Temperamental Container tomatoes!!

znye01April 3, 2014

My heirloom tomatoes are in a 25(ish) gallon tub. Soil is a combination of potting soil/manure. I planted them from starts about 3 to 4 weeks ago and at first they took right off. They started looking a little peaked around saturday of last week. Monday I fed them using fish-emulsion, but they seem to be getting progressively worse. I don't have a strict watering schedule, I do the 'finger test' every day and water when they seem to need it.

Any help would be great!

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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

" I don't have a strict watering schedule"

Could be the issue. Tomatoes like consistent watering. Right now I'm religiously doing Wednesday and Saturday waterings. I will tighten this up to every other day when we hit the 80s regularly.

Some other thoughts:
- are they getting 6+ hours of direct sun?
- has it been really windy?
- Fish emulsion is good down the road, but might not be enough nitrogen to get the plants really growing strongly
- Are your plants bunched too close together? They could be competing for space, water, nutrients, etc.
- Have you grown successfully in that mix before? Using manure can be too rich, salty and unpredictable in containers. I wouldn't use it in any container situation. What potting soil did you use?

All yellow leaves from the bottom up often means lack of nitrogen.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 12:49PM
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Jay Part Shade (Zone 10B, S21, Los Angeles)

All the things Ox said, though, from looking at your picture, all I see is one yellow branch, not the entire plant. Tomatoes will shed lower branches, just snap them off and focus on the healthy growth.

That said, it looks like the plants are too close together unless you're pruning heavily to only one or two stalks.

Personally, fish isn't my main organic fert. I use a balanced one, add fish and seaweed as supplements. Yellow is a classic sign of lack of nitrogen, but that just looks like something else entirely.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 3:39PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

You say it's in a combination of potting soil and manure, but it looks like wood mulch. Any one of those could be causing problems in a container. That mix will not supply enough nutrition to keep a tomato growing. I plant in 5-1-1, which is 70 percent pine bark fines, and I fertilize with a controlled release fertilizer that supplies all the needed macro and micronutrients. My tomatoes take off when transplanted into that mix, with no yellowing. Can you say more about your potting mix?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 3:55PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Indeed, I'd like to see the entire plant.

Based on what I can see, I would assume excess moisture in the growing medium - particularly in a mix of manure and potting soil.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 7:27PM
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Will post a more complete photo tomorrow, when it's light out. Thanks everyone for your responses!

The mix was chosen based on recommendations from a friend who had had success with it in the past. "Hapi-grow" (i think) is the brand name. It had bark, sphagnum, sand and something else. I did a 4:1 ratio of potting soil to manure [ended up being about 3 bags soil to a touch over half a bag manure]

I will transplant some of them to new containers this weekend. I don't think overcrowding is the cause of this particular problem, but I'm sure it isn't helping.

I'm totally new to this and have never container gardened in my life. I thought I had done my due diligence prior to starting - now I'm not so sure.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 9:34PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Cardinal rule of tomatoes is no pot is too big and you can't give them too much root room.

Next time ditch the manure. It's not contributing anything and could be damaging. Also try and find out what that "something else" is. Those look kind of like perlite chunks, but double check.

Back to fish emulsion, it's more like a snack than a full blown fert. New tomato plantings need a good dose of all the macros and micros off the bat. Then as they transition into flower/fruit stage, you ease back on the N and hit the potassium harder.

Keep in mind container gardening is mostly a labor of love. Few pot plantings are truly fire and forget. There is constant course correcting needed even after you get the basics down.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 3:36AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Too much water, Not enough Nitrogen.

I suspect a drainage problem. How many hole, how big ?
Is the tub holes are underneath, sitting on the ground ?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 4:36AM
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