Mavis Garden Blog – What’s Wrong with My Tomato Plant?

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I hope you know, I do not consider myself to be a “gardening expert.”  I have no formal training, and I did not grow up in a household full of gardeners.  I grew up in suburbia, and we had a gardener who cut our lawn, trimmed the hedges, and occasionally planted flowers for us.

Although I do remember going with my mother to the local nurseries from time to time to pick out flowers, we never bought seeds or vegetable starts. Growing up, my only real experience with gardening was watching my mother fill the large pots that sat next to our front door with hot pink, purple and white annuals.

This whole “love of vegetable gardening” happened quite by accident.

Which leads me to today’s topic “What’s wrong with my tomato plant?

Yesterday, as I was cleaning up the garden beds I finally made the decision to pull up about 10 diseased tomato plants.  With the exception of 2 doses of Miracle Grow each summer, I don’t like to use chemicals in my garden.  Now, I don’t want to sound like a garden snob, but the only time I have had problems with tomato plants has been when I purchased the plants from a store, farmer’s market, or some other type of plant sale.

And although I planted over 120 heirloom tomato plants in my garden this year {started from seed}, I was forced to buy a bunch of new plants because the Handsome Husband killed half my crop while The Girl and I took a mini vacation.

So, in a nut shell, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with diseased plants, and I need your help.

Can you tell by the photographs above what was wrong with these tomato plants?

I would really appreciate any suggestions you might have, just in case more of them start to go downhill.

Thanks in advance,

Mavis

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Comments

  1. Check out this page, it sounds like Blight which can come in on transplants

    http://gardening.about.com/od/vegetablepatch/a/TomatoProblems.htm

  2. By the way, I know nothing about gardening so you probably shouldn’t listen to me!

  3. Yeah, probably blight. Are they dying from the ground up?

  4. Monique says:

    Def blight, perhaps from a bacteria in the dirt. Doesnt mean that they came in that way, or that its your fault. A simple splash of dirt from the ground to the tomatos can cause it. This is why it always key to keep tomatos in pots, or to use a gardening mesh at the base, simply putting th plants through holes in the mesh, and running the soaker hoses underneath the mesh….that way no splashes.

    Not that I have much experience, but my mum was a “master gardener” as a hobby, and organic horticulturist by degree….and forced me to help :( LOL.

  5. So so so sorry. Blight killed all but 2 of my tomato plants this year. I’ve never had a disease problem before. I’d pull ALL of the diseased plants before it spreads. Here is a snippet of something off of the internet about blight:
    Early Blight

    Early blight is caused by a fungus.

    To identify early blight, look to see if the plant’s leaves have brown spots that are surrounded by yellow. These spots will spread outward. The lower leaves on the plant will be withering.

    To reduce the chance of your plants succumbing to early blight, you should apply a layer of mulch to reduce splashing, and then apply an all-purpose tomato dust. You can use this as a blight treatment, but if the fungus is too far along, it may not work.
    If your tomatoes are already suffering from any sort of blight (early or late), the plants should be pulled.

  6. LaurelB says:

    Put some powdered milk around the base of the plant and soil, don;t mix it in the soil. Don’t water right away, but when you water next, water the soil not the plant. Compost tea works well also, kind of like people taking pro biotics, good bacteria to fight bad. Next year you will need to plant your tomatoes in a different area. Blight is hard to get rid of.

  7. It is in fact blight. It is a fungal disease that is very common with tomatoes. It may or may not have come in with the purchased plants, but is more likely that it simply happened because of the variety, the weather and the synthetic fertilizer.

    Some varieties of tomatoes are more susceptible to this kind of blight. In the heirloom world the black tomatoes or long pointy tomatoes are more apt to get diseases. The cool wet June also probably had something to do with it. The humidity from the rain and the water splashing from the ground back up onto the plant makes the perfect environment for fungal matter to go. Also the synthetic fertilizer from the Miracle-Gro doesn’t help. Synthetic fertilizers are salt based and are quite effective at killing off all of the natural bacteria and disease fighting properties the soil naturally has. By consistently using organic practices (organic fertilizers and composts) you’ll have fewer disease and pest problems in the long run. The increased soil health will also have an impact on yields. Of course heirloom tomatoes are totally weather dependent. If the summer isn’t warm enough no amount of fertilizer, organic or synthetic, will give you a good yield.

    Three years ago I planted 10 heirloom tomatoes. Fertilized them organically with plain ol’ Alaska Fish and ended up with 130 pounds of fruit. The weather was outstanding for tomatoes. Two years ago I planted 15 plants, used the same practices and only got about 90 pounds.

