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General discussion regarding the techniques and methods used to successfully grow tomato plants in containers.

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Old August 10, 2016   #1
l_madu
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Default Newbie with Tomato Troubles! (photos)

Hi everyone!

I'm an ultra beginner to gardening (and by ultra beginner I mean never grown anything in my life) and earlier this year decided on a whim to try growing tomatoes from seed. I planted my seeds at the end of April, and my plants are now flowering and fruiting. The problem is that my leaves are in bad shape and I'm afraid they're just going to keep getting worse and I'll lose my plants and my fruit, and over 3 months of hard work will go down the drain.

I'm attaching some pictures so you can see the various symptoms I'm noticing. Sorry for the sideways ones...It will take me too long to delete, edit and reattach. In the pics you'll see some of these symptoms: leaves turning yellow, leaves turning brown and crispy on the edges and gradually spreading inwards, new leaves that grow in super tiny (are these stunted?), warped leaves that don't lay flat, leaves that curl down and feel hard/fragile, darkening/discolored leaves, the list goes on... I've browsed through tons of articles and guides for identifying tomato disease both in this forum and on the web, and I can't count the number of times I've come across info stating the cause could be either overwatering or underwatering... overfertilizing or underfertilizing... too much sun or too litle sun... I mean, how am I ever supposed to diagnose when it's always either/or? heeeeeelp!

tiny tims - this weird browning of the edges is slowly creeping up the entire plant
20160807_085018.jpg

tiny tims - this weird browning of the edges is slowly creeping up the entire plant
20160809_084833.jpg

yellowing leaves
20160809_214842.jpg

yellowing leaves
20160809_214921.jpg

warped leaves
20160809_214958.jpg

warped leaves
20160809_215007.jpg

tiny new leaf growth
20160809_215126.jpg

more yellow leaves
20160809_215245.jpg

crisp/burned edges?
20160810_063213.jpg

my homesteads...fruited 9 tomatoes so far
20160810_063226.jpg

my rutgers...fruited 2 tomatoes so far
20160810_063240.jpg

my manitobas...fruited 1 tomato so far
20160810_063310.jpg

dry/discolored/cracking leaves
20160810_063411.jpg

dry/discolored/cracking leaves
20160810_063428.jpg

dry/discolored/cracking leaves
20160810_063456.jpg

dry/discolored/cracking leaves
20160810_063609.jpg

To give some context on my urban garden:
- I have 15 determinate plants of 6 varieties (manitoba, rutgers, caribe, homestead, green striped zebra, and tiny tim)
- They live on the balcony of my small New York apartment (N/E facing), and get about 5-6 hours of sun in the mornings.
- I think I made the mistake of growing way too many tomatoes in one container (I have 2 or 3 in 5 gallon buckets), but this was ONLY after watching a youtube tutorial claiming that it could be done! Should I try and repot, or is it way too late??
- I water daily in the morning. I'm not sure if I'm giving too much or too little as I don't know how to quantify "1-2 inches of water per week" (suggested amount)
- I fertilize once a week with tomato tone liquid compost diluted according to the instructions on the bottle.
- I was out of town for one week at the end of July, and of course, that was the week we not only had a heat wave (90+ weather for 6 days straight with high humidity) but we also had thunderstorm for several days.

I'm sure I've made a thousand beginner mistakes, despite trying to do research in advance, so please don't beat down my already wounded ego. Any other information I can provide? Would really appreciate any insights or helpful suggestions to improve my plants' health.

Thank you!
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Old August 14, 2016   #2
Ed of Somis
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One thing I see right off the bat...your lower leaves have not been pruned off. Most of us prune off the lowers because most fungal tomato diseases start because of lower leaves being splashed while watering. Try that. Also, moisture meters are very cheap ($10)...and they work really well. Take the guesswork away from your watering.
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Old August 15, 2016   #3
PhilaGardener
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You might want to look into self-watering planters for next year. They would be great for your balcony. They can be purchased, but there are excellent threads on here that describe how to make them for little cost too.

