Few things are worst then sudden summer hail which ruins the whole harvest. But this remains a situation which you can’t control since the weather is out of our reach (for now). On the other hand, there are specific situations which you can influence and avoid a disaster.
Because of that, here are 25 common tomato plant problems and how to fix them, so that your harvest will be much better and more prosperous.
What Equipment Will Be Needed?
Since I have listed 25 problems, to name them each would be a bit cumbersome, so I believe that it would be much easier to find the problem and to see what you need to do. Now, I have tried to group them somehow, and although the groups are not equal, it will help you to find your way around.
Group One – Physical Causes
This group consists of those causes which are in basics mechanical by nature. Also, they are common, and that is why I’m listing them first. Moreover, these usually require less equipment and tinkering around.
Appearance and cause – the plant looks wilted, and the leaves are starting to turn yellow. This is because too much water is applied during watering, or you have watered despite the fact that there was rain recently.
Solution – reduce watering in the following period. This will give tomatoes time to absorb water, but don’t skip watering. Instead, water in the same rhythm, but with less water.
Appearance and cause – in this case, the plant looks the same as when overwatered. Leaves and stems which are leaning toward the ground and yellowish tint in leaves are a specific sign that there is a watering problem.
Solution – see if the ground around plants is dry and cracked. If fissures appear, this is the sign of severe lack of water. Make watering more often, and do so in the morning so that the plant will absorb more of it.
Appearance and cause – fruits appear and begin to ripe regularly, until later stages, when cracks and fissures appear on the surface of the tomato. They are easy to spot and usually appear around the connection with the stem. The main reason for this was the plant which was thirsty and gained a lot of water suddenly.
Solution – time watering to be equally distributed, and don’t allow tomatoes to stay thirsty for long. In case that this happens, don’t water with huge amounts of water. Smaller quantities distributed more often will prevent cracking.
Appearance and cause – ripe fruit is nicely red and edible, but its shape is wrong. Often bulges, ripples, and lumps appear. This is because the weather was too cold during pollinating cycle, and despite flowers fell off; fruits continued to grow.
Solution – there is nothing you can do, once catfacing appears. The only way to avoid it is prevention. If you are uncertain about the weather, see that temperature is at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In case that cold weather surprises you, groundcovers can help you with lifting the heat.
Blossom End Rot
Appearance and cause – at first, tomato looks healthy, but before it starts to ripen, lower sections of fruit begin to turn dark and brown. This happens primarily because of lack of calcium within soil or because pH of it is off the chart. In any case, take soil testing kit, and see both levels of pH and this nutrient.
Solution – if lack of calcium is the culprit, you will have to include some form of it, so again, fertilizer will be needed. On the other hand, if pH is found guilty of spoiling your tomatoes, you will have to take extra care next year and to keep it around 6.5.
Appearance and cause – the plant grows appropriately, and flowers are developing. But, after a while flowers begin to fall off without bearing fruits. The primary reason of this situation is temperature fluctuation.
Solution – keep the temperature between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Since this is difficult to achieve outside, try applying soil cover.
Appearance and cause – this problem appears in the form of white spots or blotches on the fruits. This is made by sunlight which burns the sensitive skin of the tomato.
Solution – preventing too much sunlight is the only “cure” for this problem. See if you can find net covers which will keep slugs away and will also reduce the amount of light which will shine upon the plants.
Appearance and cause – leaves which are positioned lower on the stem are getting yellow parts and are starting to wrinkle on the edges. This is the sign that there is too much water, the sun is intense and that the plant had been pruned too much.
Solution – if you have pruned the plant too much, only a few things can be done. Try increasing the amount of nutrients within the ground so they will feed the plant better. As for watering, you should reduce it as well, and for the sunlight, try the net cover.
Appearance and cause – at first sight, fruits look normal until you cut them. Inside, there can be a lot of “space” between the outer layer and the seeds which are inside. Also, they may feel lighter in hand, which is another sign of this problem. The main reason for this to happen is poor nutrition or lousy pollination.
Solution – for this harvest, you can’t do much, since it is already done, but for the next year, you can prepare soil better, by infusing more organic matter. Some homemade potting soil for tomatoes can be handy if you are growing them in pots.
Small Tomatoes – Problem One
Appearance and cause – tomato plant bears fruit, but they are small or lack taste. One of the reasons for this situation might be bad pollination. Since tomatoes are pollinated by wind, if you have planted them too close, stunted fruits might appear.
Solution – when you are planting tomatoes, be sure to leave at least two feet of space between each plant. This will enable wind to circulate and pollinate flowers properly. If you have planted them already and there are developed flowers, shake branches gently, to encourage this vital process.
Small Tomatoes – Problem Two
Appearance and cause – if the plants have required space stated in previous part, the other culprit for bad fruits might be missbalanced fertilization. Nitrogen is vital for development of the “green parts,” and if you have accented this one all the time, the stems and leaves might grow stronger, while the fruits will fall behind.
Solution – if you are uncertain, whenever fertilizing, use a balanced fertilizer with NPK index of 10:10:10.
Appearance and cause – as the name suggests, tomatoes sometimes get green parts which are hard to cut through. These green sections appear at the top section of the fruit, where it connects to the stem. It is caused by too much sunlight, and if you overdid it with pruning, it would cause this problem for sure.
Solution – since this problem appears at the end of the growing cycle, it can’t be corrected. Instead, when pruning, see to leave enough foliage, so that fruits will be protected from strong sun. This is highly important in areas with scorching summers, so if you live in one, pay close attention.
Group Two - Microorganisms
The most extensive array of fungi, viruses, and bacteria may attack tomatoes. Some of them may be treated, but as for the majority, once they attach to the plant, there is no rescue, unfortunately.
