sundancer
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several vegetable issues

Hello, I'm new here.

I've gardened before and grown tomatoes successfully from seed before, but this is my first dedicated vegetable garden. The spot is in full sun ~ 13 hours a day, and the sun shines every day.
Background: I live in the Sacramento, California area where we have really hot dry summers. It's been around 90F (32c) lately (for a week now) and my soil is rather clayey - about 30%. I put plenty of compost and tilled it in to make raised beds and am growing 10 tomato plants (all heirlooms: purple cherokee, green zebra, chocolate pear and golden siberian) and a couple of habanero plants, water melons and zucchini. It easily gets over 100F/40c here during the summer.

My issue is that first of all the tomato plants I grew from seed suffered from transplant shock when I put them outside. Unfortunately I did not really harden them off because I live in an apartment and the only outside area I have is a completely shaded balcony. I did leave the window open where I grew them for about 2 weeks before I put them out, and they got direct sun there in the afternoon, but I guess it wasn't enough. That was about a month ago, and a lot of leaves turned white and fell off.
While some have really grown a lot of branches and leaves since, there really isn't much vertical growth, only horizontally. I'm wondering if that will improve or if the shock will mean the plant will stay permanently small. But since I replaced one of the plants with a nursery bought variety, and that hasn't grown much vertically in the last 3 weeks either, I am wondering if there is some other cause.
Other plants have put out very little growth of new leaves at all and only have a few left at the top. I'm wondering what's wrong with those. The leaves at the top look healthy, but the edges of new leaves on all my tomato plants keep turning white or yellow, dry and curl up and get these little holes in them. I'm not sure if it's a bug - might be flea beetles - or a bacterial disease, but I already applied an organic insecticide to all my veggies and the holes keep showing up on new plants.

With this warmth and the amount of time the tomatoes had to get settled with their roots now, I am surprised that they have been growing so slowly. This hasn't been my experience in the past, but I also haven't grown in a climate this hot before. Any idea if the plants will recover and what the strange leaf curling and discoloration might be?

Things haven't really been establishing well in the garden when I buy plants from the nursery, and I'm not sure why. I usually plant at dusk so the plants are not immediately exposed to the intense sun we have.

The pictures I attached are of the tomatoes that haven't changed much at all (besides the burnt leaves falling off) since I transplanted them. A few plants have vigorously grown new branches, but not at all in height. They were all about 1 foot tall when I transplanted them, and seemed at the time healthy. I have fertilized all with fish emulsion twice in the last month and added an organic slow release fertilizer for tomatoes (tomato tone) shortly after transplanting.

Any advice will be much appreciated. Thanks!
- Kevin
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GardeningCook
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Re: several vegetable issues

Since I'm in the eastern U.S., my reply isn't tailored to your location, but off the top of my pointy little head, the first thing that hits me is that your soil is still horrible. I feel like I could make a dinnerware set out of that clay. Regardless of how much organic matter you feel you incorporated into your planting area, it wasn't remotely near enough.

Connected to the soil issue, is the fact that while your plants are struggling with the poor soil, you're at the same time inundating them with fertilizer & systemic insecticides before you even know what's going on. This can stress an already struggling plant to the point of demise.

As far as pests/diseases, you might have some Early Blight coming on, but Flea Beetles aren't a pest problem with tomatoes. The only insect pest that loves tomatoes (at least around here) is the Tomato Hornworm, & you won't miss that one since it can eat a tomato plant down to nothing in one or two nights. Huge green caterpillar.

Also keep in mind that with your hot summer temps, many tomatoes will suffer from blossom drop & not set any fruit during that period. For info regarding that, I suggest you contact an ag rep in your area re: how to handle that, or for varieties that are less susceptible to the temps.

Again, I'm in VA, where we also have hot summer temps, but not the same climate as you do.
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sundancer
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Re: several vegetable issues

Haha yeah the soil is pretty heavy to work with, but it isn't that bad with some amendments. I've worked with worse. I literally dug 1-2 feet deep in the bed and hollowed it out and filled it all the way with compost, I don't know what else I could have done.
I'm wondering if the water is also an issue, it is alkaline at 8.2, but not much I can do about that. I read that lowering the pH is a struggle but not sure if there is something one can do.
With the fertilizer I waited 2 weeks till after transplanting and put a fish emulsion at half strength I really don't think that can be called inundating.
I had a couple of cucumber beetles attack my tomatillos and discovered holes in the tomato leaves so I decided to spray the tomatoes preventatively.

Yes I was wondering how the tomatoes will deal with the heat since they supposedly don't bloom at really high temps, but everyone else around me is also growing tomatoes I'm gonna ask around if they use some heat resistant hybrid, but there don't seem to be many. I'm going to add straw as mulch in a week or two, a lot of people do that around here to keep the soil temps down and moist.

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applestar
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Re: several vegetable issues

One point that has to be made is that gardeners in hot areas like Southern California, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, etc. are starting to say their tomatoes are almost finished for the spring season... Maybe one month left. Depending on location, you might be able to keep them going inside a shade house.

Now, with regard to how they are planted and current issues --

Hmm... I'm wondering now if the hole filled with compost could actually be the problem. Are you saying you didn't mix the compost with the surrounding soil? They are essentialiy in a compost filled well? This could be like the bathtub effect in a clay soil. It could explain the yellowing.

I want to suggest digging up one of them, carefully so you get all the way to the bottom of the rootball. This time, break up the clay soil with a gardening fork -- Do this when soil is not wet. You stand on the fork to get the times into the soil, then pull on the handle to tilt. The ground should fracture. I would say you would need to do this every square foot so in four places in 2x2 foot square for the one tomato plant. Dig a hole about one foot to 18" deep with the fork not shovel so as not to create a smooth sided hole, add 2-4 cups of compost or soil conditioner like BumperCrop in the bottom and a handful of Tomato tone (unless you've applied enough already) work that in with the fork, then plant as deep as you can.

As hot as you say it is, and plante in clay soil, they should all have some kind of organic mulch around them -- minimum 2" - 4" as deep as you can manage. This will help keep the roots cool and prevent splashed up fungal diseases.

Those holes do look like some kind of insect damage or burn from some kind of spray. Weakened plant will attract pests and diseases.
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lexusnexus
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Re: several vegetable issues

A pH of 8.2 is too high for most veggies. Soil amendments such as peat moss can help add acids to the soil. Contact your county extension agent to get recommendations on types of amendments applicable to your specific region.
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GardeningCook
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Re: several vegetable issues

sundancer wrote:Haha yeah the soil is pretty heavy to work with, but it isn't that bad with some amendments. I've worked with worse. I literally dug 1-2 feet deep in the bed and hollowed it out and filled it all the way with compost, I don't know what else I could have done.
I also agree with a previous poster that if all you've done is dig a 2' hole, toss or briefly work your amendments in & then plant your tomatoes, all you've done is place them into a tight-walled clay container. That ain't gonna work in the grand scheme of things.
My body is a temple. Unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper.

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