Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Gardening >
Jul 9, 2013 03:13 PM

Tomato wilt

I had wilt in my tomatoes last year, in virgin garden soil (formerly lawn).
This year I carefully selected a disease free seed and started in April. Here is the seed...
All was well until this week, and they are wilting badly, one by one. No apparent pests. Most have blossoms and apple size fruits, but the wilt is so bad that I don't think they will finish. I'll try to get a photo here tomorrow.
Any thoughts on this? We have had lots of rain, but the plant can only support the bottom leaves, all else is failing.
I have three other varieties in containers, not as advanced, but healthy.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We don't know where you live, but in the east, because of the tremendous amount of rain we've had, blight and other fungus diseases are becoming concerns. Contact your local university extension office asap. They can best tell you what's occurring in your area and what treatments they recommend.

    1. Did you plant in the same soil as last year's tomatoes with wilt? That may be the cause. The usual recommendation is to rotate crops to mitigate plant disease, even in a small garden.

      3 Replies
      1. re: janniecooks

        No, the soil grew lettuce, arugula and other greens last year.
        I will call the Agriculture Rep for Lambton, S.W. Ontario today.
        I wonder if it is practical to transplant into containers as there is a lot of growing season left, but the plants appear very weak. This happened very quickly, within one week.

        1. re: jayt90

          I could be mistaken, but I think the problem is the plant not the soil. Transplanting into containers will not do any good. Is it too late to get new plants? Your ag rep is probably the best source of good advice.

          1. re: janniecooks

            There may be a few plants left to buy, so I will check the stores.

      2. I have been the victim of tomato wilt several times over the last 30 years or so of gardening. I believe it's some sort of fungal or bacterial disease and it may or may not reside in the soil. Ive been told that sometimes its airborne, too. So you don't necessarily have it come back the following year even if you plant in the same area. It's so depressing to watch your big healthy plants go down - one after the other - when this stupid thing hits. And there's really not much you can do except make sure you get the plants out as quickly as possibly. So far this has been a really wet summer so I've been worried about wilt, but at the moment it all looks ok. Could start any time, though, so I'm not feeling too smug. And, of course, some varieties are more wilt-resistant than others. Good luck.

        1. Oh no! I spoke too soon! I found my first wilted tomato plant this afternoon. Curses!

          11 Replies
          1. re: Nyleve

            I contacted Ont. Agriculture in Guelph and Ridgetown. Today they recommended moving the plants to well drained planters or large pots, thinking that spongy soil encourages the problem, which, as you say may be in the soil or in the air.
            I'll try that, but they are sad looking today!

            The most discouraging thing is the time and effort put in. I chose Park's Whopper seeds, S.C., for its resistance, but of course it is not tested in Ontario. Maybe next year I'll go back to Stokes.

            1. re: jayt90

              Jayt90, I did a quick google search on tomato wilt, and the news is not good. It really doubtful that the plants will improve, unless the wilt you're experiencing is from lack of or improper watering. See this article:


              1. re: janniecooks

                Thanks for the link, jc. I did not know about walnut toxicity, and there is a tree near the garden plot. My pepper plants and potatoes are just out of range of the tree's watershed, but the tomatoes are close. I will have to remove all the tomatoes, but 8 or 9 can be saved.

                1. re: jayt90

                  Update. Only one row was affected. The second row, and the 12" planters are OK. The disease may have been airborne, or a rain wash from the nearby walnut tree. I may get a few tomatoes from the affected plants, but some fruits are stunted. Lower stems are OK but it is too late for them to start blossoms.

                  The soil is not well drained, and took a lot of rain this year. I wil move the garden next year to a well drained location.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    Calcium. Your tomato plants need calcium.

                    1. re: Gastronomos

                      A second row 4' away is fine. That's why I think the problem is wind borne and affected plants more mature when the disease came in. The affected plants had severe top wilt but no blossom rot or drop.

                    2. re: jayt90

                      Black walnut roots secrete a compound that is toxic to some plants, particularly to those in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. The effect is not carried in the air or by rain runoff from the leaves. Note that roots can extend a few feet beyond the drip line. Also, the toxin can remain from some years after a tree is cut down.

                      If the unaffected row is farther from the walnut tree, then the problem row is near the end of the root zone. If the affected row is closer to the walnut tree, it is highly unlikely to have caused the problem.

                      Tomatoes do not like wet feet so small differences in drainage could be important in a wet year.

                      1. re: Eldon Kreider

                        Thanks for your analysis. The second row (3 weeks behind the first) is just out of reach of the walnut tree's footprint. I am going to avoid this area altogether next year.
                        I am fortunate to have tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers in large planters well away from the garden and they are doing well although they need water twice a day. Always good to hedge your bets.

                        1. re: jayt90

                          I'm losing a few more plants to this infernal wilt. It seems to be plants that were in close proximity to the original wilter, and now they're infecting their neighbours. It's a terrible thing to watch. I don't want to pull up half my plants but I think it's what I will have to do. Garrrrh!

                          1. re: jayt90

                            I believe the conventional advise/wisdom is to plant 25 feet away from the dripline of black walnut trees, so you my not be as far out of "reach of the walnut tree's footprint" if planting closer than this.

                            1. re: janniecooks

                              Thanks. Wish I knew that two years ago when I started the garden
                              I will move it next year, away from the trees but closer to a small orchard.

                              I have four large planters of tomatoes, peppers and potatoes near my house, well away from the garden. They are fine , very productive even though the pots are crowded. No weed problem, as a bonus. I'll do that again next year.

              2. Calcium deficiency--add some eggshells around the plant or dissolve Tums in a watering can...