    • A good organic fertilizer is manure tea. I just made some two weeks ago and have been watering things with it ever since. Fill a bucket loosely with your chicken poo. Fill with water to cover. Place a screen or some other mesh over the bucket (to prevent mosquitoes from breeding) and let it sit out for a week or two. Then strain the solids out of the bucket. you will be left with a foul-smelling concentrate. I mix about two cups of this into my 1 gallon watering can and give each plant a good drink of it. The smell will leave within a few hours, don’t worry.

    • Do be careful with manure teas that aren’t properly aerated. They can breed bacteria and cause more harm in the long run.

  8. Oh no!!! Blight is a beast! I’m so sorry. :(

  9. You don’t need chemicals to treat for pest insects or plant diseases:

    You could try:

    Baking Soda Spray
    Treats powdery mildew and other fungus
    1 gallon of water
    3 tablespoons of baking soda
    1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid

    Milk Spray
    Treats powdery mildew and other fungus
    1 quart of milk
    1 quart of water

    or go here for more recipes: http://www.veggiegardener.com/12-homemade-natural-remedies-for-the-garden/

  10. Saralie says:

    Yes it is blight. I had it on 50 of my tomoto plants this year. It was very early in the season so I was able to control it. I removed all the contaminated leaves and burned them. I then watered them with a copper solution (called Bordo from a company Green Earth I an in Canada so I dont know if you have it in the US) for 2 weeks. They seem okay now. Best of luck!

  11. The gentleman who runs my local nursery also told me that I can not ever plant my tomatoes in the same place again. The blight is carried by wind and water and my whole garden was affected with the exception of the lettuce and radishes. He said to burn the plants far away from my garden or pull the plants slowly and place them in garbage bags in the garbage. It got my cucumbers, peppers, watermelon, and tomatoes.

  12. I agree…blight. Common problem in the South (along w/white flies & caterpillars). I’ve never had it out here, but did when we lived in the South.

  13. We’ve had a very wet and humid spring and early summer here in the Pacific Northwest and the blight pressure is high. You need good air circulation, lots of sunshine and dry weather. We are not getting it right now! I haven’t seen any blight on my tomatoes yet, but it might come if this rain keeps up for a few more days. Not a whole lot you can do about it and start begging for dry sunny weather!

  14. Hey I dug up the definitive guide to these problems from University of California. Click through these diseases to see what matches your problem, but I’m betting what people are calling blight is a form of Powdery Mildew which is easy to control with organic chemicals namely baking soda and sulfur. No need to rip out the plants but you might have to spray to keep them in the ground

    http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/selectnewpest.tomatoes.html

  15. mine got attacked by worms. *insert grump face* And I think the one plant which is now dead has blight as well since one whole stem is brown and ugly. I was so looking forward to these too because they were supposed to be purple.

  16. That darn blight got me too.

    After doing some research, I went in with a sharp knife and cut all branches 8 inches from the ground. Any branch on top with any dark spots were nipped as well and then I used a spray from Walmart. It is organic and helps with blight. Comes in a teal bottle. I sprayed the mess out of every spot on each one of the tomato plants. So far, so good. I learned that if you dont get rid of those bad leaves, it will rub against the healthy parts of your plant and it will spread. Also, wash your hands so you dont cross contaminate the healthy parts. Hope things get better for you.

  17. As others have noted, it’s blight. Really cant save it, but I once managed to stall it long enough to get some fruit. Cut off the worst leaves. Spray a natural based dish soap mixed with water on the remaining blight spots to slow the growth.

    You can help reduce the chances of blight by putting down a good mulch or other ground covering once planted. It usually comes from the dirt splashed up when it rains or you are watering.

  18. Monique says:

    I still have to say that a gardening mesh (the black stuff that simply lays low on the ground) with soaker hoses underneath is the absolute best way to combate blight. Obviously there are the usual mix this with that and add this nutrient that would help next time, but I think a nice healthy cocktail and then using the soaker hoses and mesh is the foolproof way to keep tomatoes and other hanging type fruit producing plants healthy. (peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc)

  19. Yikes, blight is no fun! Our plants had it about 5 years ago. It was late in the season and really put a halt to canning. We had to clear out all the plants, and put them in the trash so they would not infect our soil for the following year. We had an unusally cold and damp summer, which helped the blight spread.

    We made raised beds the following year. It was quite an undertaking for 100 tomato plants. We made sure the plants would be well drained without drying out. Haven’t had any problems since.

    Here is an article that discusses it:
    http://www.bigblogofgardening.com/should-you-compost-your-blighted-tomato-plants/

  20. Madam Chow says:

    Yes, blight. Now, I have read (but have not tried), that you can plant in the same area the following season IF – you clean out all the infected plants, water the earth, and then cover with black plastic garbage bags and let them sit and bake in the sun for six weeks. I haven’t tried this, but you might want to experiment.

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