Gardening is becoming an increasingly favored hobby, and you’re likely to spot tomatoes growing in nearly every garden you see. Tomatoes are the easiest veggies to start growing, and they taste far better than the ones you buy at the grocery store. Despite the ease of growing them, there is an assortment of tomato plant problems that you may come across.
Most people don’t have significant difficulties with tomatoes. Still, there is always a chance that something goes wrong throughout the growing season, whether it is insufficient air circulation, poor soil, or sun exposure.
Spotting the signs of damage and correctly identifying the tomato fruit problems early on might help you save your infected plants from further harm so that the entire crop doesn’t go to waste.
- Avoiding Problems with Tomatoes
- Potential Tomato Plant Problems
- Common Tomato Fruit Problems
- Sunscald on Tomatoes
- Leaf Roll on Tomato Leaves
- Dealing with Bacterial Canker
- Early Blight and Late Blight
- Septoria Leaf Spot
- Fusarium Wilt in Your Garden
- Verticillium Wilt
- Powdery Mildew on Tomatoes and Other Veggies
- Are Concentric Rings Harmful to Tomatoes?
- Dangerous Whiteflies on Tomatoes
- Tomato Hornworms
- Dealing with Nematodes
- Aphids on Your Tomato Plants
Avoiding Problems with Tomatoes
Even if you purchase resistant varieties of tomatoes, knowing bacterial, fungal, and pest issues help save not only your tomatoes but also the other plants in your garden.
Identifying tomato plant problems might not be as easy as it seems but you can aid in preventing issues by utilizing proper spacing for tomato plants beside one another and by rows.
If you do encounter problems, there are various things to look out for, like lesions, discoloration, and wilting, but those mean nothing to someone who has never encountered tomato fruit problems before.
Most people know what a common tomato or heirloom tomato looks like, but they don’t necessarily know what the entire plant looks like in the garden.
Before diving into the list of problems with tomatoes, there are some tricks for you to use to help identify what issue you’re dealing with. Start by identifying the exact part of the plant that is changing.
Do you notice the damage on the fruit, leaves, flowers, stems, or roots? Once you know the problem’s location, compare your infected plant to healthy plants, whether they are in your garden or by pictures on the internet.
Healthy tomato plants have soft, fuzzy leaves that are medium green and free from black spots on tomato leaves or blotches. Before walking away, always look for insects on the plant.
If you spot small critters after you plant cherry tomatoes or other varieties, it helps drastically narrow down the list of potential issues. Once you’re familiar with the signs of damage, skim through this list of tomato problems and solutions to try to save your plants.
Potential Tomato Plant Problems
Even though bacterial and fungal diseases are possible, environmental factors may also be playing a role in your plants’ health. Always stay on top of your weekly plant care routine.
Ensure they aren’t over or underwatered, have the proper nutrients in the soil, and aren’t having lighting issues. If you’re giving them all their basic requirements, you know it isn’t an environmental issue and is, instead, one or more plant diseases or pests.
Common Tomato Fruit Problems
One of the most frequent problems that gardeners run into when growing any different type of tomatoes is blossom end rot. Even though the tomato plant appears healthy, large black patches appear on the fruits’ bottom as they ripen.
These dark spots appear leathery on the outside and mealy on the inside. If blossom end rot is present, the issue is either that there isn’t enough calcium in your garden soil or that the soil pH is too low.
Tomato plants require a pH of around 6.5 to grow properly, and the pH level directly correlates with the plant’s ability to absorb calcium.
Before planting tomatoes in the spring, take a sample of soil to your local garden center and have them test it, so you’re positive that it will grow healthy plants.
If it’s too late for that, add crushed eggshells to the beds to boost calcium or spray a foliar spray in the early morning or late afternoon.
Sunscald on Tomatoes
Sunscald is something that occurs on a lot of veggies that grow in outdoor gardens. Plants often look healthy, with fruits developing as they should, but yellow patches start to form on the skin as the tomatoes ripen.
These patches turn white and look paper-thin. Tomatoes with sunscald have both an unpleasant taste and texture.
To keep the sun’s rays from burning your fruits, make sure to put tomato cages or other wired support around the plants so that they give them branch support while offering some shade.
Sunscald is most common on plants that are over-pruned. Prune only the older leaves and leave the ones that shade the fruits.
Pollination is essential for plants’ health, but the pollination time and temperature also play a role.
When the tomato plants are pollinated during a cool evening with temperatures around 55°F, they are prone to catfacing. Catfacing deforms the tomatoes and leaves the blossom end rippled and lumpy.
To avoid catfacing, try planting the tomatoes a little later in the growing season so that the temperatures are consistently warmer at night.
Adding organic mulch to the top of the soil or a black plastic tarp also helps regulate ground temperatures and keeps the plants warm.
Leaf Roll on Tomato Leaves
Mature tomato plants sometimes start to curl their leaves. This curling is especially common on the older or lower leaves. It doesn’t look pretty, but leaf roll won’t affect the flavor or texture of your ripened tomatoes.
Leaf roll mostly happens to plants when there is a combination of high temperatures, wet soil conditions, and too much pruning. Try to avoid pruning your leaves and make sure the ground has plenty of drainage.
Dealing with Bacterial Canker
Bacteria are naturally occurring but cause quite the headache in the garden. Bacterial canker is a bacteria that gets into the soil and splashes onto the plants when it rains.
If there is an open sore or opening on the leaves, stems, or fruits, the bacteria finds its way inside and infests it. Bacterial canker starts as small yellow dots on the ripening tomato fruits.
If you look closely enough or grab a magnifying glass, there are dark rims around each yellow spot. If you have bacterial canker in your garden, immediately remove the infected plants and throw them out instead of composting them.
Don’t plant tomatoes there again for another three years. Crop rotation prevents diseases like this from taking over the soil and destroying your garden beds.
