Tomato Diseases & Problems - The Vegetable Doctor is In!

sick tomato

Caring for your tomatoes

Just another day in the life of the Vegetable Doctor during tomato season. sunscald on tomato

A tomato walked into the Vegetable Doctor's office at 8 a.m. complaining, "Doc, I've got leathery patches on my skin. They're white or light brown. What's wrong with me?" The Vegetable Doctor said,"You've got sunscald from too much sun hitting you. Tell your gardener to make sure there are enough leaves on your plant so you get more shade in the afternoon."

The second patient was wheeled in by one of the nurses, with a big, grey gash down his side. The nurse shook her head, "Doctor, I think I know what happened here. He was drinking heavily and then every once in awhile he'd go cold turkey and dry out." The doctor agreed, "Unfortunately this is a classic case of cracking. If this tomato had been drinking at a steady rate he would have been just fine. He should have tried drip irrigation. I'll give him a prescription for mulch, to keep his soil moisture more even." cracking tomatoes

Just before lunch, a tomato wearing a veil opened the door of the doctor's office and whispered, "Doctor, I'm embarrassed to go to potlucks. When I take off this veil you'll see how strange my skin looks." She removed her veil and the Vegetable Doctor nodded. "Just what I was afraid of, you have blotchy ripening. Have you been living in a hot, overcast climate? You needed more sun during the day or more potassium. Here's a box of balanced fertilizer that should help even out the skintone for the other tomatoes on your plant."

The first patient after lunch was a tomato the Vegetable Doctor knew well. This tomato tended to read up on his symptoms before he came to the office and was always trying to diagnose himself. "Doctor, I've been online watching Tricia's video on tomato problems , and I'm pretty sure my trouble is caused by overhead watering. See these one-centimeter concentric circles? I think I have early blight. I want you to write me a prescription for Liqui-Cop spray." The Vegetable Doctor sighed and said, "As usual, you're absolutely right. We could talk about other fungicides, but Liqui-Cop is a broad-spectrum, copper fungicide and it's your best bet. Do you want me to call this in to your usual organic gardening supply store?" The tomato nodded. "And", said the doctor, "tell your gardener to lay off the overhead watering. It sets you up for these problems. Why hasn't your gardener changed to drip irrigation?" The tomato shrugged. blossom end rot on tomatoes

As part of his family practice the Vegetable Doctor also saw juvenile patients. A very young tomato toddled into his office, pointing to his blossom end where there were scattered brown spots. The doctor lifted him up on to the examining table and studied him. "Hmm, looks like the early stage of blossom end rot. Did your gardener check the calcium level in the soil before planting?" The young tomato look confused. "I'll write a note to your gardener, suggesting she watch some videos on soil testing and good practices for planting tomatoes. A lot of gardeners weren't able to keep the water supply steady and the soil may not have enough calcium, and I've been seeing a lot of this."

The last patient of the day was the most serious one. A tomato leaf walked slowly in, with yellowing obvious on one side. "Come and sit down right away", said the Vegetable Doctor, "it's clear to me that you have fusarium wilt. Luckily I have something that can help." The tomato leaf sat up straighter. "It's a fungicide with beneficial microbes, called Mycostop. I'm sending you back to the garden with a sample. Tell your gardener to use this as a soil drench and a foliar spray." The tomato leaf left with a smile on the green part of her leaf. After a long day at the office the Vegetable Doctor went home and checked his garden. He admired his healthy tomato plants, pruned for good air circulation, and beamed at them all.

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Larry, you are correct that healthy, live soil is essential to growing a great garden, but sometimes the soil may be deficient in nutrients and needs some help. Adding compost to the soil is great and should be done often, but also practicing good crop rotation is important as well.

Suzanne at

Like most doctors, you rely too heavily on chemistry to treat symptoms. Try preventing the root cause of these problems, poor soil. Compost, not inorganic chemicals, will build the soil. Your chemicals kill all organic life so the gardener is forever dependent upon even more, annually applied, inorganic chemicals to grow anything in the once beautiful soil, now reduced to barren dirt.

Larry Maloney

Ralph, It is really hard to diagnose what your problem is without seeing a photo. I would suggest taking a sample of the problem, put it in a plastic bag and take it to your local nursery or master gardener. Here is a website put out by Cornell University,, might help with finding your problem.

Suzanne at
I like your approach to tomato problems but I have a question for you. What would cause the leaves of my tomato plants look like they have tiny seeds that are white and all over my plants and is there something that I can do to rid myself of these ?
Ralph Hamilton

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