The Q&A Archives: Tomatoes And Black Walnuts

Question: Not knowing any better, I planted my vegetable garden (tomatoes) within 50 feet of a Black Walnut tree. The tomatoes are wilting badly. Will they die from the walnut tree if I leave them where they are? Or can I transplant them to a better location and get them to continue growing? Will the wilt affect the tomatoes growth? I plan on cutting the walnut tree down. Will the roots in the ground still affect any tomato plants in the future?

Answer: Unfortunately, black walnut toxicity will kill your tomatoes as well as related plants such as eggplants and peppers. Certain other plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons are also extremely sensitive to the black walnut. The majority of the toxin is exuded from the roots, so cutting down the tree will not solve the problem. In relocating the garden area, keep in mind that the tree's root system often extends out from the trunk about one and a half times its height and will persist in the soil for some years. If the tree has been cut and is no longer shedding leaves and twigs over the area, however, you might consider using raised beds to avoid the roots. In addition, maintaining a very healthy soil with ample amounts of organic matter also seems to help plants in the "somewhat sensitive" range fight the toxin.

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