Tomato Plant Problems
Diagnose, Treat and Grow Healthy Tomatoes
Diagnosing tomato plant problems is sometimes hard to figure out; some
varieties just don't do well in a particular climate; it's important to
find the right kind of tomatoes to grow in your garden.
If you're growing your tomato plants at home, from seed, then choose a variety that will actually ripen in your climate.
Some types take a long time from seed to harvest, so you may end up with lots of green tomatoes.
Not to worry, if this happens to you, there are ways of ripening green tomatoes.
Heirloom types have been developed over years and generations to suit
your growing conditions perfectly; if you're lucky enough to have a
tomato breeder in your area, try growing those varieties for well adapted plant.
you've chosen the right kind of tomato seeds, and you've grown them
using all the best techniques, and your tomato plants are still having
Here is a list of some common problems with tomato plants, and some ideas of how to combat them:
- Blossom end rot of tomatoes; this is when the end of the tomato fruit that is away from the stem turns brown and starts to rot.
This tends to be caused by a lack of calcium in the soil.
If you're using a lot of compost and have a rich organic soil, the calcium that is in the soil is sometimes tied up by the pH.
This is easily remedied by the addition of some Dolomite lime, which contains calcium and magnesium.
plants can then access the calcium. The prevention of this is
important; you can't cure it once it's happening (except by removing the
damaged tomato fruit and hoping there's enough time in the season to
- Tomato Blight; generally this occurs close to the end of the
growing season, when the plants are under a lot of stress to ripen the
The symptoms are a failure to thrive, and extreme wilting.
The most common cause of the transfer of late blight is rain or even just high humidity.
Keeping the tops of the plants dry can delay the onset, giving the plants a chance to ripen the fruit.
and dispose of the plants immediately, don't compost them or use the
same bed for tomatoes next year. Other Solanum relatives (peppers,
potatoes and eggplant) also can have the same problems.
- Tomato plants bloom and set fruit, but then shrivel and die.
Pocket gophers are the most common culprit; their holes are sometimes
well hidden, and these pesky critters are renowned for the difficulty
in getting rid of them. A chicken wire bottom on the bed can prevent
them from eating the whole plant, or grow the tomatoes in containers or
Other causes can be Vertilicium wilt, or Fusarium wilt or
other bacterial or fungal diseases. There is no cure, but it's crucial
to pull and dispose of the plants due to the ease with which this will
- Bronze looking, shiny foliage, curling leaves.
Most of the problems in this category, including cracked fruit, leaf
roll and even blossom end rot can be prevented by maintaining moisture
levels in the soil. Use a mulch, and drip irrigation.
- Pale foliage, with webbing
Spider mites can cause rasped looking leaves as they suck the life
out of the plants. If the leaves have white webbing like tiny spider
webs on the underside this is the problem.
Hose off the foliage a
few times a day, or set up a fine spray for at least a few minutes.
Spider mites hate high humidity, so if the air is dry, this can really
put a damper on their activities.
Generally, most bugs are not a problem with tomatoes; the most common
are things like flea beetles, which cause tiny shot holes in the leaves,
the tomato hornworm which is the larvae of a moth.
This can be caused by several things; because tomatoes are insect
pollinated, if the weather is too cold or rainy to allow the insects to
fly, you will need to pollinate the flowers by hand; pull one of the
blooms off, and dab it into all the others. This will create the right
transference of the pollen for the fruit to form.
If the weather
is too hot, this can kill off the pollen, in which case there's not a
lot you can do. Shading the plants during extremely hot spells may
- Failure to thrive - the plant grows to a certain size, but then vigor fizzles out.
Often, this is caused by lack of nutrition - not necessarily lack of
fertilizer, but the pH of the soil might be off a bit. Usually, it's
too acidic, so sprinkle some Dolomite Lime around the base of the plant
and water it in well. This might be all it takes to get things back on
As with all things to do with gardening, trial and error plays a huge part in learning how to grow some plants.
have a steep learning curve, but the successful production of a harvest
will make a believer out of you; there is no comparison between the
pallid insipid tomatoes you can buy at a supermarket, and the lush,
delicious ambrosia of a sun ripened tomato.