necessarily know the best medicine with which to treat me. What he won't do is give me six prescriptions, and say 'take all these, one of them should work'. What he will do is give me one prescription that is most likely to work, and say 'take this for ten days, and if you don't feel better, come back and we'll try something else'. In this situation, a control is utilized by administering one medicine at a time: it works or it doesn't. Taking the shotgun approach by giving me six prescriptions is not the best long term approach for the doctor or the patient as it teaches us nothing. (I realize that there may be exceptions for extremely difficult illnesses.)

Back to gardening. I currently have five sick tomato plants. After a lot of reading, I'm still not sure what ails them, but I've made the decision to apply amendments. I have no amendments, so I looked on my wife's shelves for the amendments that she uses in her ornamental gardens. I grabbed the ones that I recognized from reading about them on the forum. Fish emulsion, blood and bone meal, and 4-6-3 organic fertilizer. Now, how should I use them? I could take the shotgun approach and apply all of them to all five plants. The plants just might improve and produce a nice harvest. But what have I learned? Absolutely nothing. Which amendment worked? Was it a combination of two or more amendments that worked? Or, worse yet, what if the amendments did nothing, and it was the weather that fixed them? Maybe the plants got themselves healthy just as soon as they started getting some regular sunshine. I have no way of knowing because I had no control plants.

I'm efficient and thrifty. (But you can call me lazy and cheap if you want to!) I don't want to be buying and adding amendments next year when all the plants need is some warm weather. Warm weather fixes a multitude of plant ailments, but many gardeners have never learned this because they impatiently take the shotgun approach. When they see a possible problem, they generously spread a multitude of amendments on all the plants. Sometimes the plants improve, and then the gardeners become hooked on the use of amendments in their Mel's Mix forever, for no rational, objective reason. By it's very construct, Mel's Mix was designed so that amendments wouldn't be needed, and our gardening objective should be to develop a quality MM so we don't need them. But there are exceptions; occasionally we do need amendments, for necessary or intentional purposes. If you feel you must add amendments, let's do it so it's a learning process where we might gain enough knowledge so that we might not have to use amendments again.

We need to have control plants. We need to make short term sacrifices for long term benefits. We need to understand that possibly losing a couple plants this year, will improve our gardening knowledge that will benefit us for the rest of our lives. When you apply your amendments, leave one plant untreated at the very least. Make it your control plant so you can watch its natural development and compare it to the plants that were amended. A better scenario would be to amend only half your plants. Ideally, the amended and control plants would be planted in the same batch of MM. If you're gardening in an uncontrolled environment, ie outside, the amended plants and control plants need to be grown at the same time to eliminate the influence of weather variances. The fewer types of amendments used, the better. What we want to do is eliminate as many variables as possible so that we may properly conclude that an amendment did or did not work.

By no means am I a trained expert at controlled experiments. But I am hoping this post will initiate a dialogue that many will contribute to, in order that we may all improve our gardening skills.

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  ETNRedClay on 5/29/2013, 6:33 pm

Early spring, I had something eating little holes in leafy greens. I have on hand a half dozen different means to fight them. I started with a very light dusting of DE in one bed on affected leaves only because it is harmless to eat for humans. Pretty clear the DE worked in a few days.

Figure it was flea beatles. Not sure. But will recognize those holes FOREVER and apply only the minimal DE needed. No chemicals is good in my mind. No harm to humans is even better.

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  plantoid on 5/29/2013, 6:50 pm

Good call Boffer thanks for putting it down in words

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  sanderson on 5/29/2013, 8:03 pm

Boffer, Well said.

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  drixnot on 5/30/2013, 6:58 am

Found a recipe called "tomato blight buster"

3 cups compost
1/2 cup powdered nonfat milk
1/2 cup Epsom salts
1 Tbs. baking soda.

Sprinkle a handful into each planting hole, and put some powdered milk on the soil every few weeks throughout the growing season.

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/06/10/how-to-plant-tomatoes-8-things-i-put-in-the-tomato-planting-hole/

Since we have already planted our tomatoes we would have to mix this with water .... or maybe dig a trench around our plants for the mixture.

I think I'm going to try this later in the season. Currently my toms are very small... I was late staring them ... but they seem healthy. I think its because they missed that cold snap.

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let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes

Post  Frenchbean on 5/30/2013, 7:15 am

Boffer words of wisdom in deed. I personally like the lets wait and see idea. Over here in England it has rained constantly for 3 days. My french beans newly planted are a bit wishy washy =bleached out. Im thinking its all the rain. So hopefully when the sun returns if lol! they will feel better and grow better. I don't like using amendments if I can get by without. You can call me a cheap skate if you want. rofl

Mother nature wants all plants to grow and she will do her best to heal the sick. Thats my thoughts anyway happy hi

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  camprn on 5/30/2013, 7:26 am

Thanks for posting this Boffer. I have been known to tinker when plant tell me they need something, but otherwise find it unnecessary.

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Nice link

Post  Windmere on 5/30/2013, 8:55 am

@drixnot wrote:Found a recipe called "tomato blight buster"

3 cups compost
1/2 cup powdered nonfat milk
1/2 cup Epsom salts
1 Tbs. baking soda.

Sprinkle a handful into each planting hole, and put some powdered milk on the soil every few weeks throughout the growing season.

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/06/10/how-to-plant-tomatoes-8-things-i-put-in-the-tomato-planting-hole/

Since we have already planted our tomatoes we would have to mix this with water .... or maybe dig a trench around our plants for the mixture.

