Tomato plants slow growing/stopped growing - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 03:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We grew our tomato plants from several different heirloom seeds. And ever since acclimating them to the outdoors and then transplanting them into the ground they just do not seem to grow any more...some may have stopped growing altogether. I look at the huge tomato plants at the co-op and then compare it with our tiny plants in the garden and I feel a little hopeless. What's the deal? I've not tested the PH. Could that be the problem?

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#2 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 09:33 AM
 
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How is your soil, how old is the garden and what's it like? Have you been feeding them? Plants tend to suffer a big let-down when they're grown in perfect soil then moved to something lesser, more normal. How has your watering routine been? While they can do ok with nothing but rain sometimes, mine never thrived without a good deal of water while they got started.

In previous years most of my tomato plants have been pretty pathetic, this year they are doing quite well. The differences this year were:

Last year there were beans in this bed.
I planted them pretty deep so some of the leaf places (that I pinched off) were underground.
I added bone meal in the hole and backfill dirt.
I gave them fish emulsion every 2 weeks until they grew over 2'. Continuing to give it every 3-4 weeks.
I watered the soil around them in the early evening each time there wasn't a good rain for a few days.

They have still been slower than some of what I've seen for sale, but those were in greenhouses and that's to be expected. Mine are leafy with thick stems and 30"-40" high, a couple are bearing fruit, all are covered in flowers. I planted April 24.
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#3 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 12:11 PM
 
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We grew our tomato plants from several different heirloom seeds. And ever since acclimating them to the outdoors and then transplanting them into the ground they just do not seem to grow any more...some may have stopped growing altogether. I look at the huge tomato plants at the co-op and then compare it with our tiny plants in the garden and I feel a little hopeless. What's the deal? I've not tested the PH. Could that be the problem?
What has the temperature been like around you? In my experience, tomatoes, especially those you start from seed in your own house rather than in a greenhouse, kind of just sit around and look sad until the day time temps are consistently over about 80. Then they'll start growing 6 inches in a day.
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#4 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 02:41 PM
 
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I'm also wondering about the temps where you are. You did mention that the co-ops plants are growing faster, but microclimates can vary significantly in one area, so that could account for the difference. What have your temps been like? And what kind of mulch (if any) do you have down?
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#5 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 03:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ours is the first garden to go into this ground. Well, the first one since the land was torn up to build housing 12 yrs ago. Before that it was farmland. We thought the soil was nice and rich because when digging it up it is black and full of worms. We moved here recently so we do not know a whole lot about the dirt yet.

The weather here is in the 90's with rain every other week or so.

We water twice a day, thoroughly soaking the ground.

We have other plants that seem to be growing fine, but we're new to gardening so perhaps those are slow going as well. We have sunflowers, okra, potatoes, melons. We also have a spaghetti squash vine that grew up from the composting pile and is already bearing several gourds. Of course, it has had ample time to grow because it started before we had most of our seeds planted. We got a late start this year. Many things not started until April/May. The melons weren't even started until a few weeks ago.

We have a bag of this fertilizer. Would it be helpful for the slow growing plants?

Thanks.

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#6 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 04:57 PM
 
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Hmmm...that sounds like a lot of water to me! I'm not sure how dry your climate is, but where I live, we water tomatoes a couple times a week, at most. If you're getting a good soaking with those every-other-week rains, I'd water just one more time that week, and twice on the weeks with no rain.

I won't be much help with the fertilizer question, though. I feed my tomatoes compost, crushed egg shells, and composted manure. That works well for me!
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#7 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 06:33 PM
 
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Do they get a lot of sun? Do they have pale or yellowed leaves?

I give my tomatoes aged chicken poop and bedding, plus crushed up egg shells when planting. I water them lightly at the base with the hose every day or two if it hasn't rained recently. It's humid and in the 80's here.

Last year my plants got nearly 6ft. tall!

I have had sad slow growing plants when they didn't get a good start as seedlings...

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#8 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The garden area is in direct sunlight up until around 6-7PM. If we do not water at least once a day the ground gets too dry. We began watering twice a day (if rain isn't keeping the ground wet enough) once we noticed that the plants showed a much progress after a lot of rain. I didn't think to mention it (hard to think with a toddler yelling), but we do not keep the tomato plants as wet as the other things in the garden because we've learned that tomatoes (once transplanted) do better in drier ground.

The tomato plants that we put in the ground yesterday were planted in soil that was mixed with compost. So perhaps this batch will show more progress.

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#9 of 21 Old 06-09-2010, 10:10 PM
 
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I do like to water my tomatoes more than some, but tomatoes are plants that seem to like their ground fully drying out between watering. (Peppers too--it's a hard balance sometimes with both.) You might want to do one deep watering a day, that's what I do around here when temps are in the 90s.

