If you’re like me, you hate “complicated.” When it gets to be too complex, my eyes tend to glaze over.
When I first started gardening, I knew nothing except for the fact that the earth had been growing things for thousands of years without the help of chemical companies. I had complete faith that if I planted and tried to follow nature and use her principles, I’d be successful.
Falling Prey to the Usual
After a few years, when I finally had access to “reading material” on organic gardening, I fell prey to what most all gardeners fall prey to at one time or the other. I became obsessive about trying to find a name for what was wrong with every plant that had an imperfect leaf. I’d search high and low for the possible “cause.”
Once I thought I had what I deemed to be the answer, I set about trying to “add” to my soil what was necessary to fix the problem.
Human nature being what it is, I guess “quick fixes” have always been popular. You know what I mean: “Add a little of this and it’ll cure that and your plants will be fantastic!”
It took me about 10 years of all that to finally realize that it was totally unnecessary. (You can read my story about one of the things that turned the tide for me (fusarium wilt) in my post post,Organic Gardening Keep it Simple, Because It Is.
For a while, I totally lost track of the fact that plants in the real world are not always picture perfect. Only in the world of marketing and selling garden products does a plant seem to look perfect every minute of its life – if you use the product being sold.
Nature is all about perfect balance and unless you really know what your soil needs you’re just guessing when you use a little of this and a little of that. Many times, you’re just making matters worse.
If you absolutely feel the necessity to add something, find out if you need it before you add it. (You might want to review my post post, Soil Test – The Pros and Cons.
The Best Way is Not Usually the Most Popular Way
Although the long term answer to any gardening question is not always the most popular, especially in today’s society, it’s most often the best answer.
The best way to have great plants is by having healthy soil.
The best way to have great soil is by consistently adding a diversity (variety) of organic material. Diversity is needed to make sure your soil gets everything it needs. (Keep in mind that cover crops can play a big roll in speeding up accomplishing the goal of great soil.)
The great thing about this simple way is that nature will do all the complicated stuff (the balancing) for you. You don’t have to be a scientist to figure it out.
Most Asked Question
The most asked question by gardeners is probably, “what’s wrong with my plants?” (Remember I mentioned previously about “trying to find a name for what was wrong with every plant that had an imperfect leaf.”)
Sometimes, there really is something wrong. And sometimes, the answer is simple.
Other times, because of the many variables and unknowns, there is no way to tell what’s wrong instantly.
And still other times there is nothing wrong and time will resolve the issue as the plants works through the problem (if there is any.)
Stories from My Experiences to Consider When Your Tomato Plants are a Bit Yellow and You’re Wondering What’s Wrong
# 1 – From Pot to Garden
I started my tomato seed April 1st this year. The seedlings looked fabulous as late as the second week of May, probably because I’d found the time to give them at least one drenching with fish emulsion.
I still have about 6 tomato plants sitting in pots. They’re lanky. They’re turning yellow. (Do I really have to tell anyone why?)
No, this is not the ideal way to treat seedlings. It would have been much better if I had had time to transplant the seedlings to a larger pot and nourish them and keep them at their very best. It’s always to our advantage to keep seedlings at their best and not put unnecessary stress on them. Then when unavoidable stress comes, they can take it even better.
Am I worried? No.
Why? Because I already know what will happen:
I’ll transplant them into my good garden soil this week. They may get to looking even worse while they’re establishing themselves. For example, I have several out in the garden that I transplanted a week or so ago. They turned mostly yellow and pale green after transplanting. But I can see the growth at the tops turning lush green.
Becoming one with the soil and soil life doesn’t happen instantly. I know they’re “taking hold” when that new growth starts turning a deep green. Some of the lower stems will stay yellow. I’ll just take those off.
#2 – Different Rates of Growth
I have tomato plants in the garden from 6 inches to 18 inches. Even if I planted several at the same time, it’s not unusual for one to stay small and one to quickly grow taller.
The reason? It could be any number of things: A different variety of tomato. The soil could be better in one spot than another. Or perhaps for whatever reason the tomato plant that is growing more quickly is the stronger plant.
It really is not something that concerns me at all, because I’ve seen it so many times over 35 years and know the outcome. And that is: all the plants will get huge and give me lots of tomatoes.
