Asphalt Garden: Hearty Tomatoes Restore My Faith

A month ago, I was bereft.

“I am mourning the premature death of my tomato plants once again,” I wrote.

A fungus had swept through the dense foliage of my four plants, slowing their growth and causing their leaves to shrivel and crumble to dust. I was all set to throw in the towel. The low point came later, when one of my neighbors brushed against a container with her car and two plants tipped over.

One of my readers encouraged me not to give up. “Tomatoes survive lots of things,” she wrote.

When I inspected my plants more closely, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite losing most of their foliage, they were still growing. There was new greenery at the tip of every vine, and new flowers (see top photo). I couldn’t give up on these plants yet! They wanted to live! Even the sorriest of the plants, the one that was hit with the fungus first, was still putting out new shoots.

I trimmed off all the dead or dying branches and sprayed the plants with a sulfur-based fungicide. Then I tied them up again and re-secured their stakes.



There’s no question it will be harder for these plants now. Despite seeing some new flowers and fruit, there are other blossoms that are dying and not setting. It’s hard to tell to what degree the fungicide is working, because the fungus hasn’t gone away completely. It’s on the tomato stems, so I can’t cut that part away.

There are other problems, too. Because the tomatoes essentially have no shade, the fruits are splitting as they reach maturity. Despite that, there are some benefits to having no leaves. The infestation of caterpillars has gone away, and, with very little greenery, it is much easier to spot the pests that have remained.

It will be interesting to see how these plants do through the rest of the summer. Already, they’ve produced more than twice as much fruit as my plants did last year. The remaining months are just time to learn and experiment. Consider me a tomato true believer.

  • Drew

    Tomatoes split because of watering patterns. If you go without watering for a time and then start watering again. The fruit has stop growing and then starts growing again. But only the inner most of the fruit grows, not the other most of the fruit, which causes the outside fruit to split since it has stopped growing. Kind of like putting on a pair of jeans that are 2 sizes too small. Since you are still growing but the jeans are not.    

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