Former farmland may be lacking in some minerals. Our land was farmland a decade ago, and we've had nitrogen problems, which can really affect tomatoes. Each year here, I've mixed in most of a box of blood meal a few weeks before I planted the peppers and tomatoes. You can get a box and sprinkle about 1/2 cup around each plant, it's water-soluble from what I understand.
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#10 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 03:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Do they have pale or yellowed leaves?
A few of them have yellowed leaves.

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Originally Posted by cschick View Post
Each year here, I've mixed in most of a box of blood meal a few weeks before I planted the peppers and tomatoes.
Does this seem to help?

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#11 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 09:35 AM
 
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What about flowers that dry up without producing a tomato? Is that due to not enough water, too much water, not enough fertilizer?

The plants are growing like crazy. Nice thick stems, no yellow or pale leaves. But not many flowers and the few that are there are drying and shriveling up without producing any tomatoes.

Please help.
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#12 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 10:24 AM
 
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mama1803 - What are your temps like? Tomatoes won't set fruit if it is too hot - could that be the issue?
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#13 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 10:35 AM
 
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Originally Posted by NettleTea View Post
A few of them have yellowed leaves.

Does this seem to help?
Mixing in the blood meal seems to up growth and production with tomatoes for me. The first year I planted a garden at this house, my tomato production was wimpy. Last year, when I dug up a new bed and mixed the blood meal in, then used that bed for tomatoes and peppers--I got almost 600 roma tomatoes off 4 plants. :P

The peppers, though, I'm still struggling with getting the right balance for. Still getting those black streaks on the peppers.
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#14 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 10:38 AM
 
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mama1803 - What are your temps like? Tomatoes won't set fruit if it is too hot - could that be the issue?
Well, temps here in NOVA have been warmer than usual for this time of year--in the high 80's to low 90's during the day and humid. But this week temps have dipped down into the mid 70's during the day, in the high50's/low 60's at night. Today's high is forecast at 85.

This is my first attempt at gardening here in Va. Soil tends to be on the red clay side but the garden was tilled extensively and lots of humus/manure mixed in. Also lime was added. The garden is in the sun all day. The ground tends to pack down after rainfall. I also haven't fertilized simply because I don't know what to use. We don't compost because of lots of wild animals (bears, mountain lions, deer) and was told not to use food items like bone meal to fertilize because the smell would attract animals. I really don't want to use stuff like Miracle Grow. But I know that tomatoes are heavy feeders so I feel they must need something.
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#15 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 11:09 AM
 
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Watering really depends on where you live, when I lived in the desert there was no way that my plants would have lived if only watered a couple times a week.

There are two kinds of tomato plants, determinate ( reaches a set size and stops growing when fruit sets on the top bud) and indeterminate ( keeps on growing until killed by frost).

As already posted by others temperature effects fruit setting or it could be a soil issue.
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#16 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 11:11 AM
 
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What about flowers that dry up without producing a tomato? Is that due to not enough water, too much water, not enough fertilizer?

The plants are growing like crazy. Nice thick stems, no yellow or pale leaves. But not many flowers and the few that are there are drying and shriveling up without producing any tomatoes.

Please help.
there are male and female flowers, the male flowers do not product fruit
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#17 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 01:22 PM
 
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there are male and female flowers, the male flowers do not product fruit
Wow. I did not know that. But there should be more female than male flowers, right?
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#18 of 21 Old 06-10-2010, 01:36 PM
 
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The female flowers have fat little bulbous bases that will grow into the fruit, the male flowers have narrow stems at the base. The ratio of male to female flowers seems to depend on the kind of tomato. More female flowers on cherry tomtos and more even on regulat sized fruits.
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#19 of 21 Old 06-11-2010, 03:31 AM
 
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I'd say back off the watering. What about just one good 20-30 minute soaking in the morning before the sun gets uber strong? That's all we do, but I don't live in AZ or a desert or anything - there's just little rain during the summer. Adding some fish emulsion around the plants to fertilize, then mulching with something to keep the ground from drying out so quickly might be worth a shot.

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#20 of 21 Old 06-11-2010, 05:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Adding some fish emulsion around the plants to fertilize, then mulching with something to keep the ground from drying out so quickly might be worth a shot.
I agree! Thanks

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#21 of 21 Old 06-11-2010, 12:45 PM
 
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I learned in a gardening class that fruit-bearing plants need to grow first and then set fruit. In order to facilitate this process, one can feed a high nitrogen (first #) fertilizer until the green growth is well established and then switch to a fruit-enhancing type of fertilizer.

I have GroPower Plus for the high nitrogen fertilizer and Dr. Earth for the fruit-enhancing fertilizer.

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