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Running out of tomato time

While I might have ripening tomatoes in the works, what I don’t have is a whole lot of time.

You might think I’m talking about the change in seasons, but the problem has nothing to do with the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. No, no. This is closer to the kind of problem I might have been able to avoid had I the right set of gardening skills.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the tomato plants were no longer just browning from the bottom up, as they have been for most of the season. In fact, they were also developing spots. Mildewy, fuzzy spots on almost every leaf.

For a moment, I despaired. This was, in fact, before I’d managed to even get a single tomato to ripen, so I had this flash-forward to pulling out all the plants, no harvest whatsoever, which would also mean, so far this summer, absolutely no harvest from this container garden at all. I’m still rolling with stunted basil and sage, after all, and scrawny single baby lettuce leaves barely worth watering, much less eating.

This, I must say, is not my most successful gardening season ever.

But then I decided to just wait it out. I’m sure there’s some kind of remedy for the blight on the plants. There probably is something I could have done in advance to avoid it (and I’d love suggestions if you’ve got ‘em). But at this point, I’m pretty much focused on just keeping each plant alive long enough to harvest at least one tomato off each plant. I’ve had success with one, there’s a nearly-ripe tomato on another, and there are green tomatoes on the third and fourth.

And when I’ve gotten what I can off the plants, I’m going to tear them out and start over, this time with an eye toward what actually grows in this strange, strange climate out here.

6 Comments on “Running out of tomato time”

  1. #1 Valerie
    on Sep 30th, 2010 at 7:20 am

    I’ve been having this problem since about July. What I do is cut off the leaves with the spots and then spray the plant with “Organocide”

    My tomatoes have ripened just fine. I didn’t get as many as in past years, but I did get some good ones.

  2. #2 inadvertentgardener
    on Sep 30th, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Valerie, thanks for that tip. I’m afraid if I start cutting leaves now, I’m going to end up cutting them all off…that’s my only fear! Thanks for the product recommendation, though — very helpful.

  3. #3 trey
    on Oct 1st, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Don’t feel bad, we had the worst tomato season ever. I never harvested any tomatoes this year, except for the little Sungolds. The weather just didn’t cooperate. As for the mildew it won’t just go away. A great year for mildew. We have all had a cooler than normal year, and in The Bay Area that meant more fog, and cooler temps for summer than normal.

    There is a mildew control that is real cool. It’s called Serenade, and it’s a specialized bacteria that attack the mildew, but is totally safe to use on consumables. These new pesticides that are made out of very specific bacteria are the wave of the
    future. Here is a link to more info.

    Bottom line, in nor Cal it was a crappy year for home grown vegetables.

  4. #4 Stephanie Morimoto
    on Oct 1st, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I also tried cherry tomato plants in black pots in my backyard. They thrived through the hot spring/early summer then nearly gave up the ghost through the unrelenting fog in July (

    I cut off the mildewy leaves (I still had some green ones) then sprayed the remaining plant with Serenade. The plant didn’t fully rejuvenate, but it did halt further mildew. New leaves and flowers grew, and I was able to harvest a half dozen more cherry tomatoes off the plant. I’d try it!

  5. #5 inadvertentgardener
    on Oct 4th, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Trey, that’s really good to know — I really appreciate your perspective on this.

    Stephanie, thanks for that report! May still give it a try, though I must say…I’m sort of, at this point, thinking I need to rethink what’s in the pots for winter.

  6. #6 Lydia
    on Mar 11th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Genie,

    I’m not expert by any means, but the pics remind me of a similar problem I had with my tomato plants. The leaves became that yellow color, then bronzed. Problem was spider mites, more specifically tomato russet mites.

    When I looked around for how to get rid of spider mites, I found this great organic solution that works for all types of plants and crops. I believe it was originally developed for medical cannabis, but hey…it works.

    Maybe it’s something you might want to consider if you have the same problem next year.

    Good luck with your new ventures and writing,

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