The Q&A Archives: Possible Reasons for Stunted Tomatoes

Question: I have a square-foot gardening project going on in my backyard in which I have planted two varieties of tomatoes. I used bagged topsoil in the correct proportion to cow manure and mulched. Due to the large amounts of rainfall we've had here recently, I haven't really had to water them at all, in fact, I'm worried they've had too much. My "Sweet 100" cherry tomatoes are flourishing, bright green and lots of fruit, but my Beefsteak' tomatoes seem stunted, somewhat pale, and what few blossoms there are have eventually turned yellow and fallen off after setting. The area is well drained and gets full sun all day. What could be the problem here? Stacey Bliss Baytown, TX

Answer: It sounds like you've prepared the soil well and given your tomatoes a good start. However, your plants may be succumbing to a fungal disease. Fusarium wilt, a problem in the south, causes plants to droop and the older leaves to turn yellow and drop off. There is no cure for the infected plants. Wet conditions promote other fungus infections, such as southern blight, in which the plants wilt and the stem at the soil line shows a brown, soft rot. This disease can be prevented by wrapping a tomato stem with aluminum foil when you plant so that 2 inches of the foil is below ground and 2 inches extends above ground. Unfortunately, there's no cure for this one either. Disease-resistant tomato varieties are available and you still have plenty of time to replant with such varieties if necessary.

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