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fate of my tomatoes

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2004
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by hollers on August 06, 2004 12:29 AM
Hi.
I'm a brand new poster. I've visited the site a few times trying to find information on growing tomatoes, and found the folks on the site to be very knowledgeable, so I hope someone can help me.

This is the second year I've grown tomato plants (Celebrity) in containers (with cages) on my deck. I live in southwestern PA. I bought the plants already started and potted them with Miracle-Gro potting soil in late May. I've since used Miracle-Gro on my plants about once a week or so. My plants are probably about three-feet tall and have produced lots of beautiful fruit this year. I got some really large tomatoes (bigger than last year -- probably due to the Miracle-Gro). I got my first ripe tomatoes last week.

Now for the horror story. I guess about maybe two weeks ago or so I noticed the bottom leaves starting to turn yellow. Then they turn brown..and it seems the whole stem dies. So far, the fruit on the plants is fine, but I've noticed that any new blossoms turn brown and fall off. The leaves on the top are starting to look droopy, even though I water every day. I'm afraid I might have fusarium or verticillium wilt...I guess I'm just looking for an expert opinion. Also, if this is the case...what will be the fate of the tomatoes that are already formed? Are my plants close to death??

My next question is how could this happen? My plants are not in the ground, so it couldn't have been anything in the ground. Does this disease just develop -- even in potting soil?

I'd appreciate any information or feedback..and any suggestions for next year, although I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it. I've babied these plants for months and am pretty upset. Last year I had blossom end rot, and I was so excited to have a great bunch of tomatoes this year!

Thanks in advance!
by zelinda on August 06, 2004 01:54 AM
I'm experiencing quite the same issue as you.

This is my first year growing tomatoes. I have one Celebrity and one Sweet 100 plant. They are in containers and cages on my balcony. About 3 weeks ago the leaves began turning yellow, then drying out and turning brown, then the stem also dried up. This started at the bottom and worked its way up. The fruit is all fine and still growing and ripening. The new growth seems slightly limp, but I'm still getting new blooms and new fruit.

When I started noticing these issues I was really worried about the plants, and I thought they were dying. Now I'm wondering if this is just the normal lifecycle of tomatoes, or if it's a more serious problem?

I'm trying to stay positive. My thinking is, these are annuals, they are only supposed to last so long. If the fruit is still healthy, everything is ok. [grin]
by Pineapple_Raye on August 06, 2004 01:57 AM
This is interesting to say the least. What you discribe sounds like Fusarium wilt, but Celebrity is resistance to both Verticillium wilt and Fusarium wilt. However, it is not resistance to Walnut wilt. If your purchased potting soil had any black walnut roots ground up into it then this would happen. The soiless mixture you are using did you use it last year? I'm not a big believer in Miracle-Gro. What else are you feeding your plants?

Temperatures over 100 degrees can cause your flowers to die and fall off. While we have not seen 100 degress where I live, in the corner of my entry way to the house in the afternoon the heat radiats/ collects there and it goes well over 110 degree many afternoons. Perhaps you have this same situation.

Next what I'm going to say will bring down upon my head  - every Celebrity grower on this site. I don't care for Celebrity. I tried them three times. They never product well for me and they seem to die early.

Suggestions? Well I know you are fustrated person. As such I believe we need to get you on to a season of success. What I suggest is you purchase an Earthbox. http://www.earthbox.com While I'm totally an organic gardener, I'm going to look the other way when I will suggest you follow their program. Follow their program. Or if you want to go totally organic I can help you there. It is not really any harder. You just have to mix your own fertilzer. Next, if heat is a problem on your deck then I suggest trying out Burpee's Heatwave tomatoes. Heatwave

There are several heat-resistant varieties besides Heatwave. Those with medium to large fruit are: Homestead 24, Merced, Solar Set, Spitfire, Sun Chaser, Sunmaster, Sunny, Surefire, Terrific and Viva Italia. The small fruit ones are: Gardenerís Delight, Grape, Husky Cherry Red, Jolly, Juliet, Small Fry, Sugar Snack, Sun Cherry, SunGold, SuperSweet 100 and Sweet Chelsea.

