Tomato Leaf Problems: A Visual Guide | You Should Grow

We have had really strange weather lately, hot then cold then humid then wet then dry! Enough to make a tomato plant cry. Some of my customers have contacted about some leaf rolling, spots etc.  Even I am starting to see what I think is called Septoria Leaf Spot. this is a guide that you can use to try and tell what is wrong with your tomato leaves. Courtesy of You Should Grow.

If you’ve ever grown tomatoes before, you’re probably familiar with tomato leaf problems. You might have noticed your tomato plant leaves turning yellow, brown, or getting spots.

SO WHAT CAUSES THESE TOMATO PLANT PROBLEMS?

We all love the flavor of a homegrown tomato. You just can’t get the same intensity and sweetness from any tomato at the grocery store. But homegrown tomatoes also come with lots of pest and disease issues.

The unfortunate reality is that tomatoes are susceptible to many pests and diseases. And many of them lead to yellow or brown spots on tomato leaves. Often you can determine the cause of the issue just by looking at the leaves.

The particular pattern of yellowing or spotting will give you lots of information about what disease or pest is plaguing your tomato plant. Use this guide to tomato leaf problems help you figure out what’s wrong and what, if anything, you can do about it.

NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES THAT CAUSE PALE OR YELLOW LEAVES ON TOMATO PLANTS

Whenever your plant’s leaves look pale, but the plant is otherwise healthy, try adding an organic liquid fertilizer first. Neptune’s Harvest is a reliable brand that we frequently use. Liquid fertilizer is more quickly absorbed, and you should notice improvement within a day or two.

Trays of tomato seedlings. Some healthy leaves and some yellow leaves

Whatever the deficiency, the liquid fertilizer should take care of it. But if you want to know exactly which nutrient is deficient, you might be able to figure it out by looking at the specific pattern of yellowing.

If you notice your young leaves (those at the top of the plant) are yellow with green veins, suspect iron deficiency. Check your soil pH to make sure it is between 6 and 6.8. If it’s too high, your tomato can’t take up necessary nutrients including iron.

If you notice older leaves (those at the bottom of the plant) are yellow with green veins, suspect potassium deficiency.

Yellow tomato leaves with green veins (indicates nutrient deficiency).

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If you notice dark spots within the yellow areas and the leaves are small and narrow, you might have a zinc deficiency.

If young leaves are pale and the growing tips of your tomato plant die, suspect calcium deficiency.

Stunted plants with general yellowing of the leaves is an indication of nitrogen deficiency.

It’s best practice to have your soil tested to confirm nutrient deficiencies before adding anything other than organic fertilizer and compost.

Adding too much synthetic fertilizer can burn your plants, and overuse of lime and wood ash can alter your soil pH causing more problems with nutrients than they prevent.

Learn about using fertilizer in your veggie garden.

YELLOW TOMATO LEAVES DUE TO PESTS

Pests are a common cause of tomato leaf problems. They are often carriers of tomato diseases as well, so it’s prudent to keep an eye out for any insects on your tomatoes. Read about some of the bugs I’ve found in my tomatoes.

Aphids love tomato plants and cause yellow, misshapen, and sticky leaves. Look for tiny insects on the undersides of leaves and on the stem. These pests will suck the sap from your tomato plant and can be a real problem in any garden.

Aphids are a common pest of tomato plants. Yellow leaves that have a sticky substance with tiny bugs on the undersides of leaves and stems are a sign of this pest.

If you notice dark spots within the yellow areas and the leaves are small and narrow, you might have a zinc deficiency.

If young leaves are pale and the growing tips of your tomato plant die, suspect calcium deficiency.

Stunted plants with general yellowing of the leaves is an indication of nitrogen deficiency.

It’s best practice to have your soil tested to confirm nutrient deficiencies before adding anything other than organic fertilizer and compost.

Adding too much synthetic fertilizer can burn your plants, and overuse of lime and wood ash can alter your soil pH causing more problems with nutrients than they prevent.

Learn about using fertilizer in your veggie garden.

