shotziepa
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Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:46 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

1st time Tomato Grower, things went bad overnight!

I planted 4 heirloom tomato plants, 3 jalapeno plants, and a melon vine in 2 35lb rubber maid containers. They are all organic plants from Burpee, the soil is organic miracle grow that i mixed my own compost like mixture in (i blend all leftover veggies, fruits, fruit skins, egg shells, tea leaves, and banana peels to a paste and let it ferment)

My plants were the biggest most healthy plants out of everyone i know. It's only the end of July and my plants are 6 ft tall with tomatos growing everywhere. I came home yesterday and all of my plants were bent in half. The stems seem weak all of a sudden, but the leaves are still green and the tomatos are still growing. The plants outgrew my 4ft stakes. Why are they so weak? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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hendi_alex
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Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

Tomato plants are really vines that naturally sprawl on the ground. Their stems were never designed to hold the plant upright. Many people use five or six foot cages, but late in the summer the vines even grow above those and the vines will flop over the side and begin to grow down the baskets.

You probably should read about pruning options and also about methods of support. Some people prune to a central leader which can be supported with a tall stake or with any thing vertical support. Most tomato growers do only limited pruning. Of those of us on the forum, the support options range from jal_ut who simply lets his plants sprawl every year, to those like myself, who support using cages on unpruned plants and use tall stakes for any radically pruned plants. There are also methods of using twine to make a support that will accommodate the plant to most any height.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

shotziepa
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Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:46 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Thanks Hendi_alex

I thought I had done something wrong and they were dying. There are some stems with grey or brown coloring but the plants were so big and strong I never gave it any thought. I have pruned some branches and the inside of the branch is always very wet so I assume the water is making it through the plant. I also use a moisture measurer so as to not over water.

mattie g
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Location: Northern VA, USA -- Zone 7a

If the stems have outgrown the stakes, then it's possible that they were simply subjected to a wind gust that sent them flopping. It's happened to me a few times this year. Just get a bigger stake, punch it in the ground, and continue tying up the stems.

A few of my plants are about to break the 8' mark (WAY bigger than I ever imagined they'd be), and the only way I've kept them going is by putting new stakes in the ground. (chopped down some local wild bamboo on my own). I'm not sure if I'll bother to continue the process once they outgrow the current stakes. I might just let them try to make it on their own, but, of course, when push comes to shove, I'll probably cave and see if I can keep them going until frost or blight get them!

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Fig3825
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Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:40 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Heirlooms are almost always indeterminate plants, but their are also many different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. For container gardening, you may want to consider using [url=https://organicgardening.about.com/od/vegetablesherbs/f/tomatotypefaq.htm]determinate tomato plants vs indeterminate tomato plants.[/url]

There are advantages and disadvantages to each and it's not always easy to determine which they are from a seed packet. You'll have to look them up online to find out which they are in most cases. Simply stated, and you can read this in the linked article, determinate plants tend to grow to a set height and stop, they also tend to bear most of their fruit at once. Indeterminate tend to be more vine-like and tend to bear fruit over the coarse of the season, giving you a more steady production for a season long harvest. The pros and cons of each are somewhat obvious. Determinate may require little or no support. Indeterminate may require extensive support, especially if you never prune them and the suckers get out of hand, creating even more vines to contend with (you really want to avoid this and keep indeterminate varieties to no more than two main vines, otherwise, you will see that your tomatoes may be smaller or may not fully ripen at all).

Regarding your plants bending over... In some cases the bend will break the necessary nutrient tunnels through the stalk/vine. If you re-right the plant and support it, it may survive with no problem. However, there is no repairing it once the pathway for the plant to get water and nutrients is broken. The severity of the bend/break will determine their future.

I have 10 plants and only the Roma's are determinant. I know I'll be supporting the rest once they outgrow the cages. :wink:

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