Burpee is claiming that Heatwave will set fruit @ 100 degrees; however, I read two studies where it set fruit at 117 degrees. I have grown them here in the summer along with other heat tomatos. My summers are hot. Not a bad fruit. About 8-10 ounce.

Sorry I could not be of more help. Perhaps Phil can when he see this thread.
by hollers on August 06, 2004 02:21 AM
Pineapple_Raye,
Thank you for your comments. I wasn't sure if Celebrity was resistant to both wilts or not. I have no idea if any Walnut roots were ground up in the potting mix I used....I sure hope that's not the problem!

I don't think heat is the problem, though. So far in the N'east, we've had a very mild summer. In fact, tomorrow's high is only supposed to reach the high 60s -- and we haven't hit 90 degrees yet! And like I mentioned, my fruit set beautifully. All four plants were polluted with fruit. But then the yellow leaves started. I'm worried I won't get to enjoy all the fruit on my plants now.

I will check out earthbox.com. I appreciate your comments and would welcome other thoughts. I am frustrated. I thought I did everything right this year!!!
by Pineapple_Raye on August 06, 2004 02:26 AM
hollers you more than likely did everything correctly. Now high of 60? Then your lows are in the 50s (?) If below 55 the same problem will happen to your flowers--if I remember correctly.

Where I live I see alot of 68-72 the winter months so I don't really have to deal with cold weather.
by BigBoy on August 10, 2004 09:58 PM
How big are your containers? You need at least 4-5 gal. size or larger. Do they have enough drainage holes? You may be over fertilizing and over watering . . . especially if the soil is too heavy.
I agree about the Celebrity tomato. I will not plant anymore after this year. I have had better luck with 4th of July and Early Girl in containers. FWIW
by hollers on August 12, 2004 09:21 PM
Hi.

I'm not sure how big my containers are. I used them last year and didn't have this problem. I know it sounds as if I water a lot, but if I don't my plants wilt...after just one day! There are drainage holes in the bottom of my containers..I've seen the water come out when I've put a little too much water on the plants.

Like I mentioned, my plants were gorgeous until a few weeks ago. Now I can pull dead leaves off almost every day. It's sad. The good news is, my fruit is still ripening. Just ate one for lunch today!

So no one likes Celebrity, huh? I'll have to plant a new kind next year....are there others better suited for pots other than the two BigBoy mentioned?

One more thing...I read in the paper yesterday that a lot of tomato plants in our area are suffering late blight, I think, because of our damp, cool weather this summer...but I don't think that's what I have.....I don't know for sure, but like I said, my fruit hasn't been affected..except that I don't really see any new fruit setting. What set before the leaves started dying is ripening and not rotting.

Thanks in advance for any additional comments!
P.S. One more dumb question: I've read that you're not supposed to store tomatoes in the fridge because they lose their flavor. But what about a ripe tomato that you've cut a few slices from, but haven't used the whole thing?? Seems it should go in the refrigerator, right? Sorry for the dumb question!
by pagarden on August 14, 2004 05:08 AM
hi there! i'm in NE PA (in the poconos) and yup- very mild summer! a few of my tomatoes got deformed from the cool nights a few weeks ago. my plants seem to be alright, not as strong as a month ago or so. a few of the bottom leaves have a yellow tint to them, but are not browning or dying. my neighbors have started to die back though. turning yellow and browning and dying just like you mentioned. i suppose i am just lucky so far- or they are just late! LOL maybe it is because of the cool wet summer?
by pagarden on August 14, 2004 05:10 AM
oh yea, and forgot to say that after you cut a mater you should put it in the fridge. [Smile] you can leave them out if they aren't cut into though.
by hollers on August 16, 2004 03:36 AM
PAGarden,

Thanks for the info.

An update on my plants...now I'm noticing that the entire stem turns brown and it almost looks fuzzy. When I cut the dead stem off, something like dust flies into the air. Does that give anyone anymore clue as to what the heck is wrong with my plants? Pretty soon I'll have no more leaves left! My fruit is still ripening, though...although I don't think any of the smaller tomatoes will mature and ripen. Disheartening!

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