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Plants are struggling, any suggestions?

 
gardener
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I stopped by my sisters today and checked on he garden.
Lots of her plants are struggling, and I don't know why.
It has been dry, but my BIL actually waters them every morning.
I never water mine, and most of her soil comes from me, plus most of our plants come from the same place, so I'm flummoxed.
Take a look and tell me what you think:
20210629_174211.jpg
Sad looking tomatoes
Sad looking tomatoes
 
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Looks like you are using a lot of fine wood chips or something like that. Your tomatoes most likely lack nitrogen and even organic matter or minerals. Many difference kinds of wood, such as walnut and hickory, contain natural chemicals that will suppress tomato growth. And many other kinds of wood, such as black locust and cedar, take a seriously long period of time to decompose, like 7 to 15 years. Some youtubers claim to have successes in using wood chips in their gardens. They just got lucky or may be they have good soil to start with. LOL

You probably need to add some nitrogen to your tomato plants, say by adding some 1:10 diluted human urine or 1:10 diluted chicken manure to your raised bed. I suspect if you have a full bed of wood chips, you need to add some other minerals such as calcium too. Add some freshly cut grass clippings as mulch. They will release more nitrogen and other nutrients to your bed in the coming month or two.

I prepared my tomato bed by cutting the grass and weeds, then put them back to the same area. Then I added some freshly cut grass and some half composted tree leaves. In one bed I added some 90% decomposed straw bale as an experiment.  Then I added some egg shells and cured quail manure to each bed twice after I have planted the tomatoes. The two beds turns out pretty close in terms of growth, except for less sun exposure for one bed.
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steward
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Yeah, sounds and looks like it could be too much water.
 
William Bronson
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There are definitely a lot of wood chips,  but they are very decomposed.
They started out full sized and time and nature reduced them to that fine texture.
Overwinter we covered the beds with leaves and rabbit bedding,  only uncovering them in late spring.
I do the same with my own beds, with excellent results.

I will try some chicken manure compost tea, rabbit bedding and diluted urine.

I wonder if the chlorine and fluoride in our city water is doing a number on the plants.
They have a rain barrel but its not hooked up to the gutters, so it doesn't have much catchment.
One barrel isn't enough to cover daily gardening anyway.
I'll see if I can talk my BIL out of that habit.
 
pollinator
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I grow tomatoes in extremely low nitrogen soil (a cheapo npk soil test didn't even get a nitrogen reading on some of my soil) and they still grow okay. I'd lean towards too much water, as well.
 
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Hi William,    Here are a few thoughts for you to ponder.

You said that your sister mostly uses the same dirt/wood chips that you do. But she has other soil mixed in. Was the other soil lacking or unproductive in some way and how much was there? That is something to keep in mind. This is the difference between your bed and hers. But the wood chips themselves look good to me. I amend my beds every few years with a similar product from Home Depot. It's called “Kellogg's Amend”. It's OMRI certified organic. I amended this bed pictured below just last spring with 4 -3 cube bags and the plants love it. So that is probably not the issue. Like you said, they decompose quickly.

You said you got your plants from the same place but are they the same plants? Different varieties can behave very differently under similar conditions.

Is she over watering? Well, that's pretty easy to determine. You can go to a hardware store and buy a cheap $8.00 moisture meter and then try this..... She waters in the morning. So, in the evening she should go out and stick her finger in the dirt. Is the top inch or so of the soil wet or dry? Now stick the moisture meter in and it will tell you how wet the soil is 6-8 inches down. Special note here-  my moisture meters will say it is 'wet' even if the soil is ever so slightly damp so I always test a new one out on a small pot of dirt first. Water the pot and test hours later. When the reading is just below the 'wet' setting dig the dirt out and you will know just how wet it thinks wet is. When my meter is at the half way point (moist) my dirt is bone dry. It's good to know. By late evening I still want my beds to be slightly damp (the wet setting on the meter) and by morning I want it to be dry (the half way point on the meter). But you will be able to determine if she is actually over watering or not.