Early Blight and Late Blight
If you have brown spots or black spots on your tomato leaves, you might be dealing with early or late blight. Each brown spot starts on the older leaves and develops rings.
Eventually, the leaves start yellowing, and then they brown and fall off, leaving your plant with few leaves and prone to numerous other problems.
Blight is a common fungus that lives in the soil over the winter, so crop rotation is essential. The easiest way to treat early blight is to apply a fungicide to all tomato varieties in your garden.
Septoria Leaf Spot
Septoria leaf spot is a fungus that damages and kills the foliage of tomato plants. When your plants start to develop tomatoes, an infected one starts showing yellow spots on the lower leaves.
The yellow spots develop dark gray centers with a dark outer border. You might also see black dots in the center of the damaged areas.
To avoid leaf spot, try not to water tomatoes from the top so that the spores don’t make their way back into the soil. Fungicides and bactericides are available specifically for Septoria leaf spot and are the simplest way to save your plants.
Fusarium Wilt in Your Garden
Wilting isn’t always a problem that has you on high alert. It’s only after the entire plant starts to wilt that it may be too late.
Fusarium wilt is a fungus called Fusarium oxysporum that attacks the plant’s vascular system so that water and nutrients don’t distribute to the leaves.
Fusarium wilt is a nasty problem, and the best way to avoid it is to take action ahead of time. Rotate your garden crops each year and only purchase varieties that are wilt-resistant.
Verticillium wilt is a little easier to catch than fusarium wilt because of the yellow blotches that show up on the lower leaves. The yellowing spreads and makes the veins turn brown and fall off.
The disease moves its way up the stem until the entire plant is affected. This fungus attacks from the root up. The tomato plant leaves turning black and curling lead to total destruction and once infected, there aren’t many options to save the plant.
Make sure to implement crop rotation and choose the best varieties for your soil type and location.
Powdery Mildew on Tomatoes and Other Veggies
Powdery mildew is something you’re likely to see on all the plants you’re growing and not just tomatoes. Once you have white mildew on tomato leaves, it’s important to treat it quickly. It is easy to identify because it looks like the leaves were brushed with a white powder that eventually turns them yellow and brown.
Preventing powdery mildew is relatively simple. Sulfur-based sprays are best to combat this fungus, and there is almost always some available at your local garden center or hardware store.
Are Concentric Rings Harmful to Tomatoes?
Homegrown tomatoes often have growth cracks, but they sometimes get out of hand and form concentric rings around the bottom of the fruit. Diseases and insects do not cause these rings.
Instead, they indicate that there is a physiological or environmental problem. Fluctuations in the weather are the leading cause of these dry cracks.
When there are months of hot, dry periods followed by lots of rain, it makes the fruits grow rapidly and leave our crops covered in leathery gashes.
Water the tomato plants consistently every week to avoid these marks. Add mulch to the soil top and fertilize the ground every other week during the growing season.
Dangerous Whiteflies on Tomatoes
You know by now that yellowing is a sign that something is wrong with your crops, but you might not realize that whiteflies are taking over your garden before it is too late.
Whiteflies are small insects with yellow bodies and white wings. The flies feed on the underside of tomato leaves and suck the sap out of the plant to weaken it. The leaves yellow and curl inward before dying.
Inspect the undersides of the leaves well to make sure you don’t miss these small critters. Gently shake the whole plant to get rid of them, and then cover your beds with silver-colored and plastic mulch to repel them. If necessary, spray the plants with insecticides.
Mix about one tablespoon of soap into every quart of water or four to five tablespoons of soap for every gallon of water and put the liquid in a spray bottle or garden sprayer.
Mist the soap spray over your plants in the early morning or late evening while focusing on spots with withering, yellowing, or browning leaves.
Hornworms look like caterpillars, but they are the larvae of the hummingbird moth. Hornworms are bright green with white stripes and small, black horns.
If there is one worm in your garden, the chances are high that others are also around, so thoroughly inspect all the plants in your beds.
The most straightforward action to get rid of tomato hornworms is to pick them off by hand and drop them all in a bucket of water to kill them. You may also introduce ladybugs or green lacewings since they are their natural predators and won’t damage your tomatoes.
Dealing with Nematodes
Nematodes are an intimidating insect to deal with, but it is conceivable to save your plants if you find them early enough in the growing season.
Nematodes are common when growing tomatoes but are hard to spot because they live in the soil and feed off the roots. Plants with yellowing leaves, stunted growth, or overall decline in health might be affected by nematodes.
If you suspect there are nematodes in your garden, dig up a weak plant and see if they have knobby growths on the roots.
Pull the infected plants or try to finish out the season until they are ready for harvest. You must decide what to do with the infected bed and might have to use crop rotation or soil solarization to amend the problem.
Aphids on Your Tomato Plants
Of all the problems with tomato plants, aphids are one of the most annoying. They leave plants yellow and distorted with a black, sticky substance on them.
Aphids feed on a wide range of crops and flowers and spread viruses throughout our gardens. Thoroughly inspect your plants for their small, tear-drop-shaped bodies.
Killing aphids is a good thing to do for the environment. Using pesticides is the easiest method, but there are more natural ways to combat them. Remove them from your tomatoes with a strong stream of water.
Companion plant mint or dill in your beds to keep them at bay. Or, grow a fennel plant next to tomatoes. You may also introduce ladybugs because they are a natural predator.
Many tomato fruit problems show up throughout the growing season and threaten our fruits and vegetables.
Even though gardening can be a challenge, there is a lot of knowledge out there that helps you identify and solve the problem before completely ruining your harvest.
If this list of tomato plant problems has helped save your garden from inevitable death, share these tips for combatting problems with tomatoes on Facebook and Pinterest.