How to Identify Tomato Problems and Prevent Them

tomato bush

Even the most diligent gardener can’t control tomato problems in the garden! While healthy tomato plants don’t always start, stay, or end that way, problems needn’t be a death sentence for plants. Most can be halted or reversed.

There are 3 sources of tomato problems:

  1. Tomato diseases
  2. Tomato pests
  3. Growing conditions

How to identify tomato problems

Healthy tomato plants have:
  • green and evenly-colored leaves
  • strong, green stems
  • firm fruit with a smooth color

If you check plants each day, you’ll discover and identify problems at their onset. Then you treat them quickly and successfully. You simply need to know what to look for.

Use this checklist to monitor problems on three tomato parts: leaves, stems, and fruit.

Problems on leaves

  • dark, gray, or white spots
  • yellowed or mottled foliage
  • curled leaves
  • holes
  • stripped foliage
  • sticky dew
Problems on Tomato Leaves: How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Them

Problems on stems

  • mushiness
  • dark, gray, or discolored streaks
  • holes
  • sticky dew
  • white mold
  • stunted growth
Problems on Tomato Stems: How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Them

Problems on fruit

  • sunken or discolored spots
  • misshapen fruit
  • cracks
  • holes
Problems on Tomato Fruit: How to Identify Them, What to Do

How to prevent problems

Take steps before, during, and after the growing season to prevent problems from creeping into your tomato crop.

Before the season

  • Rotate your tomato crop from year to year. Many fungi over-winter in the soil. You can prevent infection in a new season by planting tomatoes in a different place than in the previous year.
  • Choose disease-resistant tomato varieties. A variety may have been bred to be resistant to one or more diseases. Look for tomato disease-resistant codes on seed or seedling packets, specified by capital letters:
    V=Verticillium Wilt
    F=Fusarium Wilt
    N=nematodes
    A=Alternaria
    T=Tobacco Mosaic Virus
    St=Stemphylium (Gray Leaf Spot
    TSWV=Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
  • Plant healthy seedlings. Grow your own tomato seeds, or buy tomato plants that are pest- and disease-free.
  • Plant “good neighbors” – companion plants that repel pests and dispel disease

During the season

  • Maintain a consistent watering schedule. Monitor rainfall and supplementing appropriately to provide 1-3 inches a week
  • Water at the soil line. Avoid overhead watering, which can spread disease.
  • Don’t over-water
  • Mulch plants once they’re established – about 3- 5 weeks after setting them out in the garden
  • Don’t let anyone smoke in the garden (tobacco refuse can spread tobacco mosaic virus)

After the season

  • Clear tomato plant debris
  • Destroy infected plants


More on tomato problems

Problems on tomato leaves ...

Problems on tomato stems ...

Problems on tomato fruit ...


Tomato diseases

How to identify, treat, and control tomato diseases...

How to understand tomato disease resistance codes ...

Different kinds of tomato blight and how to tell them apart ...

How to identify and treat early blight ...

How to identify and treat late blight ...

How to identify and treat Septoria leaf spot ...

Fusarium wilt on tomatoes ...

Verticillium wilt on tomatoes ...

Bacterial wilt on tomatoes ...


Tomato pests

How to identify tomato pests and control them ...

Tomato hornworm: how to identify and control it ...

Tomato worms-cutworms: keep them away with stem collars ...

Stink bugs: how to identify and control them on tomato plants...


Problems from growing conditions

Blossom end rot: how to identify, treat, and prevent it ...

Why a tomato cracks and what to do about it ...

Are bumps on tomato stems harmful to plants?

Tomato sunscald: why too much sun can be hazardous to tomatoes...


Have a Tomato Problem or Question?

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Problems on tomato leaves

Problems on tomato stems

Problems on tomato fruit

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