PammyM
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Location: Southern New Hampshire - Zone 6a

Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back ?

I have a Husky Cherry Red Tomato (Bonnie) plant in an EarthBox that is not doing well. Using Espoma Organic Tomato-Tone 3-4-6 fertilizer with a high quality peat-based potting mix per EarthBox's recommendations. The plant was doing great, and then all of a sudden, all new growth in the top half of the plant has severely curled stunted baby leaves, which are pretty hard and waxy feeling to the touch. The bottom half of the plant looks pretty normal with only a few leaves with slight leaf curl. There are millions of buds on the top half of this plant but none of them are setting fruit. The bottom half of the plant looks normal and there are about 18 cherry tomatoes so far but not much left for buds. I found there was a problem with the design of this first EarthBox and the hole was drilled to high so I was thinking the problem was over-watering (over-saturated potting mix) but now I am thinking this damage was from a herbicide/insecticide or something sprayed by the landscapers (I live in a condo). I do remember an email coming from them a couple weeks ago saying they were going to be spraying something.

I have a Better Bush tomato plant a few feet away in a second EarthBox that is lush and green with about 6 tomatoes and no issues at all with leave curl. Using Espoma Garden Food synthetic 5-10-5 in that box. This tomato plant was only planted about 8 days ago and the cherry tomato plant with the problems was planted a little over a month ago, so my guess is the spraying occurred before I planted the Better Bush.

My question is... Would you leave this plant alone, or cut off some of the branches in the top half of the plant to see if new shoots will start growing? I haven't seen new foliage in quite some time. Thanks! Pam
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Lindsaylew82
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Re: Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back

Hi PammyM! Welcome to the forum!

I agree, this has the classic look of herbicide overspray reaction.

The plants that I had this happen to never really recovered. One of my four was especially bad... The difference between your's and mine was that my contamination came from run off from the neighbors weed n feed.

Here's what I would do. Instead of pulling the plant, I would cut it back down to where the growth is normal. And give it a real good rinse with running water. Husky Cherry is a dwarf indeterminate, so you'll get new growth from where each leaf comes off the main stem, and while it may be a little stunted, it'll keep growing.

You could just let it be, and see what happens, but I think that damage will not grow back to normal.
Lindsay
Upstate, SC
USDA Zone 7b/ Sunset Zone 31

PammyM
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Location: Southern New Hampshire - Zone 6a

Re: Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back

Thanks Lindsay. I think you're right. I am away for 5 days and if I find not one flower has set fruit on the top half of the plant when I get back, I think I will prune back at least half of the affected branches to see what happens. I am just a little nervous about cutting all of the flowers off and keep thinking maybe they will set fruit. They have just been sitting there though for quite a while. Funny the green beans and pepper plant have the tiniest evidence of damage that looks to be herbicide as well, but just on a few leaves and nothing to be worried about. Thanks again. Pam
Lindsaylew82 wrote:Hi PammyM! Welcome to the forum!

I agree, this has the classic look of herbicide overspray reaction.

The plants that I had this happen to never really recovered. One of my four was especially bad... The difference between your's and mine was that my contamination came from run off from the neighbors weed n feed.

Here's what I would do. Instead of pulling the plant, I would cut it back down to where the growth is normal. And give it a real good rinse with running water. Husky Cherry is a dwarf indeterminate, so you'll get new growth from where each leaf comes off the main stem, and while it may be a little stunted, it'll keep growing.

You could just let it be, and see what happens, but I think that damage will not grow back to normal.

PammyM
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Location: Southern New Hampshire - Zone 6a

Re: Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back

Well, I gave it another week and still not one flower setting fruit. After weeks of having hundreds of flowers and no new tomatoes setting and no new growth on the plant, I finally lopped off the top half of the Husky Cherry tomato plant, removing all of the severely deformed curled/folded leaves. Within a few days of chopping off the top half of the plant, that looks like it was affected herbicide, all of a sudden the plant started setting new tomatoes and I went from having 18 cherry tomatoes to 30. I don't see any new flowers yet, but I see a few new suckers growing. I'm guessing the plant is now able to put all of it's energy into setting fruit into wasting it on the damaged top half of the plant that wasn't doing anything. I'm anxious to see if the new branches will have normal leaves or if they'll be deformed. Thanks for your advise Lindsay!! Pam

imafan26
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Re: Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back

How did the herbicide get on your plants?
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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Gary350
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Re: Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back

That is something tomatoes do to protect themselves from the hot sun, they also do that if they get too much nitrogen fertilizer. Put up a shade cloth over the tomato plants and spray the whole plant at sun down with too much water. Lots and lots of water. A slow sprinkle like an all night lite rain is what they need. Do you have a mist sprayer, spray them all night, every night for a while.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back

Sorry, but I don't think so. The heat response is called physiological leaf roll. Tomato plants do it to reduce moisture loss from the leaves. The leaves thicken up and get leathery and they roll upwards, lengthwise. But the leaves are otherwise full sized and in a cool night they will unroll again at least part ways. The leaves are full sized. The plant still looks pretty leafy.

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Pammy's leaves look quite different from that, small and stunted, leaving a lot of bare stem and curled up more crosswise into little balls. I'm betting they don't unroll at night.
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Lindsaylew82
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Re: Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back

Yeah, that's not PLR...

Furthermore, watering in the method described by Gary350 would likely encourage disease. PLR is a normal for some varieties. It doesn't really mean that they won't do well, just a physiological response to heat.
Lindsay
Upstate, SC
USDA Zone 7b/ Sunset Zone 31

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Gary350
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Re: Severe leaf curl - Would you cut this tomato plant back

A mister is good for low humidity places like Arizona it sprays a very fine mist into the air it helps to hydrate plants with dry leaves and keep them cool, a mister does not work in TN humidity is 100% here most of the time. My tomatoes have been doing leaf curl only on the sunny end of the garden, not the shady end. From my observation of my garden I would say leaf curl is caused by the hot sun not the air temperature, it has been in the 95 degree range here for 2 weeks the shady end of my garden never has leaf curl. My bell pepper plants are in full sun the leaves hang down like wet toilet paper all afternoon then at sun down the plants come back to life. When the limp leaf plants move into the shade it takes about 30 minutes for the leaves to come back to life but if I spray the leaves with the garden hose they come back to live in 5 minutes. Cool water gets rid of leaf curl quick. Leaf curl is natural, not a problem, don't worry about it. I have fun experimenting with things to see what I can learn. A mister can lower the air temperature a maximum of 20 degrees only if the humidity is low enough and cold water from the garden hose will cool the plants too.

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