While home-grown tomatoes are far from the disappointments that sit on supermarket shelves, tomato plant care for the ones growing at home is a huge task in itself. Whether you are a novice or an experienced gardener, certain tomato plant problems and diseases are bound to crop up no matter what.
But do we need to worry? A little, maybe. But with us having discussed the tomato care tips in detail, you can grow tomatoes at home with the utmost ease.
Common Tomato Plant Problems
The love gardeners have for their tomatoes growing in their backyard is unrivalled and matches only with the love they have for their immediate family. While the rewards home-grown tomatoes bring to the table are umpteen, the issues they face while growing are no less.
Within a few weeks of sowing tomato seeds, the plant leaves might turn yellow or be eaten or the fruit might crack or…the list goes on. It is, therefore, important to identify the basic problems that tomatoes face and prevent the same.
Here’s how you can proceed with your tomato seedling care.
1. Blossom End Rot (BER)
Identification: These dark spots at the bottom of tomatoes, opposite to the stem, are blossom end rot. Apart from the black patches that look leathery, the plant appears healthy. However, if you try to cut the sunken patch out to consume the fruit, it will look mealy from the inside and won’t taste as good as homegrown tomatoes usually do.
Cause: BER is either caused by uneven watering (wet-dry circles in soil) or by calcium deficiency.
Prevention: Make sure there’s enough calcium in the soil and the pH level is high enough (around 6.5) for the tomato plant to absorb the calcium available. Also, to keep the soil consistently moist, water the plant at the same time daily. Using mulch can prove to be beneficial too.
Treatment: The first thing you need to do after you find your tomato patch hit with BER is to pick the affected fruits. This is to avoid BER from spreading. Then, take diluted milk (50: 50 | Water: Milk) and add the same to the soil for an instant calcium boost.
If you aren’t inclined towards picking your fruits, you can use a calcium spray to prevent BER from developing further. However, spray either early morning or late in the evening else the leaves will burn. Adding compost to the soil that has crushed eggshells also helps significantly.
Please note that BER isn’t one of the tomato plant diseases we so often hear about but only a deficiency.
2. Skin Cracking
Identification: As the name suggests, tomatoes can have cracks appear on their glossy skin. This usually happens in concentric circles.
Cause: Uneven water supply while the plant is ripening. If you water the plants after keeping them thirsty for a while, they’ll take up more water than needed only to pop their skins.
Prevention: Mulch the soil and water the plant evenly. If you anticipate rainfall, pick fully-coloured tomatoes to avoid these tomatoes cracking open.
Treatment: If your tomatoes split, don’t panic as you’ll still be able to consume them. Yes, cracked tomatoes are edible, yay! Just harvest them as quickly as you can as they are prone to insect damage and rotting. After harvesting, consume them before you consume the ones with smooth skin.
3. Tomato Early Blight
Identification: Dark spots on tomato leaves forming concentric circles and the leaves turning yellow around the spots.
Cause: Fungus named Alternaria Solani.
Prevention: Crop rotation. Don’t grow tomatoes in the same spot as before.
Treatment: If you find these early signs in your tomato plant, use a garden fungicide. Remove all fallen infected leaves and destroy them. Don’t add them to the compost.
4. Tomato Late Blight
Identification: Dark, damaged leaves. White fungus growing on the lower leaf.
Prevention Rotate crops. Stake or cage the tomatoes.
Treatment: Remove and destroy all affected leaves. Mulch around the base of the plant with straw or wood chips to prevent fungal spores.
5. Poor Fruit Setting
Identification: All leaves, no fruit - one of the major tomato plant problems.
Cause: Too much nitrogen in the soil or tomato seeds sown too close.
Prevention: Get your soil tested before planting tomato seeds and sow them at adequate distances.
Treatment: Shake the branches with flowers to simulate wind and get the pollen from the stamens to the pistils.
6. Leaf Curling
Identification: If you mumble “leaf curling” in a group of gardeners, you’ll most likely be getting reactions like “Ohh(s)” and “Oops” and “Same”. This proves it is one of the most common tomato plant diseases. Leaves rolling upwards, yellow leaves, and plant stunting are the symptoms.
Cause: Viral infection. It is either spread by aphids or carried through infected seedlings.
Prevention: Don’t over prune. Make sure the soil is well-drained.
Treatment: Avoid over-fertilizing. Spray an insecticide, especially on the tops and undersides of the leaves.
7. Bacterial Wilt
Identification: Wilting of leaves and death of plants without warning. You can check by splitting the main stem. If it’s discoloured, it might be infected. To assure yourself, place the stem in water and look for milky liquid bleeding out of the stem.
Cause: Bacteria called Pseudomonas Solanacearum. Wet weather and the high pH of soil are other factors.
Prevention: Bacterial wilt is difficult to control in infested soils. Hence, avoid using diseased transplants.
Treatment: Soil fumigation can help. Besides, removing and destroying infected plants is the best way towards tomato plant care.
8. Tomato Hornworms
Identification: If you find holes in leaves or disappeared leaves, hornworms might be at work. They can gobble down your tomato plant overnight; thanks to their excellent camouflage skills.
Cause: Nature. Can’t really do much about this!
Prevention: Plant marigold plants around tomatoes. The strong flower scent repels hornworms naturally.
Treatment: Because nature causes this damage, shouldn’t nature be offering a solution itself? Well, good news; it does! Parasitic wasps lay eggs on the body of hornworms. When the eggs hatch, the tiny wasps start eating the worm; thereby killing it.
But we understand that leaving everything in nature can lead to an entire tomato patch being invaded by the hornworm army. You can, therefore, use an insect-killing spray.
Another thing that you can do is be Sherlock Holmes and check up on your plant at night. Your eyes will have to do some extra work because they are hard to spot but once you do, you can put the spray into action.
9. Tomato Sunscald
Identification: Just like humans suffer from sunburns, tomatoes suffer from sunscalds. The tomato skin turns white and paper-thin in this case.
Cause: Direct exposure to the sun. Lack of leaves to offer tomatoes the requisite shade they need from the sun.
Prevention: Staking tomatoes or using tomato cages can really help. Don’t over prune the leaves next. And lastly, don’t expose them to direct sunlight.
Treatment: Unfortunately, there’s no going back if your plant has been affected. While there’s no cure, its process can be slowed down or stopped.
For fruits that are still growing, shade the plant adequately.
For fruits that are on the verge of ripening, let them ripen indoors if possible.
Identification: The tomatoes look deformed. This usually happens at the bottom end of the tomato.
Cause: Cool temperatures during pollination. Flowers usually fall when temperatures are low. However, the ones that don’t are prone to lumps and bumps. Excessive nitrogen levels in the soil. Over pruning.
Prevention: Plant tomatoes in slightly warmer temperatures.
Treatment: Nothing much can be done to make the plant normal again. But no need to worry! Deformed tomatoes don’t hamper the taste and can safely be eaten.
When you see something like this happening, you can use a black plastic spread on the soil. Plastics heat during the day and release the same at night; thus keeping the temperature warm.
Well, these were some of the major tomato plant diseases and problems that gardeners growing tomato seeds at homes face! We hope we could be of some help to you with our tomato care tips and tricks.
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