Leaves are turning brown from the bottom up
Q. I have two tomato plants in my garden. They grew up and out very quickly and appeared to be thriving during the beginning of the summer. The past couple weeks they have been looking worse and worse. There are lots of fruits on the plants but they take forever to ripen. I have noticed that the leaves are brittle and brown starting on the bottom, near the soil and has been working its way up. I thought maybe I was over-watering but I have since slowed my watering and they are still not looking the way I would like. I also have zucchini, pepper, onions, and cucumbers. My zucchini and cucumbers have been doing wonderfully all season but the past few days the zucchini is starting to look a little dead on the bottom as well. My peppers still are not growing. They were looking real bad for a bit but I cut back the watering and opened up the area for more sun and the leaves look better but no peppers. What is wrong with my garden? Could it be my water? I have also noticed this morning that that my hanging basket that was beautiful is looking a little yellow and crusty in the leaves as well.
A. It's been a tough summer for gardeners and you are not alone.
Tomatoes. It's natural as the season progresses for lower leaves to yellow and brown and even fall off. This is particularly true if you've had temperatures higher than normal, which creates stress in plants. Furthermore, as summer progresses, plants are working to both survive and produce enough fruit to ensure their species survival in perpetuity (that is, seeds!). If your weather is particularly hot, then ripening in tomatoes will slow.
Having said that, several diseases can impact tomatoes which produce yellowed and brown leaves. Most common are the Big Blight Three (Early Blight,Late Blight, and Septoria Leaf Spot.) Check out how how to tell them apart. Tomato wilts also present themselves with yellowed or brown leaves, particularly fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt.
Blight and wilts can impact other crops in the garden, too. Organisms overwinter in the garden and present themselves particularly when conditions create stress for plants.
Peppers. These plants thrive in dry conditions. They also take much longer to produce fruit than other crops in the garden (like tomatoes.) Plus, excess heat may be inhibiting pollination. Shake the plants to encourage blossoms to pollinate ... and be patient.
Good luck and happy gardening!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt