Jersey Tomato Plants: Common Problems

What NJ gardener doesn’t salivate at the thought of plucking the season’s first, plump red tomatoes from the vine? Unfortunately, while nearly every gardener from the garden state has tried their hand at tomato growing with some measure of success, there are some common issues that we all face.

Tomato troubles? Try these preventive methods:

Lots of leaves but few or no fruit: High nitrogen fertilizers such as Miracle Gro yield large, leafy plants but no fruits. Look for a phosphorus-rich fertilizer instead such as Bloom Booster. Heavy rainfall or temps higher than 90 degrees can also cause this problem, unfortunately.

Cracking Fruit: Caused by dry weather followed by a heavy rainfall. To prevent tomatoes from cracking around the stem or bottom (radial cracks), water on a strict schedule so the soil remains moist.

Deformed, misshapen tomatoes (a.k.a. catfaces): This happens if the plant flowers during a cold snap. To prevent the problem, wait until warm weather to plant your tomatoes. With large varieties, this issue can be inavoidable. Most people plant the larger types of tomato plants somewhat early so they can enjoy a mature crop before the first frost.

Blossom end rot: The blossom end of the tomato becomes black and leathery. This is due to a lack of calcium in the soil and can be remedied by adding eggshell bits to the soil before planting. You can also sprinkle crushed eggshells, or another type of calcium-rich fertilizer, around the plants as they grow. Tomato cages or cylinders can also help cut down on blossom end rot in your plants.

Sunscald: White or yellow spots on the part of the tomato where the sun hits. Avoid this problem by not picking mature foliage off the plant. You can also avoid it by training your young tomato plants to grow upwards in protective mesh or wire cages.