A certain problems might involve direct injury, abnormal growth, or both. Possible causes are numerous and varied and might be obvious or not clear. There might or might not be a remedy. Some problems might affect all vegetables, others one crop, one variety or sometimes one or two plants.
FAILURE OF TOMATOES, PEPPERS, EGGPLANT TO SET FRUIT (BLOSSOM DROP): If the plants are growing well, this is frequently because of adverse night temperatures below 60 degrees in the spring and above 75 degrees during the summer. Also, heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer will cause blossom drop especially when applied at or closely after flowering.
BLOSSOM-END ROT OF TOMATOES: Caused by insufficient calcium when fruits are forming. The rot is characterized by a large dry brown to black and often depressed leathery area at the blossom end of the fruit. Calcium deficiency usually results from improper soil pH, excessive nitrogen fertilization, rapid plant growth, dry soil (drought), and root pruning during cultivation.
This happens more often to those who grow tomatoes in pots and let them dry out too much between watering. If you keep your plants well-watered, it probably won’t happen. You can apply a spray calcium chloride (called Stop Rot) directly on the plant.
HEALTHY GREEN LEAVES ROLLING OR CURLING UP ON TOMATOES: This is a normal thing in the summer. And certain varieties are more susceptible than others. Moisture stress under high temperatures and drought conditions can increase the severity of the symptoms. However, prolonged wet soil conditions can also increase leaf roll. Tomato plants that are pruned might have more leaf roll than unpruned plants. Leaf roll is not known to affect yields and no control measures are needed.
THE ENTIRE TOMATO PLANT SUDDENLY WILTS WITHOUT YELLOWING, SPOTTING, OR BROWNING: This is the soil borne fungus bacterial wilt. When cutting into a stem, the center becomes water soaked, later turning brown and sometimes hollow. Woody stem tissue turns brown and roots begin to form on the stem. A simple diagnostic test can be used to positively identify the disease and distinguish it from other diseases like fusarium wilt or tomato spotted wilt virus. Cut the lower stem off at the roots and submerge it in a glass of water. In 2 to 5 minutes the bacteria, if present, will stream milky white into the water. This disease doesn’t normally show until we get into really warm temperatures which is why most tomato plants are large when this occurs. The only solution is to pull up the plant. Unfortunately, you can’t plant tomatoes again in that same spot for several years.
CUCUMBER PLANTS SUDDENLY START WILTING, LEAVES MIGHT SHOW DEAD AREAS AND FRUIT MIGHT BE MOTTLED: Cucumber mosaic virus is a common disease problem in the Augusta area. Select mosaic resistant varieties. A sudden rise in temperature or depleted soil moisture can cause wilting too, but plants will recover.
OFF-SHAPE CUCUMBERS (CROOKED, NUBBINS, ETC.): Often because of a shortage of soil moisture. Cool temperatures at the time flowers are developing can be a cause. Poor pollination or low number of male flowers is another possibility.
FRUIT OF SUMMER SQUASH REACHES A LENGTH OF ABOUT 3 INCHES AND THE TIP ROTS: Although it can be caused by a wet rot fungus, the cause is normally due more to an insufficient amount of pollen deposited on the female flowers or inclement weather and poor bee activity. Removing some of the dense stand of leaves might help. You can also try hand pollinating with a small paint brush (the size of a pencil). When it begins to get really hot, we can also have trouble with pollination. The female flower is only open one day. It must be fertilized or it will fall off. The flowers usually open early and if it is very hot the flowers close early. Research has shown that receptivity of the female flower is best in the early to mid-morning.
POOR OR SLOW GERMINATION OF SEED: Can be several causes like soil temperatures too low or too high, poor seeding techniques (too deep – lack of firming), maggot feeding on the seed, birds, lack of soil moisture, too much moisture, soil surface becomes crusty, etc.
LETTUCE AND SPINACH GOING TO SEED: This is normal for these crops under warm temperatures and long days. This means the crops were planted too late in the season. They should be planted in February in the Augusta area.
GENERALLY SLOW OR POOR GROWTH OF ALL CROPS: Low pH, low fertility, cool weather, lack of sunlight, poor drainage, nematodes, too little/too much moisture, poor soil structure.
POOR DEVELOPMENT OF EARS ON SWEET CORN: A common mistake made by novice gardeners is planting only one or two rows. Corn should be planted in blocks (at
least 4 rows) to ensure good pollination.
REACH SID MULLIS, THE DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA EXTENSION SERVICE OFFICE FOR RICHMOND COUNTY, AT (706) 821-2349 OR SMULLIS@UGA.EDU.