Leaves turning white

loribee2(CA 9)April 23, 2014

I just planted peppers and tomatoes in a bed I've been growing vegetables in for 6 years now. Like every year, I turned in steer and chicken manure into the existing soil before planting. The only new thing I did this year was heavily mulch in the hope of cutting down my watering this year (I'm in California).

I grew the plants from seed like I always do. Planted them on Saturday. This is only 3 days later and the leaves are turning white. One book says nitrogen or magnesium deficiency? Would you agree? I'm a little surprised as I thought manure was mostly nitrogen.

Could it also be just the shock of transplanting? Maybe weather too cool? I don't usually plant before May but am pretty sure we're over frost so I went ahead with it. The tomatoes in this bed are doing the same thing.

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It looks quite healthy to me? Nitrogen yellowing starts from old leaves and sulfur yellowing from new leaves.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:48AM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Well, they looked much healthier before I planted, LOL. The more I internet search, the more I'm thinking iron deficiency? I confess, I didn't turn in the manure as much as I normally do. Instead, I just raked it into the top inch or so of soil. Maybe too high a concentration of manure in this top layer where the young plants are planted? This bark is separated by a layer of brown paper, so I can't imagine anything in it leaching into the soil. At least not so soon.

Grrrr, every year it's something. It's a wonder I end up with the bounty I do come August.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:19AM
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Classic case of magnesium deficiency. Water plants with an epsom salt solution (1 T per gallon).

It's possible that the bed was depleted of magnesium from cropping for six years, particularly if your native soil does not have dolomite.

Compost is a better source of Mg than manure, so you may want to amend your beds with that in the fall.

Another possibility given that you didn't mix the manure into the soil is that ammonium ions in manure will compete with Mg uptake and may induce an Mg deficiency. If this is the case, the problem should resolve itself once the roots grow deeper into the soil. I would still apply the epsom salts as an interim measure.

This post was edited by Slimy_Okra on Wed, Apr 23, 14 at 12:14

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:08PM
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geosankie(5a NEPA)

Only 2 or three days in the ground so I don't think a nutrient deficiency would show up that fast. I rather suspect sunburn may be the cause. You did harden them off, right ? Was the manure fresh or well composted ?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:31PM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

+1 on the sunburn...and or windburn.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:44PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Oh thank you thank you, all of you for your feedback. I do have epsom salt and will give each plant a dose when I get home.

Geosankie, you touched on what has startled me most, and that is the speed that these leaves turned. Aside from bringing them out in the sun for a day here or there, I don't typically harden off my seeds, as I grow them in an unheated garden shed. Our spring weather is always so mild, they've never needed much. But like I said, I usually don't plant this early either.

The compost I used is bagged Steer and Chicken Manure from Lowes, so it should be fully composted. But I had worried about the high concentration I planted in for not turning it in good. My bad for trying to take a short cut.

I really appreciate your thoughts and feedback. I'm not so panicked now. Will give them the epsom salt rinse, and weather reports are clouds and some rain coming up, so I'll cross my fingers this is a temporary bump and I won't lose all my peppers and tomatoes this year.

Thanks again!

This post was edited by loribee2 on Wed, Apr 23, 14 at 13:01

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:00PM
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geosankie(5a NEPA)

I'd hold off on the Epsom Salts for awhile yet. Your little guys need some more time to get established and develop a good root system whereas they can more efficiently uptake the various nutrients that they need. Cloudy and rainy for a few days will help. Watch the new growth for any deficiency symptoms.
As a side note, it is usually best to add manure many weeks in advance to planting to allow the "soil microbes" time to convert the manures into a useable form for the plants to make use of.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:25PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

I will do that, thank you. We have had windy weather the last couple days, so it could be wind burn combined with too much sun. I'll keep a close eye on the new growth to see if it was just a temporary situation.

Appreciate the feedback and advice! Seems every year, something has me panicked early on, and by August I'm wading through a jungle of vegetables.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:44PM
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It looks more like sunburn to me.

Wait and see if your plant sends up new leaves that are used to the full sun, now that they have been transplanted. Usually nutrient deficiencies show up in a more pronounced way much farther from transplant than just one week.

White leaves means either sunburn in young plants, or a severe nutrient deficiency in older plants. White leaves could also be the result of disease, but that's unlikely for such young plants.

Unless you are growing in SEVERELY depleted soils, nutrient deficiency really can't be an issue for a young plant which requires relatively few nutrients. Nutrient deficiencies show up closer to when the plant is middle aged, producing seed without enough nutrients to complete the job.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:45PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Thank you, I will do that! The soil can't be bad. Every couple years I top off the beds with a good quality veggie mix soil from a local landscaping company, turning it into the clay soil underneath. On alternate years, I amend with manure. Good thing is, I typically fertilize with a mixture of fish emulsion and epsom salts, so if I do have a magnesium problem, that should help.

I will keep an eye on them and hope this is just my bad for not hardening them off before transplanting. Lessons not to get overconfident and take short cuts!

I appreciate the thoughts and help!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:10AM
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I too thought of sunburn at first, but I've noticed that sunburn turns the whole leaf white, not just the interveinal areas.

Let us know how your plants look over the next few days, OP. If additional leaves begin showing interveinal chlorosis, I would fertilize with a very dilute solution of epsom salt and see how it goes (1 tsp per gal).

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:37AM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Yes, it was the green veins that had me thinking nutrient deficiency also. I am thinking this weekend I will probably give them all a shot of my fish emulsion/epsom salt cocktail that I typically fertilize with anyway later in the season. It's not going to hurt.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:55AM
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I'm thinking burn also. Especially if you didn't harden off properly.

Side note: You may want to pull that mulch back a few inches.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:52PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Thank you, Kevin. I will!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 2:54PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Verdict, for those of you who remember this post from last week: I think it ended up being transplant shock/sunburn. It's been 4-5 days since then and nothing has worsened. All the new growth on the plants are healthy as are the leaves that survived that first shock. Sooo, I'm chalking this up to my bad for cutting corners and not hardening off like I should. Luckily, I'm in California and our mild weather is pretty forgiving. I think my plants will survive it just fine!

Thanks again for all the assistance!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:14AM
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If it happened that fast it's sunburn. White usually means sun burn. They'll probably be fine.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:27AM
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