#3 – Putting Tomato Plants in When it’s Too Cold
When I started gardening I knew nothing about tomatoes not liking “cold” spring weather. When the end of March or the first of April came and I saw tomato seedlings in the garden center, I bought them. I thought (as I’m sure many do) that if the garden center had them for sale, it must be time to plant.
I’d buy 6 plants to get started early. (I had not yet discovered my winter sown method of starting warm weather crops. I would sow tomato seed in a flat and put them under the cold frame and wait for temperatures to be warm enough for them to germinate. The 6 purchased tomato seedlings gave me an earlier start.)
No matter how cold it was, I planted the tomato plants within a day of getting them home.
I remember they always took a turn for the worse almost immediately. Not surprising. First, those plants were raised on chemicals and when I got them home I’m sure they started suffering from withdrawal. Secondly, it was cold!
Most years the plants turned a bluish-purple. (A sign of their being too cold.) Then the leaves started to yellow. They sat there and didn’t grow for about a month. When the temperature warmed, they started growing. In spite of their poor beginnings, these sad little plants developed into huge plants and gave me hundreds of tomatoes through November and sometimes into December. (We lived closer to the river then, and the heat the river held kept frost away almost a month longer than where we live now. )
Nowadays, I generally wait until it warms to put my tomato seedlings into the garden. This year I got anxious and put two in at the end of April. Still too cold. They looked awful until just a few days ago. I picked the yellowing leaves off and they’ve totally renewed themselves with lush growth just in the last few days.
Leaves of Tomato Seedlings Turning Yellow
No one knows your plants and your situation better than you. So just ask yourself what is happening to make the leaves of your tomato plants turn yellow? Then after you determine what the reason might be, ask yourself it you can do anything about it or do you need to wait it out.
Here are the reasons most often responsible for yellowing leaves:
Wait until potted plants are dry before you water again. If plants are in the ground, don’t water until the ground is dry at least 2 inches down.
- Not getting proper nutrition.
If seedlings in pots are turning yellow, more than likely they’re not receiving proper nutrition. Plant them into good garden soil that has lots of organic matter. It will take them a while to establish themselves and grow lush. Be patient. It won’t happen instantly.
- It may be normal
It’s a regular occurrence in my garden for the lowest stems on tomatoes to turn yellow. Nip them off.
- If you use “fertilizer” and “quick fixes” – these can often make your leaves turn yellow.
Unless you REALLY know exactly what you are doing, I suggest my approach: consistently add organic matter to your soil and let nature balance it for you.
- And of course, later in the season it could be something like early blight that I have covered in previous post.
In most cases, if your garden soil is healthy, your plants will recover and still produce a good crop for you.
Conditions for the Most Perfect Tomato Plants
The ideal situation for the most perfect tomato plants are to start them in season (like right now). They’ll grow very quickly and can be transplanted quickly. Most often they’ll never miss a beat and be the healthiest tomato plants in the garden.
Another Question That I’m Often Asked
The minute folks have a problem they don’t understand, they want to know if they should pull the plants out?
If there were some kind of dread disease, then pulling something out would be appropriate. But that is seldom the reason for the problems most gardeners experience.
In answer to this question, I usually recommend LEAVING the plants in the garden until all is said and done.
The reason? You learn to be a better gardener from watching your plants and determining what they do and under what circumstances they do it. If you pull them out, you’ll never have the benefit of that hands-on experience and thus, the resulting knowledge.
Jack, friend and reader in New Jersey, tried growing onions from seed for the first time last year. He became discouraged in the middle of the summer because they were not growing as he thought they should. He wrote to me and said he was going to take them all up and put something else in that space. I encouraged him to leave them. He did.
Want to hear the happy ending? His onions from seed finally caught up with and in some cases surpassed his onions from transplants. He was thrilled with the beautiful onions he got from the seed he started. Needless to say, he was glad he left those onions in the ground! He never would have know what he could do (or what they would do) if he had pulled them up.
We all want to learn how to be good gardeners and good stewards of our land and plants. But in the process of improving and learning, our plants can look less than perfect.
Try to observe more and don’t obsess over the imperfections. Keep it simple. Work towards healthy soil and things WILL improve.
Armed with some of my experiences and yours, your approach to quick fixes and yellowing leaves may be a bit different in the future.
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