YELLOW TOMATO LEAVES DUE TO PESTS

Pests are a common cause of tomato leaf problems. They are often carriers of tomato diseases as well, so it’s prudent to keep an eye out for any insects on your tomatoes. Read about some of the bugs I’ve found in my tomatoes.

Aphids love tomato plants and cause yellow, misshapen, and sticky leaves. Look for tiny insects on the undersides of leaves and on the stem. These pests will suck the sap from your tomato plant and can be a real problem in any garden.

Aphids are a common pest of tomato plants. Yellow leaves that have a sticky substance with tiny bugs on the undersides of leaves and stems are a sign of this pest.

They can be many colors, but we often see the red/pink ones. Ants love the sticky substance they excrete, and you may have an issue with both insects at the same time.

Treat aphids organically by dusting them with diatomaceous earth.

Brownish, finely dotted leaves with thin webs are an indication of spider mites. Look for tiny spider-like insects on your leaves that make fine webs between and below the leaves. Infested leaves will dry up and fall off.

 

Spider mite damage to tomato leaves

Spider mites and aphids can be treated with diatomaceous earth (DE). DE is a natural substance that is readily available at local garden centers.

We use a plant duster like this one to apply diatomaceous earth to affected plants. This powder will cut through the aphids’ soft exoskeletons and cause them to dehydrate and die.

Rain and watering will negate the effect of the DE so reapply as needed. Be careful to use DE in well-ventilated areas as inhaling this powder can cause damage to your lungs. And the lungs of kids, pets, and chickens, too!

If they get really bad, other forms of organic pest control including insecticidal soaps and spinosad sprayscan also help.

YELLOW LEAVES WITH HOLES

Whenever you see holes in your tomato leaves, you should suspect insect damage. Colorado potato beetles, tomato hornworms, grasshoppers, and flea beetles are all common culprits. Remove and squish these pests when you see them and utilize organic pest control practices to manage them.

Pests eating holes in tomato leaves

YELLOW LEAVES AND PLANTS THAT WILT

There are several kinds of wilt caused by bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and toxins that can affect tomatoes. Regardless of the cause of the wilt, it’s best to remove severely affected plants from your garden and destroy them.

For mild infections, remove affected leaves (usually the lower leaves) and send them to the landfill or burn them in an area well removed from your garden. Do not compost diseased plants or leaves.

Image of a wilted tomato plant with yellow leaves commonly seen with tomato diseases

Fusarium and Verticillium wilt cause yellowing and wilting beginning with the lower leaves.

Tomatoes planted within about 50 feet of a black walnut tree, may suddenly wilt and die. This is caused a toxin secreted from the roots of black walnut trees and tree stumps.

Nematodes in the soil can infect the roots of your plants and cause wilt. If you pull up wilted plants and notice swollen sections in the root balls, nematodes may be the problem. Choose resistant varieties and/or add parasitic nematodes to decrease the incidence of disease.

There are many varieties of tomatoes that are documented to be resistant to various types of wilt. Look for resistance codes BFNV (Bacterial, Fusarium, Nematodes, Verticillium).

A note about resistance: don’t expect resistant varieties not to be affected by these diseases. Expect them to tolerate the disease. Remove and destroy affected leaves as they appear, and the plant should continue to produce fruit for you.

YELLOW LEAVES WITH BROWN SPOTS, MOTTLED, OR DAPPLED APPEARANCE

Pale thin spots like the ones below are due to leaf burn. Leaves will experience sunburn when they haven’t been properly hardened off or when water droplets concentrate light on the leaves. If the burn is not too extensive, your plants will heal on their own and are not cause for concern.

Sunburn spots on tomato leaves

LEAF PROBLEMS DUE TO TOMATO PLANT DISEASES

Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Dappled yellow leaves with twisty new growth are common with tobacco mosaic virus. This virus is often transmitted by insects and especially aphids.

Do not try to treat these plants. Destroy them and remove them from your property, and be sure to wash your hands after touching any plant you suspect could be infected with this virus.

When choosing tomato varieties for future gardening seasons, look for the TMV resistant label.

