Ask a Question forum: Tomato plants dying from the bottom up 2 years in a row

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Atlanta (Zone 7b)
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CaptainRambler
Jul 12, 2017 10:35 AM CST
I have been gardening for four years in two raised beds 4ft x 8ft each. Two years ago, tomato harvesting was great with no issues. I am using brandywine tomato plants. Last year however, the plants started beautiful and green as usual and grew wonderfully to four feet tall and then the bottom leaves started turning yellow. This happened as soon as the first fruits started reaching full size. Over a couple of weeks, the bottom branches had gone from yellow to completely brown and dead. After harvesting about 10 tomatoes from each plant, over half the plant was dead and then continued to die completely. I have moved the tomato plants to the opposite raised bed garden for this year and the same thing is now happening. It is as if the plant is dying through the stress of creating fruit or something. I have googled "tomato plants dying from the bottom up" and there are many many descriptions of what the problem could be. From some people saying they added magnesium to the soil, to watering issues, and all the way to fungus infestations. Nothing I have tried so far have helped save the plants. This year I have cherry tomato plants along with the brandywine plants and this issue is happening to all of them. My peppers have never had this problem and they grow strong and produce fruit all the way to December. Please let me know what you think as I am desperately trying to save my delicious organic tomatoes. Pictures of both types of tomato plans have been attached. Thank you so much for your help.


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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 12, 2017 10:42 AM CST
Gosh - that is disheartening. Do you rotate your crops in the raised bed? Your area is hotter and more humid than mine but that's the first thing I wondered.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Atlanta (Zone 7b)
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CaptainRambler
Jul 12, 2017 10:48 AM CST
Hey Shadegardener. For the first 3 years, garden #2 were all of my peppers and cucumbers, garden #1 were the tomatoes and basil. This year I have swapped the locations and the issue is still occurring. I fertilize regularly with jobes organic vegetable and tomato fertilizer.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 12, 2017 10:52 AM CST
Captain - have you used the same fertilizer all 4 years? Do you start your plants from seed or purchase them at a nursery? Do you water only in the mornings (other than rain)? Morning sun? Good air circulation around the plants? I know - lots of questions. Smiling
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Atlanta (Zone 7b)
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CaptainRambler
Jul 12, 2017 11:08 AM CST
Same fertilizer yes. Grown from seed, direct sow after final frost. Usually in March. Only water in the mornings when necessary around 8-9am. Sun hits the gardens around 10am and stays until around 5pm. Great sun and great air circulation.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 12, 2017 11:40 AM CST
Captain - it sure sounds like you're doing everything right. Hopefully someone who grows tomatoes in the south will chime in with some ideas. Some afflictions can be more regional.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Jul 12, 2017 3:48 PM CST
Eye's Captain ! Looks like wilt to mees. Lives in soil for likes ?😕???
3 or 4 years. There's bees no others cures fores it.
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Plant Identifier Region: Nebraska Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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KentPfeiffer
Jul 12, 2017 5:48 PM CST

Plants Admin

Looks like Early Blight, which is a very common fungal disease on tomatoes in the eastern US. The easiest way to deal with is to plant varieties that are somewhat resistant (like Jet Star or Surecrop) or varieties that are so vigorous they can put on new leaves faster than the old ones die (Sun Sugar and many other cherry tomatoes fit that group). Heirloom varieties tend to be more vulnerable to these types of problems than newer hybrids.

Fungicides can slow it down. Daconill, Maneb, and various copper-based formulations are probably the most commonly used in home gardens. Personally, I'd rather go without tomatoes than spray them with chemicals, but everybody has their own idea about that sort of thing.

Over-fertilizing, over-watering, and watering at the wrong time of day can all allow the blight to spread faster.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jul 12, 2017 7:28 PM CST
My tomato plants always have what appears (to me, at least) to be the same problem. For me it generally starts around mid summer when we get some days with cool, rainy weather. The taller varieties that I grow (including Brandywine) have largely been able to survive because they grow faster than the disease progresses; however, shorter determinate types die pretty early. I've never figured out if it's a blight (which everyone around here seems to call it) or a wilt, and I've tried using Daconil and other remedies without much success.

What I HAVE had great success with is growing the plants inside a hoop house; I experimented with this last year and the Viva Italia plants that I always grow, which are always the first to succumb, kept growing until late October and were still growing strong (with almost no sign of any disease), but we had to pull them to free up the space for another project. They also produced WAY more tomatoes than they normally did in the "outside" garden. That was so successful that we were inspired to build a 16x20 greenhouse mainly for growing the tomatoes; since summer is still relatively young I won't know for a while if the good results will be duplicated this year, but I'm certainly very optimistic.

These were the tomatoes in the hoop house last year (Oct. 9)
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These are the tomato plants in the new greenhouse, photo just taken today
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By way of contrast -- tomatoes in the "outside garden" in mid October 2014
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A huge plus for me is that I can put them out a full month early (even though both the HH and the GH are unheated), and they will also keep growing without being harmed by the early frosts. Smiling

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Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Jul 12, 2017 10:23 PM CST
What Kent said. That is Early Blight.

Also add a tablespoon of Epsom Salts every couple weeks and water in well.
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Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Jul 13, 2017 10:36 AM CST
It is some form of blight and unfortunately it blows in from wherever it comes from unto ones garden. Certain tomato varieties are more prone to come down with these fungal issues than others.

My suggestion is that next year try at least some modern hybrid variety as that might work out much better for you.
Eastern Tennessee (Zone 7a)
Nominix
Jul 13, 2017 5:38 PM CST
Cut the discolored leaves and stems from the plant - Discard away from the garden - Use a copper fungicide - I use Bonide - should slow the progression - get what fruits you can from them and keep an eye on the blooms - If the blooms are dying ( or discolored) just get what you can from them ( If you have ripening fruit) and destroy the plant. Main point- let them go as long as you can to get some fruit but dont be afraid to kill them off if they have gotten too bad.

Take clear plastic and "solarize" your beds. Needs to be done in the hottest part of the season - which unfortunately is right now - the time when tomatoes are normally producing like mad.

Article and instructions - http://www.gardensalive.com/pr...
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 13, 2017 7:14 PM CST
Yes, I'm on board the train with Early Blight. Unfortunately, you're going to have to switch up your tomato varieties to the more resistant modern hybrids to defeat it.

I moved to FL from Utah 15 years ago, and Brandywine was a favorite tomato but from the very first year I tried to grow it here, it died of some disease or other. After 3 years of losing my beautiful big plants just as the tomatoes were coming along, I started trying resistant types that have been bred specifically to withstand our Deep South conditions, including that every bug and fungus lives among us.

Look for a variety with as many numbers and letters after the name as possible. VFNA 123 and so on. They really do produce more dependably. Tomato Grower's Supply down here in Ft. Myers FL is my favorite seed supplier.

If you have enough hot weather after you pull out your tomatoes, solarizing the soil (baking it under clear plastic in the sun for 6 weeks) will go a long way towards eliminating soil-borne contaminants or pathogens without using noxious chemicals. Just google "soil solarization" and you'll get lots of info on how to do it right.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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