Diagnosing Tomato Troubles

Diagnosing Tomato Troubles

Diagnosing Tomato Trouble

Tomato Pests and Disease

Imagine my disappointment the other day went I went out to my garden to check my transplants and found that a cutworm had attacked my Green Zebra and Principe Borghese tomato plants. Grrr.

I planted them from seeds, tended them, and watched them grow into my beautiful healthy seedlings that I put in my garden. Unfortunately sometimes there is just nothing we can do to win the battle against Mother Nature. But, on the plus side there are a whole lot of things we can do to tip the scales in our favor. One of the best ways is to take preventative measures.

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Prevention is the best way to keep from having problems at all. The cleaner and happier you keep your area, the less problems you should have.

  • The first line of defense is don’t over crowd. Plant your tomato seedlings no closer than recommend. Make sure there is plenty of good air circulation. Don’t plant right up next to a solid fence or other obstacle.
  • Make sure to supply a support in the form of a cage or a stake when planting your seedlings. I like to use cages as I feel they give them better support. We wrap the bottom 12″ of the cages with clingy wrap to protect the tomato seedlings from strong Spring winds.
    • Keep the area free of dead leaves and over ripe vegetables. These are just an invitation to disease and pests. Also, be sure to keep the garden well weeded. Weeds tend to fight for the nutrients and water.
    • Do not over water. Do not get water on the leaves. The best way to water is with drip irrigation or a soaker hose. Test the soil by putting your finger down in about 2″. If it is dry – If the ground is still wet at 1″ down wait to water when it is drier.
    • Don’t over prune. As you will see later, this can lead to other problems. Honestly, I do not remove my suckers or prune my tomatoes at all. This is the way I have been gardening for 20 plus years.
    • Make sure your soil is warm enough and at the correct pH of 6.0 to 6.8 before planting.

  • Oh no, I have a problem!

    If you monitor your plants regularly you should be able to see and treat your problem quickly. Here are a few of the problems you may find

    • Blossom end rot – This will show up as a dark , rotted spot on the bottom of your tomato. This could be a Calcium deficiency, or could be due to irregular watering. A lot of times this will go ahead and correct itself as the season progresses. It is safe to cut off the affected part and eat the rest of the tomato.
    • Blossom drop – Your blossoms will not fertilize and they will drop. No fruit is produced. This can happen when temperatures are too high or too low. Not much can be done about this except waiting it out. Be sure though that you buy varieties that are suited for your climate. For example, if you are in a hot climate, buy tomatoes that are heat resistant.
    • Fruit cracking – This can occur when there are heavy rains or hot dry weather. Again, you may just have to wait this one out. The fruit is safe to eat.
    • Sunscald – This is like your tomato getting a sunburn. You will see white areas on the skin. The taste will probably be off. This is caused by the plant canopy not providing enough protection. If you over prune this is an issue. You can or cannot remove the suckers on tomato plants. These are found between the main stem and branches. They produce no fruit, so some argue that they take away nutrients from the “good” producing parts of the plant. Just be careful not to get carried away.
    • Leaf roll – You may encounter this if you have excessively wet soil, or soil that does not have proper drainage. The leaves will curl up towards the center. Monitor your soil conditions and cut back off on watering until the ground is dry 2″ down.
    • Leaf spot – This does not affect the tomatoes, only the leaves. Be sure to water your plants at ground level and do not splash water on the leaves. Make sure you have good air circulation.
    • Early blight – This is caused by a fungus in the soil. To avoid be sure to practice good crop rotation. It starts as small dark spots on the leaves. They will eventually yellow and turn brown. You may have a problem with sunscald if too many of the leaves die.

    Bugs That Love Your Tomatoes as Much as You Do

    Of course there are always bugs that may come into play. Again, regular inspection should lead you to find these before they are an epidemic.