Bacterial Speck and Bacterial Leaf Spot

Small dark spots on leaves that then turn brown and fall off are a symptom of bacterial speck and bacterial leaf spot. These diseases thrive in hot, humid environments and can be transmitted by your hands and garden tools.

Be careful working with plants suspected to be infected with this disease. To prevent future issues, remove and destroy severely infected plants and choose varieties with BLS and PST resistance in the future.

Late Blight on tomatoes

Leaves develop brown patches that turn dry and papery when they become infected with late blight. Sometimes a white mold grows along the edges of the brown patches. If your tomato plants have late blight you will also notice blackened areas along the stems and the tomatoes develop hard brown lesions.

Dry papery leaves & white moldy growth: Image of symptoms of late blight on tomato

Late blight will wipe out your tomato crop, and there is no treatment for infected plants. So try to prevent this disease by removing and destroying infected plants. Don’t compost them. Send them to the landfill and clean and remove all remnants of the infected crops from your garden.

Here’s a video from the University of Maine about late blight:


For future crops, try applying a preventative copper fungicide or Bacillus subtilis spray, make sure to water your plants at the base as wet conditions favor the spread of this disease, and look for resistant varieties labeled LB.

Septoria Leaf Spot

Septoria leaf spot has a similar appearance, but the brown patches are circular with light centers and dark specks. And the disease will start with the older leaves. Trim off infected leaves and remove them from your garden. Sanitize your hands after dealing with infected plants.

Early Blight on tomato plants

Early blight causes spots of dark concentric rings on leaves and stem of the lower plant first.

Early blight tends to strike your tomato plants when they’re loaded with fruit and days are humid and warm.

Preventative sprays may help slow the onset and spread of the disease, but infected plants should be removed and destroyed. Look for resistant varieties labeled AB (A for Alternaria fungal species) for future gardens.

Ring shaped lesions on a tomato leaf with yellowing of tomato leaves

Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

Dark brown rings on the leaves can also be caused by tomato spotted wilt virus. In this disease process, you’ll also notice brown streaks on the stems, stunted or one-sided growth, and green rings on immature fruit.

This disease is spread by tiny flying insects called thrips. Check purchase plants carefully for signs of thrips and disease before bringing them home to your garden.

Practice good pest control and remove infected plants to control the spread of this disease. Resistant varieties are labeled TSWV.

Bacterial Canker disease on tomato plant leaves

Leaves with brown edges may be caused by bacterial canker. Lower leaves will also curl up and you may see light brown streaks on the stems of your plant. This disease often shows up after plants have been injured, so be careful when trimming your plants not to leave open wounds.

A note about disease resistance:

Don’t expect resistant varieties not to be affected by these diseases. Expect them to tolerate the disease. Remove and destroy affected leaves as they appear, and the plant should continue to produce fruit for you.

TOMATO LEAF PROBLEMS YOU SHOULD NOT WORRY ABOUT

Tomato leaf curl is often an environmental change due to stress. With no other symptoms of disease, no treatment is necessary.

Purple leaves are caused by expression of anthocyanin due to light exposure. Often appearing on plants grown under intense light, there is no cause for concern or need for treatment of purple tomato leaves.

Purple or curled leaves on tomato plants: these are often not a cause of concern.

QUICK TIPS FOR DEALING WITH TOMATO LEAF PROBLEMS.

  1. Make sure your plants have adequate nutrients. Try an organic liquid fertilizer first.
  2. Check for pests on the stems and undersides of your tomato leaves. Remove them by hand and use organic pest control sprays retreating as needed.
  3. If you do find leaves that are yellow, wilted, or spotty. Remove them immediately and dispose of them in your trash. Wash your hands after you handle any plants you suspect may be infected with fungal, bacterial, or viral diseases.
  4. Plant resistant varieties remembering that even resistant plants can be affected by tomato plant diseases but will often continue to produce if cared for properly (remove infected leaves, water, fertilize).
  5. Severely affected plants should be removed from the garden and disposed of as soon as possible.
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How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds – Courtesy of You Grow Girl

This is an excellent article on testing the germination rate of seeds. If you are like me, I am always saving seeds I buy, seeds I collect from my garden, seeds I save from other folk’s plants… Sometimes I feel the need to test the germination rate of seeds I buy from commercial seed houses! Occasionally I get no or little germination on a seed packet.

