Thursday, 3 July 2014

Not So Scary After All Tomato Issues

 Here are few problems or issues that you may have come across this month or will soon come upon with regards to your tomato plants that are actually not a great cause for concern! Whew!

1. Wilting Leaves

Fear not, all is well
We have had some super hot days lately and the leaves of the tomato plant will droop and look awful. Heat causes the leaves to droop but they will quickly perk up again as soon as the air temps are cooler.
This does not hurt your tomato plant in any way, but you certainly can make life a wee cooler for it by spraying down the greenhouse floor, the patio, the ground, etc.. I spray down the greenhouse floor whenever I am in the general area.
In time, your plant will adjust to the heat and no longer droop quite as much.

Watering it copiously is not the answer either! Only water if it needs to be watered (test to make sure the soil is super dry by sticking your finger into the soil)...
If you over-water, that brings us to problem #2 ...  so read on Mc Duff!

2. Bland or watery tasting tomatoes with no flavour

Peche Jaune is not bland, but is in fact very delish!
Just needed a lush tomato pic and so this was it ; )

If you over-water or water too zealously, your tomato will certainly grow and flower and fruit, you will not notice any great issues ...until, that is, you taste the fruits! They will be super duper bland and soooo tasteless!

Make sure that your tomato actually needs water, daily watering may not be needed. I am currently watering mine (growing in 5 gallon pots) every 2nd or 3rd day as I really want to be able to taste the true flavour of each variety! 

3. BER (Blosson End Rot) 

Blossom End Rot (BER) is a brown rot on the bottom (aka blossom end) of the tomato. Your peppers and squash may also come down with this issue. 

Is most often seen on paste style tomatoes aka the Roma's and generally only affects the first tomatoes.

BER is not a cause for alarm either, though it is a heads up! 

BER may be caused by planting out the plant too early, a calcium and/or magnesium deficiency, or inconsistent watering habits.
It is a bit more apt to happen to potted plants than in ground ones as they are totally dependent on you for water, but either or both may get it.

What to do about it?
Remove the BER fruits and toss into compost (is totally a physiological issue and not 'spreading' or 'catching' in any way, so compost at free will)
Be more regular/consistent with your watering schedule.

Add a pinch of Epsom salts to your watering can once a week or scratch it in around the plant for uptake each time you water. I scratch in two tablespoons around each plant or in each pot once or twice a summer.   

For more info about BER and other common issues with tomatoes, please see here and  here.

The following issue was totally new to me, something that I had never ever come across in all my days ... and I have been growing tomatoes for a really, really long time ; ) 

4. New Growth Curling Downwards 

The new growth tips on the tomato plants are deep green and curling downwards. No outward signs of bugs or other evident issues.

I had several plants doing this in May this year. and I was very, very concerned! Also, as I was not doing anything different this year but following the same schedule and care as usual, I was very puzzled. Therefore, I did much research to find out the cause and cure. Let's face it, great heirloom tomatoes is not only my business but my very life and blood!

My thoughts ran two different ways...
First I thought that it might be a virus brought on by aphids or whitefly, which would be bad, like truly really bad.
Second, I thought that it might be a fertiliser issue, even though I only use organic feed, somehow I thought that it might possible be this anyways, as there was no sign of bug damage and everything looked so green and healthy.

Turns out that downward curling on new growth is actually not a problem, per se, is just too much of a good thing all at one time ...  and is also thankfully not irreversible either.

It usually means too much heat and too much water at the same time. We did have an unusually warm May and June, and thus I probably watered more often than usual. It did not happen to any plants growing outside the greenhouse (less heat), nor did it happen to the plants I had tucked aside for later planting into larger pots (and thus rarely watered ; )

It can also be caused by too much fertiliser, along with the too much heat and water. However, I was no longer worried about that for myself, as it is really hard to over feed with the 100% organic feeding that I do, whew! (Alfalfa tea with Epsom salts once a week and/or Liquid Seaweed)

Therefore, the key was to cool down the greenhouse a bit more, which I did by watering the floor several times a day on hot days, leaving the door open night and day earlier than usual, and turning the fan to a lower heat setting so that it now kicks in sooner.
As watering is crucial, I let the tomatoes go two and even three days without water, which also helps to prevent issue #2 ; )  However, it may cause more BER, argh!

Therefore ...if you have this ... put your tomatoes outside to grow and water less often. If you cannot put them out, try to have cooler temps in your cold frame or greenhouse and also try to cut back on your watering a bit, let it go dry more often. Also, regulate your feeding if you tend to give too much love. 

The problem usually irons itself out in no time. As the foliage ages, it straightens right out and as the temps and water are regulated, the new growth stops curling.

Please note... this only applies to downward facing new growth. If you have upward curling leaves, you have a problem, either a virus or a blight, so that is a concern.    

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