Common Tomato Plant Problems:
Anyone who grows tomatoes knows eventually you are going to lose a couple plants to common diseases that just love to afflict tomato plants. For the most part, once a disease sets in on a tomato plant, it's better to scorch and burn than try to rescue it, otherwise you risk other plants getting infected. That said there are ways to prevent and combat certain issues that come up, for those that simply can't bear to destroy a sick plant.
Blossom End Root: This tomato plant problem results in brown leathery depression on the tomatoes, at the blossom end, hence the name. It looks a lot like rotting and it is a result of a calcium deficiency and too many fluctuations in waterings. Remove the tomatoes that are affected, mulch around your plants to improve moisture retention, and make sure your plants are watered consistently.
Flowers Drop Before Fruiting: This is when the tomato plant blooms but the flowers fall off too early, before any tomatoes actually start to develop. Most often this is a result of a shock to the plant, such as an extreme temperature change. Unusually cold nights or unseasonably hot days can cause this. Mulching your plants will help insulate the plants from sudden temperature shifts and there are plant hormones available to help tomatoes fruit even in poor weather.
Common Tomato Plant Problems - Yellowing or Deformed Leaves:
Yellowing Leaves: Yellowing leaves will typically start around the bottom leaves and work its way up. Many times this is a simple nitrogen deficiency and can be fixed with a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. It can also be an early sign of blight, in which case the plant should be removed from the garden immediately.
Deformed or Sticky Leaves: You might see your tomato plant's leaves become deformed, or yellow slightly and have a sticky substance covering them. This often occurs on young plants before they bloom. The cause is usually an aphid infestation because aphids will suck on the plant's leaves and then excrete this sticky substance. Spider mites and whiteflies have also been known to cause this tomato plant problem. The best treatment is a soap based insecticide that is readily available at your local garden center. Making sure your garden is weeded will also help reduce the amount of pests.
Tomato Plant Problems - Cracking & Early Blight:
Cracked Fruit: You may go out to the garden one day to find some of your tomatoes are cracked or split and think they are ruined. The good news is cracking doesn't affect your ability to eat the tomatoes, in spite of how they looks. The cracking is a result of accelerated growth and sometimes over ripening, usually a result of sudden moisture after a long period of dryness. You can prevent this tomato plant problem by supplying the plants with consistent moisture levels, mulching helps, and also by growing varieties that are bred to resist cracking.
Early Blight: Early Blight is easily identified by the yellowing and brown flaky leaves that it causes. Blight is actually a fungus that will live on over the winter through dead plants and vines. If you catch this disease early there are dusts on the market to help control it, but it can't be "cured". If the plant becomes too infected, remove it immediately before it can infect other plants and destroy it. Do NOT throw infected plant onto your compost pile.
Tomato Plant Problems - Late Blight & Wilt:
Late Blight: Late blight will appear as browned leaves that are brown, dry and crumbly. You may also see black areas on the tomatoes and stems of the plant. Blight is a fungus that runs rampant in wet conditions and the spores can cover large areas and infect a lot of plants if not addressed quickly. The best thing you can do for your plants is to ensure they have good air circulation and when watering, water the base of the plants rather than the leaves. Some dusts can resolve the issue early on, but most often you will need to clear out all the infected plants quickly and destroy them.
Verticillium & Fusarium Wilt: Verticillium wilt will appear as a yellowing on mature leaves, between the veins. Fusarium wilt will cause an antire branch of leaves to yellow and wilt. Both types of wilt are fungal infections that unfortunately are not really caused by weather or growing conditions, but rather are inherent in the plant itself. There is no treatment for wilt and it will spread quickly and kill the plant. If infected, remove the plants from the garden quickly and destroy them before they infect other plants.
Tomato Plant Problems - Nematodes & Hornworms:
Nematodes: These are tiny little insects that live in the soil and can cause the roots of your tomato plants to swell and stunt the growth of the plant. Unfortunately there is nothing you can really do to treat this tomato problem, however plants that are infested can still be grown through harvest. The best thing you can do to is grow varieties that are resistant to nematodes, and you can also plant varieties of marigolds that release chemicals into the soil to kill the insects.
Hornworms: Hornworms will look like big green caterpillars on the leaves of your tomato plants. They will feed off the leaves and unripened fruit, damaging the plant. The best thing you can do is pick them off by hand and get rid of them.
These are 10 of the most common tomato plant problems that you are likely to face in your garden. I hope that this list helps a few of you better identify these issues and deal with them, so that you can have a more successful crop of tomatoes!
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