How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds

I love to buy, collect, save, and trade seed, but I have to admit that I do not go about it in a particularly organized fashion. While I am careful about where and how I store my seeds and I do have my own “it’s all in my head” system, it doesn’t exactly compare to some of the personal seed banks I have seen. I do not have Excel charts or lists of any kind that track what I have and when I got it. If I’m being honest, I often don’t realize I am out of a particular something or other unless I bother to check ahead of time. However, most years that moment doesn’t come until I am in the act of sowing. Whoops, guess I won’t be growing that this year.  For this reason, it’s not uncommon for me to find packets in my stash that are older than I can remember. Most store-bought seeds have a “packed for” date on them, but I receive a lot of seed in trade, and some of those traders are even less organized than me. The seed of some plants last no more than a year or so. If I find an unmarked, rogue packet of onions or leeks I can be nearly certain that they are junk. Tomatoes seem to last forever, so if I find a packet of unknown origin that I’d like to grow, it’s worth spending the time to test its germination rate.A germination test determines the viability of the seed — how many in a packet will reliably germinate. This is important because the window of opportunity to get some crops sown and growing can be short. I’ve lost the chance to grow a specific variety some years because I sowed and then waited on seed that wouldn’t grow.Germination rate can also provide a gauge of a seed’s vigor. I explain what this is below.

How to Test for Germination Rate
There are lots of ways to go about this. Some people use paper towels. I use coffee filters because I find it easier to see the germinated seeds and their roots should I opt to plant those that have germinated. Fragile roots and leaves tend to disappear in the pile of paper towels.

What You Need:
Coffee filters
Plastic baggies
Water
10 Seeds (per test)
Permanent marker

Cut or tear the coffee filter along the bottom and one side seam. Lightly moisten with water so that it is moist, but not sopping wet. I sometimes use a spray bottle but you can also just dip it into a bowl of water and squeeze it out.

Open the filter up flat and lay out 10 seeds on one half. You do not have to do 10 seeds at a time, but it makes figuring out the germination rate a heck of a lot easier. Spread the seeds out so that they aren’t touching. I do this so that there is less chance that their roots will become entangled should I decide to plant them up.

Fold the half of the coffee filter that does not have seeds over onto the side that does.

Fold the bottom half up.

Place the moist and folded coffee filter inside a baggie and seal. Write the variety name and the date you started the test on the outside of the baggie. I write this onto sticker labels so I can reuse the baggies in further testing.

Place the sealed and labelled baggies in a warm place and check on them every few days to see whether germination has occurred. Some seeds may require more time. Some may also require light in order to germinate, or more heat.

Tip: The majority of the seeds I test do well in a kitchen or utility drawer that is used often. Otherwise I have a tendency to forget about them! I also put a sticky note on the front of the drawer as an added reminder to keep checking the seeds! Hot peppers tend to need more heat, so I keep them on top of a reliably warm (but not hot) appliance.

The rate is determined by the number of seeds out of 10 that have germinated. For example, 6 out of 10 seeds = 60% 3 out of 10 = 30% and so on.

You can go ahead and plant any seedling that have germinated into soil just as you would a seed. Don’t bother trying to remove the seedling from the paper — you risk damaging delicate roots. Instead, tear the paper around the plant. (Note: If your seedlings have browned roots like mine do in the above photo then I would not suggest planting them up. I left those too long and the roots were starting to rot.)

Loss of Vigor: Seeds that fall below 70% germination tend to suffer from a loss of vigor that will increase with each passing year. What this means is that even though many of them will still germinate, the seedlings that develop may not be healthy or develop into strong, vital plants. If the percentage isn’t too low you may decide to take a chance and see how the seedlings develop. It should be easy enough to determine which are suffering. However, if you’re planning to save seed from this plant for future crops then you may want to replace the seed now. Unhealthy plants beget unhealthy plants and since you’re going to the effort, it is worth it to start out with the best of the best.

