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Wilting Tomato Plants

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Two days ago, I planted a dozen small tomato plants I bought from a local nursery. I know its a bit late in the season, but I only just moved into this house at the beginning of the month and couldn't wait a whole year to give the garden area a try. I'm in Santa Fe, NM, and it's been fairly hot and dry, and the sun has been quite intense for the last couple days. When I got up yesterday, the tomato plants were all wilted. I gave them a good watering and they seemed to perk up for the most part. Today, however, they were worse than yesterday and only about half of them perked up at all when I watered them. Several look droopy to the point of near death. I've watered them twice and am a bit worried that if I water again I could risk overdoing it. The ground around the plants still looks damp. None of the leaves look sunburnt at all, just limp and droopy, but I'm wondering if I should hang a tarp over the garden to protect them a bit from the sun until they get used to the intensity (they've been living in a nursery greenhouse, after all). Is it possible that the water I'm giving them isn't getting to the roots? The soil in the garden was bone dry when I started working with it, but I mixed in plenty of compost and put extra in the holes where I planted the tomatoes and then mulched around each plant with a bit more compost. Any help would be great. I'm worried I'll lose all of my plants before I've even really started.

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  1. Sounds like the water isn't getting to the root ball, soak the hell out of them don't worry.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mrbigshotno.1

      Thanks for the advice. Water the hell out of them I will, and I'll even try not to worry!

      1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

        and then leave them alone for a while! water needs to get deep, but once it's deep, it's probably okay, unless you've got total sand soil.

        1. re: Chowrin

          I just watered everything again really good, focusing particularly on the droopiest plants and I'm going to leave them and check on them again right before I go to bed. If the soil seems dried out again (it dries out so quickly here and this stuff really was like sand before I started watering and adding compost to it) I'll maybe give it another drink before bed. I think it's going to take a while for the moisture to get down deep. It's been a droughty summer and from the looks of it, the garden hadn't been used for 15 years before we moved in. But we'll see. The half of the plants that aren't *this close* to death are looking somewhat better, so I do have hope I won't lose all of them. And hey! It just started to rain!

          1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

            If you have way to put up some shadecloth it might help, at least until they get over the shock of being transplanted.

            1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

              I agree with some shade. I always try to transplant on an overcast day when rain is predicted which in New England is pretty easy to do. Probably not in New Mexico. My second choice would be to transplant after 3 or 4 pm when the day is cooler and the plant gets a chance to settle in during the night. My other tip is to make a watering solution with liquid fish or seaweed fertilizer. I use it at transplant time and any time a plant looks wilty. Then every week or two I give each tomato plant 1 quart to 1/2 gallon of the mixture depending on its size.

      2. Before you water again, dig a little to see how deep the water has penetrated. If the soil near the root still has moisture, you probably won't need to water again. If you do, you may drown your plants. I'd recommend using a shade cloth of some sort. I don't know what percentage sun reduction is appropriate for your area.

        1. Well, I may have lost 4 plants, but after a number of healthy waterings, the other 8 are looking fine. One even has a couple of baby tomatoes starting. I pinched the dead leaves off of the wilted plants (which, in the case of 3 plants was all of the leaves) but the stalks still look alive, so I'm going to wait a while and see if I get any new growth. But thanks for everyone's help! I'm definitely going to look into buying some shade cloth and fish fertilizer.

          1 Reply
          1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

            Agree with the shade for delicate new transplants. We pretty much live in the woods so I have on occasion gathered an armload of leafy branches and just stuck them in the ground so that they would provide a little shade for a few days.

            Depending on the properties of your native soil the hole you dig to plant a transplant will sometimes effectively function as a pot.