I think I'm going to try this later in the season. Currently my toms are very small... I was late staring them ... but they seem healthy. I think its because they missed that cold snap.

Thanks for the info/link drixnot. I appreciated the tips.

Boffer, I like your approach. You nicely articulated your points.

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  donnainzone5 on 5/30/2013, 10:27 am

Boffer,

I like your rational, scientific approach.

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  mschaef on 5/30/2013, 11:18 am

I like scientific approve as well. Thanks for the post!

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  jazzycat on 5/30/2013, 2:13 pm

@ETNRedClay wrote:Early spring, I had something eating little holes in leafy greens. I have on hand a half dozen different means to fight them. I started with a very light dusting of DE in one bed on affected leaves only because it is harmless to eat for humans. Pretty clear the DE worked in a few days.

Figure it was flea beatles. Not sure. But will recognize those holes FOREVER and apply only the minimal DE needed. No chemicals is good in my mind. No harm to humans is even better.

I didn't even think of dusting my tomatoes with DE to see if it would treat my problems. I did put some on top of the mulch in the containers to try to control the ants (it didn't work), but do you think it might work if I actually dusted the plants with a light coating on the leaves?

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  camprn on 5/30/2013, 2:18 pm

@jazzycat wrote: but do you think it might work if I actually dusted the plants with a light coating on the leaves?
I'm confused.... Are you having an insect problem on your plants?

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  RoOsTeR on 5/30/2013, 2:25 pm

I think some are missing the point of the OP...

Boffer, thanks Wink

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  camprn on 5/30/2013, 2:46 pm

@RoOsTeR wrote:I think some are missing the point of the OP...

Boffer, thanks Wink
Oh right, thanks again Boffer!.... Keep it simple, is what Mel says...

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http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  jazzycat on 5/30/2013, 2:56 pm

@camprn wrote:
@jazzycat wrote: but do you think it might work if I actually dusted the plants with a light coating on the leaves?
I'm confused.... Are you having an insect problem on your plants?

I have seen some little gnat looking things on them, which I've mentioned numerous times, but I haven't found anything about that insect on any database (unless I'm seeing it wrong), so I'm not sure what it is and I figured it was harmless. There are leaf miners. I haven't seen any flea beetles. There are ants and pill bugs in the soil. I'm not sure what's wrong with the plants, if the insects are causing the problems or what, but insects transmit disease, right? I did find some holes in my bok choy leaves yesterday that weren't there before so I went ahead and harvested them. And now I have another bed with seedlings in it and seeds planted and coming up, and I certainly don't want this problem to go over there. I need to get it under control.

This is why I want to use neem. I've now spoken with two people from Save the Frogs and neither one of them said they have any information about it, and one of them actually told me he thought it would be OK to use it early in the morning so it would be completely dry by the time they come out at night. I still haven't used it because I'm morally conflicted. But I also don't want to lose all my plants if I can save them. You have no idea how upsetting this is to me, camprn. I have something here I can use, and it would probably work, but I might cause damage to another species.

I like boffer's idea as well, and I might do that, since I have no clue what's wrong with them. At least that way I might find something that works and be able to save them, or some of them. Maybe I'll try using neem on one plant, and see what happens. That way if nothing happens, it won't be on all of them. There are other benefits to using it though. *sigh*

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  RoOsTeR on 5/30/2013, 3:02 pm

Jazzy, if you're looking for opinions on neem... from my own personal experiences with it, I found it to be pretty useless, and think it hurt my plants more than the insects I was trying to prevent. I believe it hindered and stunted growth. I will also add that it is a pesticide. If you have thoughts of possibly harming the frogs, then simply don't use it. Take it from there.

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  FamilyGardening on 5/31/2013, 3:54 am

@drixnot wrote:Found a recipe called "tomato blight buster"

3 cups compost
1/2 cup powdered nonfat milk
1/2 cup Epsom salts
1 Tbs. baking soda.

Sprinkle a handful into each planting hole, and put some powdered milk on the soil every few weeks throughout the growing season.

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/06/10/how-to-plant-tomatoes-8-things-i-put-in-the-tomato-planting-hole/

Since we have already planted our tomatoes we would have to mix this with water .... or maybe dig a trench around our plants for the mixture.

I think I'm going to try this later in the season. Currently my toms are very small... I was late staring them ... but they seem healthy. I think its because they missed that cold snap.

thank you for this reciepe as I too have been trying to get my tom's to feel better.....its our cold temps and heavy rain I believe is causing our tom's to be so sad.....

a few days ago I gave them some Epsom salt, powder milk and a small amount of organic fertilizer hoping it could ease their pain until the sun comes back out and it drys up a bit.....but i didnt have the recipe for the amounts.....so i just gave them a sprinkle of each....i was just watching a u tube video tonight and they were using the same reciepe that you just posted....

I understand how the epsome salt and powder milk works but do you know why the recipe calls for baking soda? thats the only thing I didnt use.....

happy gardening
rose....who hopes she is still on topic Smile

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

Post  Lavender Debs on 5/31/2013, 12:14 pm

@FamilyGardening wrote: ...snip.... I understand how the epsome salt and powder milk works but do you know why the recipe calls for baking soda? thats the only thing I didnt use.....

happy gardening
rose....who hopes she is still on topic Smile

I am only guessing but it sounds like a Ph changer.
Debs.... who has always had great luck grinding up 500mg of calcium (the kind old ladies take as a supplement) and adding it to the watering can.

By the way, I am a wait until the nights warm up before doing anything kind of girl.

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Re: Let's make lemonade from sick tomatoes.

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