      • Tomato Hornworms – You will know when these bad boys are around. I use white on black plastic garden mulch in my garden. I never have any problem spotting the “calling card” (droppings) from the hornworms. Plus, it is easy to spot the large holes in the tomato leaves. These pests can be hard to spot as they are pretty much the same color as the tomato leaves. But, they are a big caterpillar size, so it is hard for them to hide too much. Best way to get rid of these it to pluck them and squash them. Unfortunately, they turn into the intriguing sphinx, hawk or hummingbird moth. I had one in my garden one year and I just had to run in and search for what it was. They are pretty.

    • Cutworms – These guys like to get after your seedlings. They will come out at night (convenient for not being spotted) and “cut” the seedling off just above ground level. As I said earlier, I had this happen to 2 of my plants this year. Fortunately there was enough still there that they grew back on their own. They are a little behind the other plants at this point, but not really all that significant of an amount. You can make a paper collar to prevent these worms from getting to your tomato plants. Or, you can take a paper cup and cut out the bottom and put it over your seedling for protection.
    • Whiteflies – These are found feeding on the bottom of the tomato leaves. They are small, moth like in appearance and white in color. Your tomato will experience stunted growth, leaf yellowing and reduced yields. You can use neem oil or natural predators such as the ladybug to control these.
    Juicy Tasty Tomatoes

    Juicy Tasty Tomatoes


    Experiment with different varieties to find the best tomato suited for your weather conditions. You may also ask local gardeners or your local extension office which varieties you should try. Don’t get discouraged. In gardening you will win some and lose some. Fortunately for gardeners the wins always outweigh the losses. And the end result, that juicy ripe  tomato, is worth the effort. Leave a comment below letting us know any problems you have had and the best solution you have found. Thanks!

Amazon page for Advance Greenhouses

Don't forget the gardener on your Christmas list.

Don’t forget the gardener on your Christmas list.

I am thrilled to announce that Amazon has approved us for their infuencer program. Through this I am able to share my personal recommendations for gardening products. I have spent the last week scouring Amazon deciding which products were worthy of this page. A lot of the products are items that I have used personally. Some of them are items I have sold before and had positive response on them. Some of the products are items which I have seen while attending trade shows. And finally, for the items I was unfamiliar with, I studied all of the reviews to decide if I thought they were good enough to make the cut. All items are garden related, although some of the items are just a little bit whimsical. Gotta have a little fun while digging in the dirt. Oh yeah, and this is an affiliate program. We will get a small commission on any item which you buy from Amazon as long as you start your search on this page.  Check it out and see what you think! Tammy


Glass Greenhouses vs Polycarbonate Greenhouses

Glass Greenhouses vs Polycarbonate Greenhouses

Glass Greenhouses vs Polycarbonate                Greenhouses

I get this question a lot. What is the difference between a glass greenhouse and a polycarbonate greenhouse. I am going to assume that the frames are basically the same, so the biggest difference will be in the glazing material.

Glass greenhouses will be more expensive than a polycarbonate greenhouse. Especially with a curved eave. The glass is all tempered (safety) glass, even the curve. The curved tempered glass is more expensive than doing a curved polycarbonate. The twinwall polycarbonate is flexible enough that it is bent right onsite as you are installing the kit. There are no special tools or processes needed to do this. You just simply bend it over into the curved frame and attach it.

Looks are another obvious difference. The glass greenhouse will have more of a timeless look to it. I suppose if you want to use the word “fancier” that could even be applied. Just in looks, not in function. A lot of people don’t like the polycarbonate glazed greenhouse as it will be translucent rather than transparent. It will not be like looking through a window like the glass greenhouse will. Twinwall polycarbonate is made up of 2 sheets, an interior and an exterior. These sheets are both clear and would look much like looking through a window if you peeled the walls apart. Multiwall polycarbonate is much like looking down the end of a cardboard box. You will have the exterior and the interior sheet with a rib in between them. The rib will run straight between the 2 sheets, not curvy like in a cardboard box. This rib is what distorts your view. You can see color in a polycarbonate greenhouse, just not a clear form.

