In the late spring, when we get our tomato plants, we have such hopes. We water them diligently, we wrap them in season extenders or cover them with frost cloth if it gets cold, and set up our cages carefully to support them as they grow.
They flower and we can’t wait for the delicious results.
And then, well, things go south. There are a bunch of common afflictions that strike tomato plants and today I want to tell you about them and what you can do about them.
Blossom Drop – When flowers appear on your tomato plants, but fall off without tomatoes developing, it’s likely you have blossom drop. Temperature fluctuations can cause it, but insect damage, lack of water, too much or too little nitrogen, and lack of pollination can also be the culprit.
What to do about it: While you can’t change the weather, you can make sure the rest of the plant is strong by using organic fertilizer for tomatoes, drawing pollinators by planting milkweed and cosmos, and using neem oil insecticides.
Fruit Cracks – Cracks appear on ripe tomatoes, usually in concentric circles, are fruit cracks. Besides being unsightly, sometimes insects use the cracks as an opportunity to eat the fruit. Hot, rainy weather can cause it. After a long dry spell, tomatoes are thirsty. Plants may take up water rapidly after the first heavy rainfall. This swells the fruit and causes it to crack.
What to do about them: Although you can’t control the rain, you can water tomatoes evenly during the growing season. This prevents them from being so thirsty that they take up too much rainwater during a heavy downpour.
Leaf Roll – This is when mature tomato plants suddenly curl their leaves, with them rolling up from the outside towards the center. As much as 75% of the plant can be affected. High temperatures, wet soil and too much pruning are often the cause.
What to do about it: Although it looks ugly, leaf roll won’t affect tomato development, so you will still get edible tomatoes from your plants. Avoid over-pruning and make sure the soil drains excess water away.
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) – TSWV is spread by one of the arch-enemies of any garden, thrips. I absolutely hate thrips. They acquire the virus by feeding on an infected weed, then they spread it to developing tomato plants. Several weeks after transplanting the tomato plants into the garden, random plants may appear stunted, and younger leaves may be marked with bronze or dark spots, or have prominent purple veins. Often the upper foliage will become twisted and cupped as the bronze areas expand. Fruits may have yellow spots. Younger plants may wilt and die, but older plants may survive and bear discolored fruit that may not fully ripen.
What to do about it: Eliminating weeds in the garden is the first step in reducing the chance of acquiring TSWV. Keeping the grass and weeds mowed in areas surrounding the garden may reduce the spread of thrips onto susceptible garden plants.
There are several other possible tomato problems. If you are worried about how your plants are doing, please take a picture and bring it in to Warner’s Nursery. We can help you identify what’s going on and how to prevent it in the future.