Appearance and cause – if you notice small, yellow spots on tomato fruits, take a magnifying glass just in case. If you see that the spot is white or yellowish, with the black outer ring, this means that bacteria Clavibacter michiganensis had infected the plant.
Solution – since there is no cure, remove all infected plants and dispose of them, either by throwing it away or by burning. Remember not to plant tomatoes on the same spot for the next four years, just to be sure, since these can survive quite long.
Appearance and cause – when the fruit of the tomato ripens, the presence of dark, bruise-like area might be a good sign that Colletotrichum phomoides fungus strikes your vegetables. This little guy loves hot and moist areas, so it will develop if the conditions are ideal for it.
Solution – see that you don’t overwater, especially during summer. It is also important that you water the soil around the plant, and not the leaves and the stem.
Appearance and cause – one of the most often diseases which can affect tomato plant, Early Blight comes from fungus Alternaria solani. The most apparent sign of this disease is the change of color of leaves. At first, they turn brown at the edges, and after that, leaf turns yellow. In the end, all leaves might fall off.
Solution – some people say that there are chemical solutions to solve this problem, but it might happen that fungus will be resistant to it. The best course of action is to apply crop rotation, and not to plant tomatoes at the same place two years in a row.
Septoria Leaf Spot
Appearance and cause – as the name suggests, the fungus Septoria lycopersici attacks the plant and causes damage. It can be recognized by dry and crunchy parts of the leaves. It can be confused with Early Blight, but there is not much change in color as there is with previous one.
Solution – the case is the same as it is with other fungi. It will develop if you splash the water on leaves and foliage during watering. Try to avoid this to reduce the risk of developing this disease.
Appearance and cause – another fungus-caused problem, this issue is easy to spot, since the leaves are changing color to yellow, while veins are turning brown. This is because the fungus “travels” through the tubes which are feeding the plant and causing it to die slowly.
Solution – there is no efficient way to tackle this problem. Once the plant catches this disease, it will die out. As with Early Blight, avoid planting at the same place, so crop rotation is the only thing you can do.
Appearance and cause – the infamous Powdery Mildew is one of the most common diseases in the garden, and it will not stop at tomatoes. It is easily recognized by white powder by which it got its name. It looks as if someone threw flour on the plant.
Solution – although tomatoes grown in greenhouses are more likely to suffer from this disease since the lower flow of air there, it can spread in gardens as well. Try treating the infected plants with sulfur-based solutions, and in case that you are growing organic food, there are a few amendments which I mentioned in my article about this subject which are rich in this element.
Appearance and cause – since there are so many types of viruses which can and will target tomatoes, I can put them all together and say that the reason for all of them to appear is terrible immunity of the plant. This is caused by non-ideal conditions in the garden with too much heat, low watering, and inadequate nutrition.
Solution – the best way to fight these pesky little germs is to work in enough organic matter into the soil because this will provide the plant with sufficient nutrients and it will grow stronger and will be more resistant. Cover the vegetables with row covers and water them regularly but in smaller quantities.
Nasty little critters can do quite a bit of damage if left unattended, luckily, they are easy to spot, and there are some pest control tips you can use to your advantage. If these are not working, you always have some recipes for organic insecticide.
Appearance and cause – we all know how Stink Bug looks like. It is triangular, green when it is young, and turns brown as it gets older. Stink Bugs will feed on ripening fruits and can cause quite the damage.
Solution – I’d say that Diatomaceous Earth is the best course of action, but if you are not sure whether to use it, there is always an alternative in the form of neem oil.
Appearance and cause – huge, green and fat caterpillars, those are hornworms which can eat through a tomato without a flinch. You can’t mistake them for something else, they are a couple of inches long but can hide pretty well. Eaten leaves are their trademark.
Solution – many people will recommend using a specific type of wasp which will lay eggs inside this caterpillar, and the larvae will eat their way out of the body of the unfortunate host. This is way too cruel if you ask me, so I’ll tell you to plant marigolds around tomatoes since they hate their smell.
Appearance and cause – this is also a kind of caterpillar, but instead of a butterfly, a moth comes out at the end. They got their name by being able to cut the stem of the young plant in half. I don’t know if they yell “TIMBEEEEER” in the process, they come out at night, so I didn’t hear them.
Solution – since cutworms are coming from the ground, make obstacles of paper cups by punching a hole in the bottom of the cup, and pull the seedling through the hole. Once the plant develops, you can remove it.
Colorado Potato Beetle
Appearance and cause – although this beetle is known to attack primarily potatoes, it won’t think twice whether to attack tomato or not. They feed mainly on leaves and can eat a lot of biomass, which causes severe problems.
Solution – again, there are a lot of chemical solutions for battling this rascal, but I’m not that light on the trigger. I prefer to remove them by hand whenever that solution is possible to apply. If not, use pyrethrins to kill them off.
Appearance and cause – if we held the competition for the worst villain among pests, the title would go to spider mites. These wannabe spiders are tiny to see, but the webbings will give them away.
Solution – to fight them, use neem oil, since it will suffocate them, or attract ladybugs with marigold. Dotty police will clear them out in no time.
Appearance and cause – I have underestimated my opponent, and forgot about them. Various types of birds may appear and feast on tomatoes while you are not looking, and you will recognize the damage from beak when you see it. The eaten area seems as if the part of the tomato exploded.
Solution – throw fruit cover net over plants, it will prevent crows and others form this criminal syndicate to steal from you.
So, here it is. 25 common tomato plant problems and how to fix them are listed in the article above. I hope that you won’t be needing this article, but just in case if you do, you can always go through it quickly and find the solution.
In any case, if I have forgotten something, you can notify me via the comment section below.