You are off to a great start!
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Old August 15, 2016   #4
Nematode
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I think they are suffering a nutrient deficiency.
Tomato tone appears to be good fertilizer, but not complete nutrition for potted plants.
Normally soil will provide the missing components, but potting mix does not.
If you search here for what other container growers are doing you should find answers.
Keep at it, its worth figuring out, and you came to the right place.
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Old August 15, 2016   #5
PureHarvest
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Agree with Nematode. I am not familiar with liquid tomato tone. If you were to use a complete, powdered and soluble fertilizer, I think you would see immediate results. It is up to you to decide whether or not your ferts need to come from organic sources or not. That is a subject that is like asking which political party you should join, and I will not sidetrack this thread with my opinion, other than to say I like both types of fertilizer for different purposes and that used correctly and at the correct rates, both are good.
You are doing fine. Remember that the damage (yellow leaves, brown edges, curling) that you are seeing is something that has already happened in the past, whether a couple of days or week ago. The newest growth will tell you what is happening now. Is the newest growth green?
I see saucers under your pots. So, there might be things that are not getting flushed out the bottom when you water. Would be good to see water running out of the bottom now and again to make sure you are getting a flush. This could explain the burning edges. Salt build-up from not flushing out during watering would burn leaf edges.
Do not up-pot at this stage in the season. You could do 2 plants per pot if you are removing side/lateral shoots (suckers) to keep the plants from getting bushy/large.
I do not see any really bad signs of disease. Most disease for a container grower using potting mix is gonna be airborne, not from the soil, so do not worry too much from not having pruned off your lower leaves.
As far as watering, I would imagine this time of the year, daily watering in the morning is not over doing it. Water until it runs out the bottom (maybe a gallon per 5 gallon pot). Once it stops dripping out the bottom, pick the pot up a bit or tip one over a bit to the side and feel how heavy it is. Now you know what a fully watered plant feels like.
You can do this as a spot check after you water or in the afternoon to see if they might need a second watering on a hot or windy day. Sounds like you get afternoon shade, so that might not be necessary.

Last edited by PureHarvest; August 15, 2016 at 09:19 AM.
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Old August 15, 2016   #6
Starlight
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Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. You tried growing from seed for the first time and you actually got plants. That a good thing.
Don't get discouraged as I don't think there is one gardener that has ever had perfect crops all season long and not run into some sort of problems. Kinda comes with the territory and is a learning experience. As you can more experience more and more problems will disappear.

First, I would say not to be following them utube videos. If you really want to learn ask the folks on here in both the seed starting and the container growing forum. You have some of the most experienced and strongest growers I have ever seen right here at this site who always willing to offer advice that works.

I think 2-3 plants in one 5 gallon pot may be way to much. You might check up in the General Forum under the growing laterals thread to se if you could do such a thing. You could try and separate, but at this late stage it would set your plants way back.

Looks to me like several problems, but first, there are several varieties that their leaves do grow down and some that have kinda curly leaves. I know when I first saw leaves growing downwards and sort of curly, twisty, I thought something was wrong with the plant. There wasn't just the plants natural growth. Not familiar with what your growing so can't say if that normal growth habit for those varieties or not. You would have to ask about leaf habits of your specific plants.

I am not familiar with the liquid TT. But if it is like the granular, one a week is way to much. It will cause burning of the leaves, which may be what you have going on. I only use TT every other week and for 3 gallon pots only use 2 TSP and 1 TBS of Epsom salt.

What kind of soil do you have in your pots? Soil type makes a big difference in what you may or may not need to feed. I would recommend getting some Miracle Grow and using it. Containers lose their nutrients very fast. Some the plant takes up and some just leeches out. I water with MG 6 days a week. Even if you use a weak solution it will make a difference. The 7th say I just use plain water to wash out any salt that build up which is not good for growth.

Containers dry out real fast and you on a balcony which is going to hold alot more heat from the building and being up in the air. I don't think you giving your plants enough water which will cause crispy, burnt leaves. An easy way to tell is to buy like suggested a meter. They have ones that tell you about water level and pH in one, only problem is sometimes they don't go deep enough into the pot.

A way to tell if you plants are getting enough water is to get a bamboo skewer, like for chine food or a very skinny wooden dowel and stick it down inside you pot. Let sit for 15-20 minutes and pull out. If you don't see any kind of darker discoloration on the stick from where water was absorbed you need more water. In this heat and humidity alot of us are having to water twice a day. I can water at 7 am and by 1 or 2 in the afternoon I need to water again a small drink or everything wilts and leaves will start to burn.

I know it not very pretty, but you might try hanging a piece of shade cloth up to help shade your plants a bit. There plenty of suggestions from folks here about adding mulch or painting, or other ways to help keep moisture in your pots.

Other than those things, I don't see too much wrong and at this moment nothing that can't be corrected with a few changes.

