Tomato plants falling over will not only ruin your fruits but will also make the plant more susceptible to diseases and pest attacks. Aside from that, it also makes the plant look pretty unattractive.
Our experts have been growing tomatoes for decades now, so they have created this detailed guide on the causes of tomato plants falling over and what you can do about it. Find out what wisdom they have to impart regarding this matter below.
Why Are My Tomato Plants Falling Over?
Tomato plants fall over due to fungal infections, lack of proper support, or transplant shock. A tomato plant is said to fall over when its stem is unable to bear the weight of its branches and fruits and tends to fall down towards the ground. This can ruin your fruit and is not good for the plant as well.
Find out in detail about all these causes below.
– Damping Off Disease
Damping-off is actually a fungal infection that very often affects tomato plants. In fact, this disease is mostly responsible for tomato seedlings falling over rather than adult plants.
– Signs That Your Seedlings Have Damping Off Disease
Here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- Your seedlings have developed thin and wiry stems.
- The leaves of your tomato plant are becoming spotted.
- In advanced stages, grey-colored mold can be seen on the leaves and the stems.
- Roots become mottled and diseased. However, you can only see this once the entire plant is taken out of its soil.
– Reasons Why Your Tomato Seedlings Have Damping Off Disease
In this section, we’ll be showing you the various possible reasons why your seedlings may be affected by this disease.
- You are overwatering your seedlings.
- Your soil and potting mix have poor drainage.
- You recycled old soil without sterilizing it first.
- Your plant seedlings are becoming infected because they are in close proximity with other infected plants.
– Not Enough Support
The usual suspect for adult tomato plants leaning over when fruits start growing on it is lack of proper support. This is because these plants have naturally thin and wiry stems.
Due to the wonders of modern gardening techniques, we are now able to produce tomatoes of much larger size than these stems and vines are actually capable of supporting.
An adult fruiting tomato plant will always need proper external support. Otherwise, it will fall to the ground and start crawling along with it, making it more susceptible to ground-borne infections and pests.
– Transplant Shock
The tomato plants falling over right after they have been transplanted is a very common occurrence. This means that they have undergone transplant shock. Find out the top three causes why transplant shock usually occurs.
– No Hardening Out
Plants that have been grown indoors need to be hardened first before being transplanted outside. This means that they need slow and steady exposure to the outdoor environment. If you suddenly take an indoor-grown tomato plant and transplant it outdoors, it will surely suffer from shock and fall over.
– Roots Allowed To Dry in the Sun
After taking the tomato plant out of its soil for transplant, it is a mistake to keep it outside in the sun for a long time.
– Roots Allowed To Get Entangled
If more than one tomato plant is transplanted close together, their roots become entangled and their stems start falling over. Entangled roots not only find it hard to grow properly but also have to compete with each other for nutrients and water.
– Seedlings Not Getting Adequate Light
Your tomato seedlings, when in growing mode, need direct bright light for the majority of the day. If the light source falls on them from one side only, then you will see your tomato plants bending over towards that side.
Similarly, if the light falls on them from afar, their stems will grow thin, spindly and more prone to falling over.
How To Keep Plants From Falling Over
You can keep tomato plants from falling over by preventing damping-off infection and transplant shock as well as by providing them with proper support.
– Prevent Damping Off Disease
Save your plant from damping-off infection by using fresh soil and maintaining proper drainage. Find out in detail below.
– Use Fresh Soil
Always use fresh and sterile soil when planting young tomato seedlings. These days, the trend of sterilizing soil prior to potting plants is gaining momentum and we are all up for it.
When recycling old and used soil, keep in mind that this could contain all sorts of diseases and infections from previous plants. These diseases then transfer to your young seedlings that have little immunity to offer them.
– Prevent Soil From Getting Soggy
The fungus responsible for causing the damping-off disease thrives under moist, humid and dark environments. If your soil is too clamped together with poor drainage, then it needs to be replaced by loose soil which allows water and air to pass through.
Secondly, do not overwater your tomato seedlings. Allow the soil to dry halfway through before watering it again. You don’t want to keep it moist and soggy all the time.
– Separate Diseased Seedlings
Damping-off fungus is contagious, and it travels rapidly from one plant to another. As soon as you notice one of your seedlings developing the signs and symptoms of this infection, instantly move it away from all other plants in your collection.
– Provide Proper Support
Support your tomato plant by pruning extra branches off and holding it up with stakes, trellises or a customized cage.
– Prune Extra Vines Off
As your plant grows, it will produce intermediate branches that will grow in size and eventually produce fruits themselves. However, these branches will lead to a tomato plant bent over and crawling on the ground.
They also make it difficult to manage the plant and the fruits. We suggest you prune these extra stems off to get rid of the extra weight from your tomato plant.
– Use Stakes for Support
Stakes are the best support for tomato plants. They come especially handy for keeping the larger varieties of tomato plants with very long vines and branches upright. Continue reading to find out some important things you need to know before using stakes for support.
– Use Stakes for Support
Any type of stake can be used to support the tomato plant. You can choose from wooden, plastic or metal ones. The stakes themselves should be properly stabilized in order to support the plant. Dig them at least one foot into the ground.
It is better to put the stakes in the ground first and then transplant the plants near them. There is always the risk of damaging the roots of already established plants when putting stakes near them.
If you do have to put stakes to support already established plants, then drive three or four of them around the plant. They should be at some distance from the plant and at an angle so they come together on top of the plant.
– Use a Cage for Support
A cage will surround your entire plant and support it from all sides. It is better for the shorter varieties of the tomato plant that grow like bushes and don’t get too tall.
A cage to keep tomato plant upright can be made up of metal, wood or plastic. They all work the same. You can order such cages online, or you can make them yourself if you have the time and materials to do so.
– Use Trellises for Support
Trellises are great at keeping tomato plants upright. They also add much to the decor and grandeur of your garden or indoor space. If your trellis is wide enough, it will be able to support more than one adult tomato plant. Simply lean it on a wall or a fence and grow your tomatoes alongside it!
– Prevent Transplant Shock
You can prevent transplant shock during the process of transferring your plants by keeping the following things in mind:
- Always harden your plant or seedling prior to transplanting them.
- Only take the plant out of the soil right before you are about to plant them in new soil.
- Plant young seedlings at a respectable distance from one another. This is true for adult plants as well.
Now that you know why tomato plants fall and how to treat them, let us go back and review everything once more.
- Tomato plants might start falling over as they grow. This is problematic because they are now more prone to getting attacked by pests and infections.
- Damping-off disease is a fungal infection and the number one cause behind tomato plants falling over. It is more common among young seedlings as compared to adult plants. This occurs when the soil stays moist most of the time, so make sure not to overwater your tomato plant.
- Tomato plants need plenty of direct light to grow and flower. They will start to fall down in the absence of adequate light. They might even start leaning towards the light source if it is unilateral.
- As tomato plants grow in size, they may fall over if they are not supported. Use stakes, cages or trellises to hold them up.
- Your plant might also start bending over as a result of transplant shock. Always harden your plant before transplanting. Also, don’t expose their roots to the air and the sun for a long period of time.
The next time you see your tomato plant leaning over, you don’t have to worry as you already know what to do.
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