If it’s your first-time growing tomato plants, you may have realized it is a bit harder than it looks, from getting the soil pH right to the amount of watering to caring for your tomato vines as they grow and mature. In this article, we will discuss why your tomato plants are falling over and tips to help you keep this from happening.
What is causing my tomato plants to fall over?
There are several reasons why your tomatoes could begin leaning and eventually falling to the ground. Despite being a vining plant, tomatoes are not meant to grow on the ground, although they are natural. This can lead to several issues, such as diseases, soil-borne pathogens, and insect and pest infestations.
Also, because of how big tomato vines tend to grow, if they topple over, it can cause overcrowding, reduced sun exposure, and low airflow, resulting in fungus growth and negatively impacting your yield. Depending on the maturity of your plant, there can be distinct reasons for limp vines.
You may decide to grow your plants from seeds rather than buying them as young plants. If you notice your young tomato seedlings falling over, this could be due to damping off. Damping off is commonly caused by wet, cool soil. Signs of damping off are:
- Mold growing on the stem
- Rotting roots
- Spotty leaves
- Thin, wiry stem
Lack of sunlight can also cause fungus to grow on tomato seedlings, failing tomato vines. You should notice your tomato vines growing up towards their provided light, whether natural sun from the light or a grow lamp. If they aren’t getting enough sun, they may begin to look tall and leggy as they are growing to reach for any light they can take in. It is important to make sure that you place it close enough to them if you are using a grow lamp.
Young Tomato Plants
You have done well growing your seedlings into young sprouting tomato plants. Now your little guys are ready for their big transplant to their pots. If you notice, after transplant, that your tomato vines are starting to sag and look wimpy, it is likely due to transplant shock.
Transplant shock can be the result of a few different things:
- Root Damage: Occurs when your seedlings have been planted too close together, causing their roots to grow entwined. When you went to replant them, their roots were damaged during the move. This can also occur if you leave your tomato plant’s roots exposed to the sun for time during the transplant. It is important to replant them as soon as you pull the seedling from its tray.
- Lack of Hardening Off: Occurs when transplanted plants go into shock from the change in environment. If your seedlings were grown in a garage, shed, or even inside the home, and you transfer them outside, the shock of the change in moisture, temperature, and wind can cause them to go into shock.
Mature Tomato Plants
The main reason mature tomato plants fall over is a lack of support. Remember that tomato plants were not meant to grow on the ground. Their vines were meant to grow up towards the sky, reaching for the sun.
As your tomato plants mature, they will begin to bud flowers, grow more leaves, and eventually grow tomatoes. As they grow taller and yield fruit, their growths will become too heavy for their vines to support, causing them to lean until they finally fall over and begin to ‘crawl’ on the ground, making them extremely susceptible to disease and pest infestations.
Tips for keeping your tomato plants from falling over.
It is important to identify why your tomato plant is falling over before you try to alter anything because you could end up causing further damage or even lose your tomato plants altogether if you aren’t careful.
Avoid Damping Off
Damping off can be avoided by preparing for your seedlings before planting them:
- Use fresh, new soil: never reuse garden soil or potting soil. Old soil could contain soil-borne pathogens, or mold, from previous planting seasons.
- Ensure planting soil is warm and moist: Damping off is mainly caused by cold soil. Cold soil prevents seedlings from germinating, which in turn delays growth.
- Remove unhealthy plants: If you notice a seedling or two looking unhealthy, you must quarantine them from the rest of your seedlings to avoid further spreading possible diseases or parasites.
Remedies for Lack of Light
Lack of light can cause your tomato plants to grow spindly and weak, causing them to not be able to hold their weight once buds, leaves, and tomatoes begin to grow.
- Mitigate light deprivation before transplant (while they are still seedlings): Before you transplant your seedlings, ensuring they have enough light and nitrogen is the first step to avoiding spindly tomato plants.
- Pruning seedlings: By pruning the center leaves of your seedlings promotes new growth and will temporarily halt upward growth. This encourages your seedlings to grow stronger stems, which will help them hold their weight as they get bigger.
- Removing light blocking structures: If you have already transplanted your plants and they have already matured, removing any structures that may block the natural light from reaching your plants will help. Pruning trees and bushes around your garden that cast a shadow on your tomatoes can help bring in more light.
- Applying fertilizer: You can also add nitrogen fertilizer to your seedlings and your mature tomato plants to help if they are struggling from lack of light.
Preventing Transplant Shock
Plan before you plant. If you are planning to start your tomato garden with seedlings, planning is key to avoiding the shock of transplanting them to their new home when they are ready.
- Properly spacing seeds: When planting your seedlings, account for root growth. If you can avoid their roots getting tangled in the first place, you are making their transition to bigger pots or the garden much easier from the start. This also prevents the spread of disease.
- Harden off your plants: Gradually introduce your tomato seedlings to the outdoor elements. Begin by giving them slowly, exposing them increasingly more light. Gradually introduce them to the wind, rain, and outdoor conditions over time. A greenhouse is also a great way to help transition to the outdoors.
- Ready for transplant: When you transplant your tomato plants, make sure you keep their roots out of the sun. Keep them in their containers until you are ready to plant them.
Remedies for Lack of Support for Mature Plants
Remedying the lack of support for mature plants is as simple as supporting them. There are several diverse ways to provide them with the support they need.
- Stakes: Stakes are typically used for taller, indeterminate tomato breeds. There are various sizes of stakes for different stages of tomato plants. There are also different materials of stakes: wood, bamboo, metal, and plastic. It is recommended that you drive your supporting stakes a good 12inches into the ground before transplanting your tomatoes. If you plant your tomatoes before placing your stake, you risk damaging your plants’ roots.
- Cages: Cages are typically shorter than stakes, and they surround your entire tomato plant. They are usually used for determinate tomato varieties because they grow shorter and more like bushes rather than tall. If you need a taller cage, you can also buy the material to make your own.
- Trellises: Trellises are a more decorative way to support your tomato plants. They can be leaned up against a fence, placed on the side of your house, or placed on the side of a pergola. If you use a wider trellis, it may support multiple tomato plants.
Now that you know the possible reasons your tomatoes could be leaning to one side or even falling to the ground, you can determine the best solutions and preventative actions for the next planting season!
Hi there, my name is Allie and welcome to my blog; GareningWithAllie!
Much of what you see written here is just our personal experiences with gardening. Along with the content I write here, there is also a unique collection of gardening topics covered by some of our close friends. I hope you find everything you read here to be helpful, informative, and something that can make your gardening journey the most lovely experience ever! With that said, Happy Gardening!