How I Solved My Sickly Tomato Problem

When I was working as a papermaking artist I did a lot of "kitchen chemistry." I really liked to experiment in the studio and I do the similar kind of experimentation in the garden.
This season I planted tomatoes in three different plots. The first plot was a shallow raised bed of logs in a sun/shade space filled with a mix of soil and well composted horse manure. The second plot was grow bags (same sun/shade space) filled with just well composted horse manure. The third plot was an in the ground plot in full sun and against a brick wall and was covered by bark chips where I had grown tomatoes several years before and used Tree Tone organic fertilizer.
Plot one and two; the raised beds and the grow bags were doing very well, the third, in the ground plot was pretty sickly, yellow leaves and stunted growth. I needed to do something and do it fast! First I took some compost and made a ring around the stunted tomato plant. Within three weeks the plant was greening up. At the same time I made up some comfrey compost tea. Three weeks later I poured the compost tea on those same tomatoes and things began to happen!The moral of this story is that tomatoes love acid soil and the well composted horse manure soil was the perfect soil for them.
The compost tea steeping in 5-gallon buckets of water. I used old pots (see right hand side) on top to block the leaves and pine needles from getting in the bucket.
A better view of the comfrey compost tea. It's smelly and potent but effective!
The sickly and stunted tomatoes before the extra TLC of horse manure and comfrey compost tea.
An early view of the healthy tomatoes in the recycled cloth bags planted in horse manure soil.
The bed of sickly tomatoes covered in bark chips "before."

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  • Jan Drake Jan Drake on Jul 12, 2014

    Make sure it's Epson Salt not Regular table salt. There not the same. Epson is actually Magnesium Sulfate. Mix a 1/4 cup Epsom salts with a 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk until they are well blended. A mixture of 1:1:1 Epsom Salt, Nonfat dry milk, and corn meal. Pour the Epsom salts and dry milk mixture into the bottom of the planting hole; top with a shovelful of well-rotted compost. Add the same mixture to each hole if you are planting multiple plants.Use a hand trowel to work the amendments into the soil at the bottom of each planting hole.Set the tomato plant into the center of the prepared hole.Return the displaced soil to the planting hole, surrounding the plant, and firmly tamp the surface.You can also google: tomatoes, epsom salt, powdered milk. There lots of info about it.

  • Kathy Kathy on Jul 12, 2014

    Thank you Jan for letting me know. Happy Summer and gardening.

  • Terry Terry on Jul 21, 2014

    how do you make the comfrey compost tea

  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Jul 22, 2014

    Lots of info out there...try any of these!How to Make Comfrey Manure Tea » Harvest to Table shared postMay 27, 2009 - Use a bucket or other container to make comfrey tea. ... Place a layer or two of comfrey leaves on the top of the compost pile and sprinkle ... How to make compost tea - No Dig Vegetable shared postSee how easy making compost tea is. Also how to make comfrey tea and other soluble, liquid fertilizers from manure, herbs, nettles and other weeds. Comfrey Power - Organic shared postThe fuel for this factory is Russian comfrey (Symphytum X uplandicum). ... To compare, kelp meal has an NPK ratio of 1.0-0.5-2.5, and homemade compost ranges from ... Freshly cut comfrey leaves make good mulch because they're high in ... Making Comfrey Compost Tea - YouTube► 2:54► shared postAug 9, 2011 - Uploaded by Jayne SimmonsWatch Jayne Simmons of Sister Sage Herbs make comfrey Tea fertilizer for the garden. It will be ready in just ...

    • Pam Fortenberry-Sims Pam Fortenberry-Sims on Mar 20, 2015

      @White Oak Studio Designs I used similar idea but different for my azaelias. They love acid so I dug around by pine trees to get to semi decomposed pine straw. Smelled horrible..put it in buckets with water and set them in the sun for a few weeks late winter/earlish spring. Then once most of water was evaporated i added water from rain barrel. I then planted new azaleas with some of the decomposed pine straw at the roots. Watered with the liquid. Once they are established they are very hardy here in Ms but they are not as easy to get established as some may think. So the idea for acid or alkaline works the same just different ingredients. Thanks!

  • Brenda Newton Brenda Newton on Mar 20, 2015

    Ok do not see the recipe for the tea. Could you post it on Facebook?

  • Pam Fortenberry-Sims Pam Fortenberry-Sims on Mar 20, 2015

    You can google for the recipe. Just google comfrey tea fertilizer.

  • Janet Desmarais Janet Desmarais on Jun 30, 2015

    What it the comfrey has powdery mildew?

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    • Josh Uranga Josh Uranga on Jun 09, 2017

      Unfortunately once you have PM all you can do is treat it with organic sprays. The PM is permanently in the plant once it gets it, I have experienced this with Cucumbers. Typically temperature\humidity (VPD) plays a big part along with the type of plant you're growing and if its more susceptible. There is a organic garlic based spray you can use (forget the name) that works VERY well, it kills the spores and doesn't allow the PM to spread.

  • Nancy Nancy on Jul 10, 2017

    Wi use coffee grounds plus my tea bags after my tea bags cool off i then place them around my plants and they look so beautiful i will add coffee grounds to my soil mix into great for plants and flowers

  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Jul 11, 2017

    Thanks fo your comment Nancy! I plop my used tea bags into my compost bins and turn them into black gold soil. Same objective....different method. Happy gardening! Donna at White Oak Studio Designs and The Small House Big Sky Homestead.

  • Annie de Vona Annie de Vona on Jul 27, 2019

    Terrific advice, thanks for sharing. May ai ask how Comfrey Compost is made? A dear friend is about to lose a cherished plant and (Hardy Hibiscus) there isn’t time to make compost. I do have Arborvitae needles by the barrel full. I also have a couple of boxes of chamomile and green tea. Any ideas?

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