Tomato plants are one of the most popular plants for any gardener to grow. Whether this garden is your first you have ever tried, or you have been growing your own vegetables as long as you can remember, tomatoes most likely are in it. With their popularity, and having a couple of questions come into the office lately, I decided to share a few articles by Ward Upham, horticulture expert for K-State Research and Extension this week for possible concerns with your plants at home.
Do Not Over-Fertilize Tomatoes: Though tomatoes need to be fertilized to yield well, too much nitrogen can result in large plants with little to no fruit. Tomatoes should be fertilized before planting and sidedressed with a nitrogen fertilizer three times during the season. The first sidedressing should go down one to two weeks before the first tomato ripens. The second should be applied two weeks after the first tomato ripens and the third one month after the second. Common sources of nitrogen-only fertilizers include nitrate of soda, urea, and ammonium sulfate. Blood meal is an organic fertilizer that contains primarily, but not exclusively, nitrogen. Use only one of the listed fertilizers and apply at the rate given below. Nitrate of soda (16-0-0): Apply 2/3 pound (1.5 cups) fertilizer per 30 feet of row. Blood Meal (12-1.5-.6): Apply 14 ounces (1.75 cups) fertilizer per 30 feet of row. Urea (46-0-0): Apply 4 ounces (½ cup) fertilizer per 30 feet of row. Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0): Apply 0.5 pounds (1 cup) fertilizer per 30 feet of row. If you cannot find the above materials, you can use a lawn fertilizer that is about 30 percent nitrogen (nitrogen is the first number in the set of three) and apply it at the rate of 1/3 pound (3/4 cup) per 30 feet of row. Do not use a fertilizer that contains a weed killer or weed preventer.
Physiological Leaf Curl in Tomatoes: Every year we have calls from gardeners who have tomato plants with leaves that curl up. When tomato plants grow vigorously in mild, spring weather the top growth often exceeds the root development. When the first few days of warm, dry summer weather hit, the plant ‘realizes’ that it has a problem and needs to increase its root development. The plant tries to reduce its leaf area by rolling leaves. The leaves curl along the length of the leaf (leaflet) in an upward fashion. It is often accompanied by a thickening of the leaf giving it a leathery texture. Interestingly, leaf roll is worse on some varieties than others. Though rolling usually occurs during the spring to summer shift period, it may also occur after a heavy cultivating or hoeing, a hard rain, or any sudden change in weather. This leaf roll is a temporary condition that goes away after a week or so when the plant has a chance to acclimate, recover from injury, or the soil has a chance to dry out.