Tomatoes not growing...

Hello....
I planted tomatoes in southern New Mexico. The ground had no previous garden, looked OK. I tilled in organic compost to 10", lots of compost. Planted several varieties, 15 plants, in a row. Automatic watering with drip hose, ground covered by black plastic weed stopper (breathes). Killed grass around with roundup (had bermuda reaching into garden). Covered all plants with plastic bags first. Bags seemed to make hot house and make tomatoes grow but Ieft them on 2 days and it killed plants on one side of garden (more sun). Replaced those with new plants. Put time release fetrilize on soil and soaked in when first planted, have used liquid fertilizer two times since. Direct sun 5 - 6 hours a day, lots of indirect light (shade under tree) otherwise.
Planted 1.5 months ago. All plants, old and new, at just sitting there, no or very little increase in height...all except one plant on the end away from new plants. This one is growing very well, lush, getting taller. Others have green tops, lower limbs died some time ago. The green tops look healthy but donig nothing, some scraggly. Don't know why but get the feeling some of them are on their way to dying, or maybe they just won't grow.
Why aren't they growing? Searched the web, I see lots of diseases, and will try to look close at the plants when I return (on vacation for few days).
Any advice would really be appreciated. I only grew tomatoes once before, in New Jersey, and they were a spectacular success with little effort.
Thanks very much, Sarah
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Some thoughts: 1. You added compost and the plants have been in the ground for 6 weeks and you have added fertilizer 3 times....why? With all that compost there should be no need for fert. so soon. (I never fertilize tomatoes) 2. You mentioned a nearby tree,,,,, what kind? Any type of Walnut? Walnut trees are harmful to tomatoes. 3. Water...with a drip system.... how much, how often ? are they getting enough water? Are the emitters all working correctly? Is the water penetrating deeply into the soil? Check it out by digging down to see what depth its getting to. Maybe the one plant on the end is getting all the water. 4. Roundup residue still in soil? I have never used Roundup (and never will) so I am just guessing on this one.
Good luck Sarah Emilie NorCal
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Roundup doesn't persist like some herbicides do, so this one isn't so likely (although we don't know what the time lag was between the roundup and the tomato planting).
As for the 6 hours of sun, that will affect fruiting more than growth. And actually, if those are morning hours, that might be the way to go in such a hot, dry climate. (We're not in New Jersey anymore....). If this is the problem, picking an appropriate variety (cherry tomatoes, probably) is likely to help.
Agree about overfertilizing. Lots of compost could even be an issue (if the compost is fresh), although that one will resolve itself for next year.
As for the nighttime temperatures being too hot, as I understand it the reason people mention that for tomatoes is in terms of fruit setting. So this probably is indeed a problem, but the lack of growth is probably more a question of daytime temperatures, the really dry air, or some different cause.
The black plastic is probably making the soil too hot. Maybe try white plastic or something else? (I'm not really sure what's best).
As for Desert gardening in general, the one place which very much sticks in my mind is the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno, CA: http://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/forest.htm
It is really amazing (lush and green and sunny, despite being underground). Now, I'm not sure how much of that can easily be applied to a home setting, but think in terms of things like shadecloth, mulch, anything you can do to keep the plant's environment from acting like an oven. That hot sun beating down is the big issue in this climate, and irrigation is only part of the answer (for one thing, constant irrigation leads to shallow roots).
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<snip>

Roundup won't help much with bermuda. I lived in Vegas for 13 years - you'll never be rid of it :-)
How hot is it where you live? The lower limbs dying off sounds like what I saw when I tried to grow tomatoes in Las Vegas. They just did not do well with all day sun and 118 degree weather. And for some reason they did better with hose watering then with drip watering. I think the constant moisture of drip system kept the roots from going deep, and all it takes is one dry hot afternoon to seriously stress them. I also grew some at the side of the house and they grew fairly well - grew about 7 feet tall, produced moderately well. I am most defintely not a tomatoe expert, just thought I'd pitch in with my $.02 worth :)
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Probably way too late to plant in your area. Nightime temps need to be 55-75F and not over 90F in the daytime. And, they need more sun (8-10 hours) and no nitrogen fertilizer.
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Uproot one of them and take a look at the root system. Also dig down and see how far the soil is actually moist. And consider the temperature... high temps can make a plant just "stall" (it's called "heat shock" or "heat stress").
What's the pH of the soil? How salinized might it be?
What's the temperature, day and night?
Are you sure there's not been any contamination with one of the herbicides?
Oh, and 6 hours of sun is just barely adequate for most tomato cultivars.
You might also take the dug up tomato and pot it in a 5 gallon or more pot with commercial potting soil, and see if that improves its growth.
Kay
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There are many variables that prevent tomatoes (or other plants for that matter) from growing well.Kay hit on one theory about the PH. I see you are from New Mexico. I believe the PH of your soil is generally high which means alot of the nutrients aren't available to the plants. Tomatoes need lots of sun too. It doesn't sound like you have diseases. If the plants turn yellow it could be nematodes. One way to know for sure is fertilize a few times. If the plants don't respond to fertilizer, then check the roots for nodules which would be nematodes. A couple of diseases hit tomatoes- Fusarium and Veticillium. I'm not sure if you have that problem in New Mexico like we have in Southern Calif. These are vascular conditions. Fusarium is basically non-curable and plants usually die from tips back. Verticillium is somtimes called the one-sided wilt where one branch will die but the rest of the plant looks healthy. These are just a few more possibilities to consider. Roundup works through translocation which means it works through the leaves to the roots. As long as you don't spray yout tomato plants, it won't affect them. Roundup usually dissapates from the soil in a couple of days. Let us know what happens. Best regards, Bob.
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What the soil PH?Most people don't think about that. If it's far off the nutrients will be locked up and not be used by the plant.
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