Just don't give up on seed growing. Takes years sometimes to learn the correct way, but once you start getting a handle on it, you'll be so happy and proud of yourself. : ) Hang in there. Even if you only get one tomato, it a major success. : )
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Old August 15, 2016   #7
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If your plants are only getting 5 - 6 hrs of sunlight per day you are on the edge of being able to produce fruit. As the season gets later your sunlight will weaken even more. You can enhance the sunlight exposure by setting up some light reflective material - mylar or anything white or silver that can reflect light to the plants. I have found this to aid late season production in an area I use that only gets 6 hrs per day of sunlight. The suggestions above regarding nutrients is good, but without light your results won't be great. Good luck.
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Old August 15, 2016   #8
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You are doing great for a newbie. I would agree that you have too many plants in one pot. I don't grow in containers and they have their own challenges, like nutrients washing out, but I think that most people plant one tomato plant to a 5 gallon pot.

I don't know if people planting in pots worry about pruning off the lower branches. Those of us that grow our plants in the ground prune the lower branches because some blight spores and other disease causing organisms live in the soil. You are using potting soil so I don't know why that would be an issue but like I said, I am not experienced with container growing.
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Old August 15, 2016   #9
Ed of Somis
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Not sure why you are getting advice to fertilize more. Your post says you are fertilizing according to instructions once a week. That is about right...but you do need to "read" your plants. This comes from studying others' info here...and experience. PS diseases live/breed in potting mixes...not just native soils. That is exactly why some folks do not re-use last years' old potting mix.

Last edited by Ed of Somis; August 15, 2016 at 10:52 AM.
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Old August 15, 2016   #10
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We are experiencing some crazy hot weather right now and your potting medium looks DRY! In this heat, they must be watered probably 3 or 4x a day.
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Old August 15, 2016   #11
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Just to be safe, do you have access to a microscope? I suspect you may have a Tomato Russet Mite infection just starting. Yellowing is first, then bronzing, then brown dried up hollow stems. You need at least 14X magnification to see them. If you have an extension office nearby, they usually have microscopes.

TRMs are well treated with 1 tablespoon Neem oil at 70% or higher concentration, and 1 Tablespoon dish soap, both mixed per 1 gallon water. Must be done every 4 days for 3 times to safely get the hatching adults.

Neem is antifungal just in case the yellowing is from fungus, but I suspect TRMs in starting stage.
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Old August 15, 2016   #12
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Not more fert, just the right fert. is what was meant.
The liquid espoma has no micronutrients, calcium, magnesium, or sulfur. As Nematode said, it is not a complete fertilizer.
Plus it seems that any build up might not be getting flushed out.
As far as disease, it does not seem as though there are any syptoms of foliar disease, so spending time worrying about pruning lower leaves might put focus on the wrong problem right now.
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Old August 15, 2016   #13
Ricky Shaw
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Welcome to Tomatoville madu.

You've not wasted 3 months, everyone has failures. With this season nearly over, have an eye on next year and what your goals will be. With limited space and 5-6 hours of light I'd grow indeterminate cherry tomatoes, they're hugely productive and will grow into the Fall if protected from frost.

I gave the bookkeeper, who gets 5-6 hours of light on her balcony, a Sungold in a 10gal poly grow bag of promix HP and half a bottle of Floranova in May. The plant is now 7ft tall and 4ft around, propped up with bamboo stakes and rope, more than enough for a salad and snacking every night.

There are dozens of ferts that work, I just said Floranova because it's cheaper than most, easy to get, and I've used it. Ask plenty of questions we love to help.
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Old August 15, 2016   #14
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I definitely see nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium deficiency. A balanced fertilizer will help your plants start recovery.
1. Nitrogen deficiency as evidenced by light yellow color.
2. Phosphate deficiency by the purplish tinge of a leaf in a photo.
3. Potassium deficiency is causing the brown leaf margins and curling.
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Old August 16, 2016   #15
l_madu
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed of Somis View Post
One thing I see right off the bat...your lower leaves have not been pruned off. Most of us prune off the lowers because most fungal tomato diseases start because of lower leaves being splashed while watering. Try that. Also, moisture meters are very cheap ($10)...and they work really well. Take the guesswork away from your watering.
thanks for responding! i pruned the lowest leaves but maybe i didn't go up high enough? what's an ideal height that you'd recommend? i did purchase a cheap meter off amazon, but was honestly not sure it was working...after watering it still showed that it was on the dry side so i assumed it was inaccurate/poorly made... but maybe i'm just underestimating how much water tomatoes REALLY need
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