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We've had tomatoes inside started for a while now. It's been almost a month since our last problem and now we're seeing this on some of the tomatoes:

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I know tomatoes look scraggly often but this seems really concerning. We've been using a fan on them recently.

Is this leaf roll? Do we just need to water them less? Is it possible our pots haven't been draining enough (we drilled holes in bottom of the yogurt container they are in)?

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This looks at first sight 'freeze'...were these guys outside one night too long? Too close to glass french doors?

Next time this happens before you drag them indoors or before the sun comes up turn the sprinklers on. This SLOWS the thawing of plant cells so they don't burst, rupture and turn black. As much.

Plants in pots have their roots exposed to the cold temperatures as well as the drastic temperature changes that happen out of the garden soil above the surface. The garden soil protects the roots, plants in pots have roots that are completely vulnerable to cold and temp extremes.

These tomatoes will not produce while indoors. Unless you had the proper artificial lighting necessary to allow the plant to make enough food so it could make seed and reproduce. You should try getting these plants used to the out of doors starting with 1/2 hour for a few days, and hour for another few days and so on. Then either planting them in the garden or transplant into a larger pot using only potting soil. If you've not used fertilizer, if your potting soil does not have added fertilizer you have to add a balanced fertilizer lower in nitrogen than the P and K percentages.

You need to transplant these plants into 2 gallon pots no larger using only potting soil from a bag. No added fertilizer, no added water holding gimmicks (sponges and gels), just plain old sterilized potting MEDIUM there is very little soil involved if at all. No rocks at the bottom beneath the soil and above the drain hole. Begin by taking them out of doors under a roof. No sun. Then acclimate to the sun before transplanting them into the garden proper or leaving them in the pots (minimum 5 gallon, 10 and 15 gallon pots are normal having up potted at least 4 times to the largest pot)...takes some work no doubt but this is easy once you understand the correct process and use just potting soil in the pots and moving plants from indoors to out of doors or from out of doors to indoors or any major change in the environment needs the human to take the time to acclimate the plant to the new space. One little freeze did what you've got going. Your tomatoes will come back but there is some pruning involved and acclimating to an environment where the plants are able to photosynthesize enough to make their own food and seed...lots of carbohydrates to MAKE by those little chlorophyll factories, gotta have the right amount of light and moving plants around is very risky unless you know how to acclimate or 'harden off' a plant to a new environment.

To take a plant that has grown indoors out of doors for one night or part of a night below 40 degrees F will cause this 'cell bursting'. Especially in the mornings just before the sun rises, the temperature drops precipitously and then the sun comes up and quickly raising the temperatures...which causes the plant cells to burst...and turn this black stuff.

If your plants have never been out of doors, near windows or in any situation where freezing was not an issue, I am totally wrong. And we need to go another direction.

  • They have been on our 4-season porch but it hasn't gotten below freezing recently.. – enderland May 14 '18 at 2:13
  • I wonder if it got cold enough to do that either way :\ it was probably below 40ish :( – enderland May 14 '18 at 2:29
  • Temperatures can dip drastically just before the sun comes up. You won't find those temps on the news. Freezing is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or is it 34? arggghhh. So 40 ish would be within 12 degrees of freezing. Let's rule this out first; were any other plants on your 4 season porch affected? I am 99.99% sure this is freeze damage. I've had so much of this at our home in Central Oregon. Those plants will live but they are probably set back a good month. Where is your porch? What does 4 season mean? Any wind protection? Check other plants outside...mainly your potted plants. – stormy May 14 '18 at 5:28
  • I just went to refresh my memory...I remember clearly, you guys have the sun room and were needing to fertilize. This could be too much fertilizer...send more pictures. Tomatoes need stable conditions and warmth. Interesting, you must have fertilized because the color of your tomato leaves looks far healthier. More pictures quickly so we can rule out a few other possible problems. What and how much have you added? – stormy May 14 '18 at 5:36
  • I'm pretty sure it'd be freeze damage :( there were some others too, this was one of the worst though. I'll try to get a few more pictures after work tonight. – enderland May 14 '18 at 12:00
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One thing you could correct immediately - at the size your plants are, they should not still be trapped in yoghurt pots or anything as small as that. It's long past the time when they should have been transferred to 9 or 11 inch large pots with drainage holes. Whether they have another separate issue is hard to say given they're indoors all the time, but they certainly will have run out of root room. Use new, good quality potting soil to pot them up.

  • Those pots do have drainage holes and are being planted outside in less than a week. I don't think we realized how fast they would grow, next year we are definitely putting them in bigger pots when we transplant them! – enderland May 14 '18 at 12:01
  • Ah, so you're going to grow outdoors - maybe you started them off a little early then! But if you're going to transfer outdoors so soon, harden them off starting now if you're not already doing so - but don't stand them in sun initially – Bamboo May 14 '18 at 13:04
  • With that much water trouble, you might consider putting them in a casserole dish with several centimeters of water in it, until transplant. The small roots can only pull so much water, so you want to be sure that they, and not water, is the limiting factor. – Wayfaring Stranger May 14 '18 at 13:58

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