Please note that some varieties suffer from a poor germination rate even when new and healthy, so it’s important to know your plant/variety.

Tip: I keep all of my seed testing equipment (including the used baggies) together with my seed saving equipment in one of the dollar store containers that I use for organizing seed. That way I have it on hand whenever I need it.

Source: How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds – You Grow Girl

5 Great Tomatoes for Cool Climates | Veggie Gardener (With Commentary from The Tomato Lady!)

this is a good article that I got in my email. it showcases early tomatoes. I  have grown all of these but Novia. I am carrying SubArctic, Legend, and Black Prince. Look for my My Two Cents Worth: I will tell you my thoughts on the variety.

Here’s a tip for early tomatoes. I will try it and let you know how it works. Or you can try it and let me know how it works for you. Flick the blossoms (they are self pollinating) or take a cotton swab/paint brush to pollinate your early tomatoes. Sometimes we don’t have the necessary wind or the bees aren’t out yet so they aren’t being pollinated, therefore no fruit. I don’t know why I never thought of this myself!

Tomatoes are very adaptive plants, and can produce fruit in a wide variety of climates and regions. Whether you live in zone 4 or in zone 10, you can grow tomatoes without too much trouble.Although this is true it is important to choose varieties that are well-matched for the climate you live in for the best results. Some tomato varieties perform best in very warm climates, while others are bred for better production in cooler climates.If you live in a cool climate (from zone 6 to zone 4) here are five tomato varieties that should thrive for your area.

Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure is a determinate tomato variety that performs very well in cool climates. They are generally ready to pick in about 67 days after transplanting outside which is great for shorter seasons.The compact size of this tomato plant makes them perfect for containers. According to my sources it is now sold on Burpee seed racks as Burpee Early Harvest Hybrid. I honestly don’t know why they change the names! My Two Cents Worth: I have grown this for sale but not put it in my own garden (I only have so much garden space). I have heard from my customers that they love this tomato. It is a very healthy plant in my greenhouse.

 

Sub Arctic

With a name like Sub Arctic you know this tomato does well in cooler, short climates. It is a determinate variety that produces four ounce tomatoes in about 42 days after transplanting.Ideal for short seasons in the north, or for a quick harvest in southern vegetable gardens. My Two Cents Worth: I love this tomato. Grew it for years but never put it in my garden until I had a leftover plant. I put it into an enormous container and loved, loved, loved it. They are a smaller tomato, about the size of a ping pong ball, sometimes larger and very sweet and bright red. I am offering this one this year.

Legend

The Legend tomato is another variety that produces well in cool climates and is resistant to late blight.It produces large fruit that can measure four to five inches in diameter and are a bright, glossy red color. This is one of the earliest maturing slicing tomatoes available. My Two Cents Worth: This is a lovely tomato, good flavor, consistent size, shape and color. Plus, it doesn’t want to take over the world. In my garden the fruit didn’t get to 5″ across but about the size of baseballs. I am offering this one this year.

Novia

The Novia tomato variety is an indeterminate that produces seven to nine ounce fruit and is very disease resistant.They contain a high level of lycopene which is a beneficial antioxidant. These tomatoes perform well in cooler climates, but can also be grown as far south as zone 9.

Black Prince

The Black Prince tomato variety comes from Siberia, so you know it is used to some cold weather and short seasons.This heirloom tomato features medium-sized fruit that are a deep red with green to purplish shoulders. They are loved for their rich, almost smoky tomato flavor and excellent hardiness in cold temperatures. My Two Cents Worth: This is very pretty tomato. One of those that are considered “black” Mine were a dark, dusky puprle with green shoulders and about the size of large eggs. The inside is a  beautiful dark red and the taste is good but I honestly don”t get the “smokey”  flavor. I think that is a trick of the mind!  I am offering this one this year.

Source: 5 Great Tomatoes for Cool Climates | Veggie Gardener

Freaky Fruits: Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato – Garden Culture Magazine

seeds-sprouting-inside-tomato-1Interesting article. I’ve seen seeds germinating inside of tomatoes but NEVER to this extent.