The glass greenhouse will not be as well insulated as the polycarbonate greenhouse. A single glass greenhouse will have an R value of approximately 0.95. A 6mm twinwall polycarbonate greenhouse will have an R value of around 1.6. This means that if you have the same size single glass greenhouse and polycarbonate greenhouse in the same location, trying to heat it to the same temperature, the glass greenhouse will cost you more to heat. It seems from the difference in the R value that it would be about twice as much. That is not the case. There is a formula that uses the size of the greenhouse, the difference in the temperature inside and outside the greenhouse, and the glazing material. If this is a consideration in your instance, the best way to determine how many BTU’s you will need is to actually do the calculations.

Breakage is another issue. Tempered glass will break if it is hit in the right manner. There is just no way around it. But, it is tougher than regular float glass, and it will shatter into small pieces, so safety is not a concern. Polycarbonate has a 10 year warranty against hail damage. It is a very tough material. It will not break like the glass.

Lifetime of the glazing material is the last issue I will discuss. Glass will pretty much last forever unless it is broken. Polycarbonate generally has a warranty that the light transmission will not vary more than a specified number in 10 years. This is just a fancy way of saying that it will not turn yellow or get brittle. Some of the manufacturers have extended their warranties to 15 and even 20 years. I have personally seen sheets that were 15 years old and still in use. They looked just fine. I have had reports back of 20 year lifetime on the material.

Glass greenhouses vs polycarbonate greenhouses? What is the conclusion. They both have their benefits, it just depends on which fits best into your needs. The best decision is to make sure to get a greenhouse, no matter what type. It will give you hours of enjoyment, produce food for your family, protect your orchids, and be the envy of your friends and neighbors.

STILL a very happy customer!!

Tempered Glass Attached Greenhouse

Acadian Lean To Greenhouse

I received an email yesterday with this in the subject line. STILL a very happy customer!!! Lynne and Mike were kind enough to share a few words about their tempered glass shed style attached greenhouse. They purchase their Acadian Lean To in 2007. It is always nice to hear that people are happy with their purchases. Following is the email.

Just wanted to reach out and express our complete satisfaction with your product. It has been ten years now and we enjoy the greenhouse as much now as when it was new. Many enjoyable snow storms and rainy afternoons. It has endured the severity of the east coast temperature extremes and provides sanctuary to our plants without fail. Can’t thank you enough for all of your customer service during the purchase and shipping process. I wish all establishments had your dedication to customer satisfaction. Thank you so much,

Mike and Lynn Gaither


Visit a Local Greenhouse During the Holiday Weekend

Photographic Greenhouses

Greenhouses Photography Tour

With the long holiday weekend upon us, there is not a better time to visit a local display greenhouse. I have several favorites. I love to go to Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama. They have a beautiful conservatory. City gardens in New Orleans also has an excellent conservatory. Even the small town of Monroe, LA has the Biedenharn  with a beautiful conservatory. If you have a little more time and can take a trip the Biltmore in NC will also take your breath away. Also, Calloway Gardens in GA has a conservatory with butterflies and plants. These are all probably within an 8 hour drive of our location. You will probably not have to go far to find several in your area as well. Take a young gardener along and inspire them. You will find many styles and sizes of conservatories and greenhouses to explore. This article is about a couple of photographers who have started on a quest to explore greenhouses in far away places. I am totally envious of them.

The Search for the World’s Most Enchanting Greenhouses

Magnus Edmondson and India Hobson’s greenhouse quest began in Oxford, England, at the Botanic Garden, on a Sunday morning. “We were the only people there, and it was so incredibly quiet,” they write. The only sounds were “gasps of wonderment” and the “occasional sigh.” From there, Edmondson and Hobson, photographers based in Sheffield, were hooked. They began what they call “a self-initiated Greenhouse Tour of the World”—they find, explore, and photograph greenhouses, potting sheds, polytunnels, conservatories, and other indoor spaces made by humans, for plants.