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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Saving Stressed Tomatoes

Saving Stressed Tomatoes 

With the unusually hot weather from above and “early blight” yellowing lower leaves, our tomatoes are having a tough time this year. Here are some of the steps I’m taking to rejuvenate them. 

1. Pick as many wilted leaves off as you dare and either burn them or send them to the municipal compost pile. Just don’t let them get back into your garden soil.  

Sunscreen for tomatoes
2. Arrange a shade cover as best you can. I’ve been stapling white row cover to the wooden stakes and wiring it to T-posts. This is a good use for old used row cover left over from winter. 

Moist vermicompost 

Dry vermicompost 

3. Make some worm or compost tea and give the tomatoes a jolt of minerals and organic nutrients right on the roots.  

My favorite is to take a moist cup full of vermicompost from my indoor bins. This stuff dissolves readily and makes black tea instantly. I believe It’s more biologically active than the dried material below. I use one cup to ten gallons of tea. A good recipe for worm tea is here. I don't take the time to "brew" mine, however. 

Second best is to use the drier, screened vermicompost that I get from my outdoor worm bins. This needs to soak longer for it to dissolve. I use city (chlorinated) water and let it set overnight (rain water would be better but ... it's not raining). I pour 1/2 to 1 gallon of the tea directly on the roots.  

4. One quick watering tip: Water deeply with a soaker hose if possible, but leave one side dry. Don’t soak the plant all around because roots need to breathe.   

Here's the new growth and buds ready to bloom ten days later. Some of the lower leaves are still discolored but I’ll remove them as the new tops get stronger. 

New growth 

All this may seem extreme but as the song goes, "There’s just two things that money can’t buy and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes." Every day I can extend this harvest is money in the bank and delicious summer sunshine stored for later. BLT anyone?

Mid season harvest 

Any more tomato rescue ideas out there? 

pine log
8/9/2012 3:59:52 PM

Thanks for the articl and tips. I'm going out with a little copper tubing, some epsom salts and powdered milk--I'll just hit my poor tomato plants with the whole arsenal. They can't get much worse without dying!

karin vance
7/30/2012 6:50:13 PM

I was told to bury pennies in the ground next to the roots of my tomatoes to help combat blight. Supposedly this releases copper into the ground. I am giving it a try to see how good this works

stan slaughter
7/23/2012 2:18:03 AM

Teri, I'm not sure that removing the blighted leaves "cures" the situation but it does seem to give the plants a second wind. I put gypsum pellets or chunks of sheetrock in the hole as well as some vermicompost and this year some pelletized chicken manure. Last year I had good success with alfalfa meal pellets in the hole below the transplants. You're tent idea probably is a very good one. I just have too many plants for that to be practical. Let's see a great new Cherokee Purple/wilt resistant heritage-hybrid in our future soon.

teri pigeau davidson
7/21/2012 2:51:42 PM

Thanks for the tips re tomato blight-been battling it here for several years. I have found a couple of things helpful too. Putting dry milk powder and epsom salts in the hole during planting. Then a weekly sprinkle of the milk power on the soil. I have a plastic covered greenhouse with zip flaps that I close up each night and open after the morning sun dries the air and grass. It's been my experience by comparing my results with my neighbours that restricting exposure to morning dew and damp night air seems to slow the onset of the blight. Additionally, I read somewhere that Europeans are/were developing strains that were more blight resistant--would be helpful to have those seeds available.