What’s the real cause of seeds sprouting inside tomato fruits? It’s not normal, at least not in years past. Is it a GMO thing, or something else entirely?

Source: Freaky Fruits: Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato – Garden Culture Magazine

End Of Season Advice for Tomatoes

Here in the Inland Northwest, our weather is extremely variable.

Here are several ways to motivate your tomatoes to ripen their fruit. Remember that the plants main purpose in life, is to procreate and it panics when you do one or more of the following:

Cut back on watering

Shovel pruning – cut the roots about a foot from the plants on two sides. If it’s really late in the season, do all four sides.

Start picking off extra blossoms. One caveat: if it is a cherry tomato leave them alone since they take very little time to go from blossom to ripe fruit.

Pick off tomatoes that you know aren’t going to have enough time to get big enough. These would be the very large, whopper size tomatoes such as Mortgage Lifter, Aussie, Big Rainbow, Rose etc.

Pinch off growing tips as to focus their attention into ripening what they have

Watch the weather like a hawk protect the plants with row cover, bed sheets, tarps, blankets, anything to keep the frost off the fruit. tomatoes-with-tarp

Here we have used blue tarps.

Once frost touches the fruit they will rot rather than ripen.DSCF9210

This what a frost damaged tomato looks like. 

Before a hard, plant killing frost, pick all green ones and bring them inside, most will ripen, the rest you can use for fried green tomatoes or a green tomato relish.

The Letter of the Day is Z; “Z” is for the Zebra Twins, Black and Green

Black Zebra

A natural and stabilized cross between Green Zebra and a black tomato by Jeff Dawson.

These tomatoes are vigorous, plants that produce 4 oz., 1 1/2”, juicy, round tomatoes with purple/mahogany colored skin and green stripes. 

Great smokey and sweet flavor. 

Indeterminate

Mid-season

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Green Zebra

Customer favorite

This is one of the most unusual variety you’ll ever grow! 

Fully ripened fruits are bright green, with stripes of a still lighter green. 

Round, smallish, 2 to 4 oz. fruits have excellent, tart, “real tomato” flavor. 

Plants are vigorous. 

Determinate

Mid-season

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The Letter of the Day is Y: “Y” is for the Tomato Yummy and Yellow Pear

Yummy

This is a paste tomato that we mistakenly grew one year. 

Apparently there was an error in seeds we got from a supplier and this is what came up. Fortunately, it was sweet and delicious and very prolific too. We picked bunches and bunches of these all season long. I will definitely grow them again. 

We were able to save seed from this. 

Indeterminate

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Yellow Pear

Kids love these little guys!

An heirloom, they grow on tall, rangy plants and bear in heavy clusters of 1 ¾ inch sized fruits. 

Mild flavored, sweet, perfect for salads or straight from the vine. 

Indeterminate

Mid-season

Mid-season

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The Letter of the Day is W: “W” is for the Tomato, Willamette and the Pepper, White Lakes

Willamette

The second picture is of the grand prize I won at the Spokane County Fair 2013. I might also add that these are some of the sweetest early tomatoes I’ve eaten and they grew well in a large pot.

Becoming a Northwest heirloom, Willamette was developed at Oregon State University by the late Dr. Tex Frazier in the 1950’s. This very dependable ripener is one of OSU’s first early determinate tomatoes. It’s medium in size with a mild, low acid flavor. 

Determinate

Early

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White Lakes

Very generous producer of dainty, somewhat pointed peppers. The young fruits take on an ivory or cream color very early, eventually ripening to a stunning red-orange. Originally a Russian variety deserving of much wider recognition. Delicious, productive, and beautiful.White peppers are lovely in a mixed salad.

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The Letter of the Day is V: “V” is for Vintage Wine a Tomato

Vintage Wine

A Personal Favorite! Excellent tomato! One of the very few pastel-hued tomatoes. A favorite of my customers, with attractive, 1lb., pale pink/red fruits set off by golden stripes. Elegant, sweet and tasty, with a nice, mild flavor. This tomato is truly unique. Those are from my garden.

Indeterminate

Mid-season

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