Vegetable Garden Issues

Asked June 15, 2013, 8:33 PM EDT

I have a vegetable garden located in the community garden at Rockwood Park. I have noticed my tomato plants are yellowing at the bottom, some branches are beginning to brown/die, and over all they seem straggly (although they are blooming and have green tomatoes at this point). We have had a lot of rain from big storms the past few weeks. I also have a soaker hose but have not used it lately (2 weeks) due to all the heavy rains. Trying to figure out if my issue is over or under watering…or maybe just inconsistent watering? I was thinking about putting wood chips around the plants but am concerned that might worsen the problems. Also I have pole bean plants which were doing great but just the past couple days the lower leaves are beginning to brown. Same question: is it a water issue or could this be fungus? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Chesterfield County Virginia

2 Responses

When the lower leaves of tomatoes and beans start to yellow and then turn brown, it is often a sign of a fungal disease. The very wet spring weather we have been experiencing has made an ideal environment for the fungal spores to spread and reproduce in our gardens.

You may take off the lower leaves of the tomatoes and beans that have turned yellow or brown without harming the plant production since these leaves are no longer serving any useful purpose to the plant. Dispose of the leaves in the trash, do not put them in a compost pile. This may slow down the spread of the fungus. Also, the fungal spores are present in the soil so the application of a 2-4" layer of mulch will help prevent splashing of the spores up onto the plants when it rains or during irrigation.

Keeping the plant foliage as dry as is practical is also helpful. You can't do anything about the rain, but when you do need to water the plants, the soaker hoses are an excellent solution. Try to make sure the hoses are not leaking and spraying directly on the plants. Putting the mulch down over the hoses will help prevent this problem.

There are fungicides that will help slow down this problem also. They will not "cure" it, but may prolong the life of the plants so you will get a decent crop. Click on this link for The Pest Management Guide from Virginia Tech which gives specific recommendations for appropriate fungicides for the tomatoes and beans and other crops. Products containing the active ingredient chlorothalonil are registered for use in the vegetable garden and give acceptable control of fungal diseases for the home gardener. Please READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS for any product you use. This is for your protection and the protection of your neighboring gardeners.

If none of the above helps your plants or you want to know specifically which fungus is present, take or send a sample to the Chesterfield office of Virginia Cooperative Extension for diagnosis. Directions for sampling can be found here. This is a free service and you will get specific recommendations for your plants.

Good luck with your garden.

Thank you so much for the advise. I thought the bean issue might be fungal and I sprayed them yesterday with an organic anit-fungal product. Will removed the leaves as well. Also, will do the same with the tomatoes. I already have soaker hoses in place but there is some spraying of the leaves...will apply some mulch at those locations. Thank you!