Tomatoes problematic this year (twisty, dark, short)

Year after year I've been growing 6 Early Girl tomatoes in a patch surrounded by concrete, the patch being 11 feet by 25 inches. I usually get terrific results. I dig out the soil about 2 feet down (in late March if I try to dig deeper I just reach standing water) and mix about 1/4 compost with 3/4 soil back into the ditch and plant the seedlings.
This year the proportion of compost was even greater. I make my own compost from whatever cast off yard waste I have or can find, and had a LOT this year. However, the plants are not doing very well. I've seen this sort of thing a time or two in the past, but not so pronounced as this year. When the plants were about 2-3 feet tall, the growing tips and leafy stems started twisting considerably and they seemed kind of stunted and were perhaps a darker green than usual. Now, the plants are a good 4-5 feet tall and they still seem darker green than usual, the leaves are mostly kind of smallish, the stems not very long. Usually the plants are taller by now. Also, the lower leaves are dieing (turning yellow) somewhat sooner than usual. The fruit bearing seems markedly diminished. Yes, the spring here in the S.F. Bay Area was more wintery, wet and cold than usual, but I am very doubtful that this accounts for how badly the plants are doing now and before summer started.
The only thing I can think to do (I'm watering about the same as usual) is to test the PH of the soil. I went to Orchard Supply Hardware and checked out their PH testing systems (all by Luster Leaf, "Rapidtest", the 3 prong 4-in-1 #1818 (which tests PH, water content, nutritional aspects of the soil and light), the two prong #1817 (PH and water) and the #1815 single prong (PH only), but didn't purchase yet. Is poor PH a likely or possible cause/concern? What do you think?
Dan
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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Are you near the Berkeley hills? We had late rains in May/June and the water table may still be up, in which case, you may be getting root rot. I'd take a post hole digger, and dig down 3', or so, to try to find where the water table is now. At 4 ft. in height, the tomato will have found it by now. My suggestion would be to stop watering your plants, and give them a foliar feeding of potassium/phosphate (for general health, and supporting root growth).
The symptoms don't seem to match any deficiencies that I'm aware of, so I'm left with the water as the culprit.

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wrote:
: :> Year after year I've been growing 6 Early Girl tomatoes in a patch :> surrounded by concrete, the patch being 11 feet by 25 inches. I usually :> get terrific results. I dig out the soil about 2 feet down (in late :> March if I try to dig deeper I just reach standing water) and mix about :> 1/4 compost with 3/4 soil back into the ditch and plant the seedlings. : :Are you near the Berkeley hills? We had late rains in May/June and the :water table may still be up, in which case, you may be getting root rot. :I'd take a post hole digger, and dig down 3', or so, to try to find :where the water table is now. At 4 ft. in height, the tomato will have :found it by now. My suggestion would be to stop watering your plants, :and give them a foliar feeding of potassium/phosphate (for general :health, and supporting root growth). : :The symptoms don't seem to match any deficiencies that I'm aware of, so :I'm left with the water as the culprit.
Not too near the hills, I'm near Ashby BART station. Guess it could be root rot, I wouldn't know. You don't think testing PH is necessary?
I shouldn't water lightly just to keep the top 6 inches from drying out?
How would I do a foliar feeding such as you suggest? I have some Miracle Gro, also some chemical fertilizer (dry 16-16-16), but so far this year I've gone organic. I'm not averse to using chemicals if called for, though.
Dan
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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I'd dig a test hole 3 ft. deep to see if the water table is in that range, if not we can scratch our heads together.
If you do have a high water table, with the amount of compost that you added, moisture should wick-up, so I wouldn't worry about any supplimental watering (provided of course that it is a high water table).
Potassium and phosphate seems like it would be the same for chemical gardening, or organic gardening. Wetting agents and such may be different. I've never used foliar sprays, except for compost tea.
Dig the hole first.
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Dan Musicant wrote:

This is very energetic and not required. You don't need that much compost year after year and the digging will not do the soil texture any good. If you only grow one crop per year add manures etc in early spring and gently turn/rake in. Mulch after you plant. You will turn in any remaining mulch next year.

I haven't seen those signs before.

Unless your additions were highly polluted or you have been making concrete (or something similar) nearby I don't see what could change the pH that much.
I am deeply distrustful of meters such as you describe. A laboratory pH meter is very accurate (but fragile) but cheap commercial ones often are not reliable. I have no specific knowledge of the brand you describe. I find the best domestic pH guage is a dye indicator system. People shy off these thinking they are difficult to use and the electric gadget will be easier. The dye systems are easy, cheap, quick and reliable and quite accurate enough for the purpose. Here (in Oz) you can get a kit for about $15 and it will do hundreds of tests. Even males with red-green colour confusion can use them.
David
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wrote:

See if you can find some information here. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/tomatoproblemsolver/index.html
Helps to know what the problem is.
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wrote:
:wrote: : :>Year after year I've been growing 6 Early Girl tomatoes in a patch :>surrounded by concrete, the patch being 11 feet by 25 inches. I usually :>get terrific results. I dig out the soil about 2 feet down (in late :>March if I try to dig deeper I just reach standing water) and mix about :>1/4 compost with 3/4 soil back into the ditch and plant the seedlings. :> :>This year the proportion of compost was even greater. I make my own :>compost from whatever cast off yard waste I have or can find, and had a :>LOT this year. However, the plants are not doing very well. I've seen :>this sort of thing a time or two in the past, but not so pronounced as :>this year. When the plants were about 2-3 feet tall, the growing tips :>and leafy stems started twisting considerably and they seemed kind of :>stunted and were perhaps a darker green than usual. Now, the plants are :>a good 4-5 feet tall and they still seem darker green than usual, the :>leaves are mostly kind of smallish, the stems not very long. Usually the :>plants are taller by now. Also, the lower leaves are dieing (turning :>yellow) somewhat sooner than usual. The fruit bearing seems markedly :>diminished. Yes, the spring here in the S.F. Bay Area was more wintery, :>wet and cold than usual, but I am very doubtful that this accounts for :>how badly the plants are doing now and before summer started. :> :>The only thing I can think to do (I'm watering about the same as usual) :>is to test the PH of the soil. I went to Orchard Supply Hardware and :>checked out their PH testing systems (all by Luster Leaf, "Rapidtest", :>the 3 prong 4-in-1 #1818 (which tests PH, water content, nutritional :>aspects of the soil and light), the two prong #1817 (PH and water) and :>the #1815 single prong (PH only), but didn't purchase yet. Is poor PH a :>likely or possible cause/concern? What do you think? :> :>Dan :> :> :>Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net : : :See if you can find some information here. :http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/tomatoproblemsolver/index.html : :Helps to know what the problem is.
I quick look around that site has me thinking maybe Cucumber Mosaic Virus. Nothing else seems to fit:
Symptoms: Virus-infected plants are stunted, often with poorly expanded leaves. Plants are bushy in appearance. Leaves may be mottled, and often have a "shoestring" appearance. Fruit are small and misshaped.
Control: Aphids often are virus vectors, so an attempt to control the aphids is the first step. Eliminate weeds and remove infected plants from the field as soon as they are seen.
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/tomatoproblemsolver/leaf/mosaic.html
Dan
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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