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Leggy Tomato Plants And How To Fix Them

Leggy Tomato Plants

Leggy tomato plants may conjure up something wild to those with an imagination.

“Hey, I like my tomatoes full and leggy”.

As a kid growing up watching my expert gardening parents deal with whatever problems they were often faced with, tomato seedlings that became leggy were among them.

It was no fuss for them. They never ever worried about it.

I say that because many people tend to overthink this issue, if that’s what you can call it. I’ve known gardeners who simply etch-a-sketch the leggy tomato plants and put it down to a bad crop.

What? You did what?

Here’s the truth, there is nothing that can’t be righted with tomato plants that take on a leggy appearance. In this article, I will explain what leggy tomato plants are, why they turn leggy and how to fix them.

What Are Leggy Tomato Plants?

how to fix legginess in plantsSo what are leggy tomato plants? Well, they are as is implied, tomato plants with long stalks.

In essence, there are sizable gaps between the leaf nodes. They resemble a small tree with a long trunk.

Is this good? Well, it’s not ideal and you want to jump on this early. And my parents always did. We grew up in a warm climate and they always did their best work before the crack of dawn.

That meant getting in before the heat arrived and being done before breakfast. That’s another story but I’ll save it for another article. And below, I’ll tell you how they fixed this issue.

Being of Italian descent, you can imagine they had quite a sizeable tomato plot. Actually, it was huge.

Several different varieties that would provide us with a year’s worth of pasta sauce and tomato mixtures.

What Causes Tomato Plants To Grow Leggy?

leggy tomato plantThe main culprit is a lack of light. This is true for both outside gardens and for people growing a tomato plant or three inside.

Outside, planting your tomatoes in an area covered by trees is not a good idea. And inside, poor lighting is also the issue and reason why they take on a long, leggy appearance with no middle substance.

When tomato plants break ground, they are searching for light. Outside, planting them in an area that gets six to eight hours of sunshine a day is ideal.

And inside, you want to place them by a window that is flushed with the sun’s rays or a grow light that is not too high.

The young tomato plants will reach for whatever light they are presented with. If it’s too high or the area is poorly lit, or receives spasmodic sun, then they just keep reaching.

And the result is a plant that is all legs and nothing else.

So a lack of light is one reason. There are other reasons that they turn leggy. They include:

– over-watering despite the fact they get ample light

– too much fertilizer in the soil

– they are planted too close together

These are solid reasons but nowhere near as big as lack of lighting. I will agree that too much water is an issue and mistake many gardeners make.

Generally, it’s inexperienced gardeners who will do this.

How Do You Fix Leggy Tomato Plants?

tomato plant careMy parents had two methods. The first was to relocate the seedling. You have to understand that being expert gardeners they usually didn’t have to worry too much about this problem.

But occasionally, the leggy plants would surface. And it was usually because of being in a low light area.

Yes, even the experts can make this mistake but in their case, it was trying to squeeze out an extra row of tomatoes with the piece of ground that bordered the edge of the garden.

So relocation to an area that was flushed with sunshine was one way to fix this problem. And when they replanted the seedling, they would go a little deeper in depth to shorten the stalk of the plant.

You could almost hear the young seedlings scream with delight when they realized they were back in the light.

The second method also involved replanting. My mother would have lots of extra large pots around our house and tomato plants would usually occupy them.

But every now and then, a leggy plant would emerge. So she did one of two things. She carefully extracted the seedling and planted it a little deeper and then moved the pot to a sunny area.

The other thing she would do was replant the seedling in a makeshift container such as a large milk carton. Yes you heard right, a large milk carton. And again, she would go a little deeper with the stalk of the plant.

Most times, these containers were only used for a short time until the plant could be moved to a larger and sturdier pot, or replanted in the outside garden. It worked for them and I’m sure it would work for you.

One More Fix…

what causes legginess in plantsOne of the main problems with letting a leggy tomato plant continue to grow is that it will just topple over.

This is even without any fruit on them.

This is easily fixed if you feel you’ll be intimidated in relocating them. Just use a stake to prop the plant up.

When I say stake, it doesn’t have to be anything special. We had a couple of old buildings that we gradually tore down and replaced.

We used the crown or cornice  gildings from the ceilings as stakes. They were about and inch and a half thick. We cut them into smaller length and they worked perfectly. And we continued to use them over and over again.

So stake the support into the ground beside the tomato plant. Be careful if the stake is wood and use gloves to avoid splinters. Once it was in the ground and depending on how tall the plant was, we would gently use a couple of ties.

The ties were basic string which we would loosely toes around the plant’s stack and the stake. Never tie too tightly.

And that fixed the issue of tomato plants that would just topple over.

If you would like to share how you dealt with leggy tomato plants, please share in the comments section.

Leggy Tomato Plant
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JD Dean

Growing up on a farm gave me and my family some huge advantages. One of them was learning to grow our own food. Apart from acres and acres of crops, we had a magnificent fruit and vegetable garden plus, we canned our own food. I’m hoping to pass on some of this expertise and experience to you.

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