The Q&A Archives: Yellow and dying tomato leaves and water meter

Question: My tomato plant has been losing its bottom leaves. The little branches become yellow and then die. I remove them and now a large portion of my plant is bare (no fruit affected). I took a picture and went to local Home Depot. Was told I may be over watering and bought a moisture meter (awesome!). I think I was overwatering because I have not watered for 3-4 days and soil is registering wet (9-10). The plant is in a good size pot with holes in bottom and I believe it is ventilated.
I think I have been overwatering my bell peppers, jalepenos, and flowers for the same reason. My concern is that my vegetables and plants seem to get droopy in the hot sun (80-90 degrees in San Diego, Ca) and look like they need to be watered although they are registering moist-wet. What should I do?
Also, how should I handle the dying tomato leaves?

Answer: Sounds as though your tomato plant is still suffering from over-watering. As soon as the soil moisture level improves, your plant's appearance should improve, as well. When you keep the soil too soggy it drives out oxygen and can actually suffocate plant roots. That's why it is important to keep the moisture level adequate to prevent wilting but not so wet that you invite root rot. A water meter will help you determine when to water. Another way is to water as usual and then pick up the pot to see how heavy it is. Wait 2-3 days and pick it up again. When it is relatively light in weight and the top inch of soil is dry, it's time to water. Since your plants are in containers you can expect the plants to look wilty in the afternoon sun. This is mostly because the roots are above ground and can become overheated, especially if sunshine directly hits the container. You'll see an improvement if you can shade the container from hot afternoon sun but still allow the sun to reach the tops of the plants. I tend to group my plants together so the pots can help shade each other. I've also been known to set a cardboard box in front of my containerized plant groupings to deflect the sunshine. I'm sure you can be just as creative with your containerized plants.

Hope this helps!

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