Tomato FAQ & Common Problems

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions, mainly about tomato problems and some of the difficulties faced by gardeners throughout the season.

Q. Should I Remove Side Shoots?
Side shoots are removed from tall varieties (in photo below) and tall varieties are also known as indeterminate or cordon. Bush varieties (determinate) don’t need their side shoots removed.

Q. Why Aren’t My Plants Tomato Side ShootsFlowering?
Tomato plants (tall varieties) may not begin to flower or produce a truss until they are over 18 – 24 inches tall. Some tall varieties will begin to flower at around 12 inches – it just depends on the variety.

However, you should see the very small flower buds forming in the growing tip of your plants by the time they reach around 12 inches.

Q. What Are Side Shoots?
They are the shoots that grow out between the main vertical stem and the leaf branches – they grow in the elbow joint. See two side shoots (aka suckers) above and also: Side Shoots and Trusses

Q. Why do my tomatoes split?
Fruit splitting is a problem mainly for those who grow in containers and grow bags – especially when the weather is warm and soil dries out quickly.

Tomato Split

It usually happens when dryish soil receives a good watering or downpour of rain! The inside of the tomatoes swell faster than the skins can grow and the skins break.

The best way to avoid this happening is to try and keep the soil evenly moist and water little and often, or have a drip watering system.

Blossom End Rot
This isn’t a disease but a nutrient deficiency caused by a lack of calcium.

Tomato Blossom End Rot

It leaves a brown leathery patch on the underside (blossom end) of a tomato.

Foliar spraying with Chempak Calcium will help avoid Blossom End Rot, a problem associated with container growing and infrequent watering.

Organic growers may foliar spray on a weekly basis with milk with a milk/water ratio of 50/50.

Q. When and how should I feed my tomato plants? Seedlings and small plants do not need any extra food other than what is already found in good quality multi-purpose or potting compost.

Sometimes it may be a good idea to give plants a feed when transplanting to bigger pots – to help them become established and cope with the stress. Tomato plants are like people – moving home is very stressful! Use Miracle Grow or a balanced feed.

When the flowers fade and small green tomatoes appear, then feed with a feed high in potash – any tomato food from a garden centre will do. I like to use tomato food that is able to be applied as a foliar spray as well as a root drench.

Important Check your container for details if you intend to foliar spray as some feeds will damage leaves. All feeds require dilution with water.

Q. Why do my tomatoes taste bland and watery?
Over-watering dilutes soil nutrients, and so the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed by a plant’s roots are reduced.

Sometimes too much nitrogen at the fruiting stage can cause a watery tasting fruit.

Under-watering is better than over-watering – the taste of the tomatoes will improve but large tomatoes will be more prone to blossom end rot.

and you can give extra water and feed with a foliar spray when needed. However, the soil should still be kept evenly moist if possible.

Q. What causes tomato leaves to yellow?
As tomato plants grow, they send most of their nutrients to the growing tip, so the lower leaves have to do without!

It’s a good idea to remove lower leaf branches up to the first truss as this will increase air circulation around the bottom of plants and help prevent fungal diseases.

Q. What Causes Tomato Blight?
Tomato Blight is a fungal disease that will destroy all your tomato plants if it gets out of hand.

Tomato Blight

Late Tomato Blight on Fruit

One of the most important tips I can give is to provide some shelter from the rain if growing outdoors. Tomato plants won’t mind a short shower when it’s warm , but if they are constantly wet for several days in soaking wet, cold soil – they will probably go down with blight.

There are two varieties: Ferline and Legend that are blight tolerant, but they are still susceptible to blight – they will just take longer before they get it too!

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