Whenever I have a plant that is struggling I snip off a leaf and bring it up to my computer. Then google the words “mineral deficiencies in (in this case) tomato plants” and look at the Images. I always need pictures along with the descriptions. There are hundreds of websites that can help you. The pictures aren't always so great so I keep looking until I find the same exact picture of the leaf in my hand and the description matches. Is the problem with the older leaves or the younger leaves or the whole plant? It takes a bit of time but it is much better than just taking guesses. This will give you a game plan to follow and document.

And once you have decided to try something it might be nice to buy her a few new plants for the 4th of July and add them to the bed to see what happens. Hope this helps.
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Hi all
Im the sister big/ little brother is trying to cultivate into a gardener. Some of these tomatoes are in a spot where I had sweet potatoes  i never harvested last year.  However my peppers and watermelon. Are suffering similarly and they are whhere the tomatoes were last year.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
 
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It isn't spidermites is it?  They cause dry looking mottling of leaves and particularly love cucubits and aubergines with me, but I gather they can be a problem for tomatoes too (see best juicy tomatoes).
I had them in my polytunnel but that seems to be much better after a few years.  They like hot dry conditions.  You can mist the plants to raise the humidity, or I predators can be bought online.  I did this for the tunnel, but I don't know whether that made the difference for me.
As regards tap water.  Much of the chlorine will leave the water if it is left for a few hours.  Maybe try filling the waterbutt (barrel) with tap water and leaving it overnight before using it.
 
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Hi Mona


Welcome to Permies.
 
gardener
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Hi William,

In the past I used bone and blood meal (purchased separately) with excellent results.  The blood meal typically yielded up plenty of nitrogen for the season and the bone meal gave phosphorus for at least the season, probably more.

If you are nutrient deficient, these two amendments can work wonders.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Another thought William,

This could be a potassium deficiency, which typically results in leaves that are weak, spindly, sometimes yellowish and generally unhealthy looking.

Human urine is a great, cheap and effective remedy.  I do use “Vitamin P” on my tomatoes and they get a great dose of nitrogen and potassium.

Just another possibility.  I imagine that you could really juice up the plants with bone meal, blood meal all washed in with diluted urine.

A possibility.

Eric
 
William Bronson
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I regularly pee in my bed(s), LOL...
I'm not sure if Mona is ready for that!
I do have some bone meal I made from leftover stock bones, so I'll bring that when I bring the other amendments.
I also have some alfalfa pellets, another good source of nitrogen.
 
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I agree with the others that say too much water is most likely the problem due to the very dark (and wet) looking soil and those yellowing leaves on the tomato plants.

The way she can check to see if watering is necessary is to check the soil moisture BEFORE watering to MAKE CERTAIN it is really needed. She can use her finger or,  I have a moisture meter called "Three-way Meter" that was under $20 and so far is very reliable.  I never water if  it indicates the soil has good moisture. I only water if it leans towards becoming dry and then I  try to give an inch of rain water or filtered municipal water.

Where I am (zone , it is generally in the 90s every day and I sometimes only need to water every OTHER day.  
 
steward
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William Bronson wrote:I regularly pee in my bed(s), LOL...
I'm not sure if Mona is ready for that!
I do have some bone meal I made from leftover stock bones, so I'll bring that when I bring the other amendments.
I also have some alfalfa pellets, another good source of nitrogen.



I'm not quite ready for it either, though I do direct my husband and son to pee in certain areas if they're going to pee outside.

There's been a few times when I've seen something that really needed a nitrogen boost, that I just grabbed a mason jar and filled it in the bathroom, much like when I had to give pee samples at the doctor's office. I feel a little odd carrying it out of the house, but it's a lot less odd than squatting in the garden!
 
William Bronson
gardener
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Well,soon after my posts I added about 16 buckets of chicken compost and they are not struggling anymore:
20210905_195729.jpg
Lots of plant, not enough ripe tomatoes.
Lots of plant, not enough ripe tomatoes.
 
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