How to Identify Tomato Problems and Prevent Them

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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
    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

Have a Tomato Problem or Question?

You can ask questions and find answers about ...

Problems on tomato leaves

Problems on tomato stems

Problems on tomato fruit

But if you have another problem with your tomatoes, a question about tomato care, or a great tip about handling tomato diseases and pests, you can share it here.

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