Tomato & Cucumber Problem

Dear Lynn

I am looking for some advice please.

This is my first time growing tomatoes and cucumbers in my new greenhouse. I got a great crop of cucumbers but my tomato's are still green. I think this is because I did not plant them till the end of June due to late delivery of the greenhouse.

Over the last few days on both plants the leaves have started to wither right back to the stem, more so on the cucumber plant. Some of the leaves have got brown patches. Would this be normal for the plants to die back at the end of the season or have they got something that's started to kill them off?

Thanks for any help.

Brendan. 27/9/11

Dear Brendan

Firstly, your green tomatoes – we have had exactly the same problem in the greenhouse in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden this year, we had an excellent crop of tomatoes but they were green for so long and were very late ripening.  We have a south facing greenhouse so the tomatoes are in the prime position for sun, unfortunately we didn’t have a very sunny July /August so they have been very slow to ripen this year.  If you have leaves shading the fruit you could cut some of a the leaves off  to give the tomatoes more exposure to light/sunshine, but they will eventually get there.  Hanging bananas nearby will speed up ripening too!

Next year you could get your tomatoes started earlier and get them growing 4-6 weeks before the last frost in your area.

Cucumbers are tricky, they are very sensitive to changes of temperature too.  They do tend to look very tatty at the end of the season, but the fact that you have had a good crop from your plants I would not worry.  Just think how much work that plant has had to do to grow and give you all those cucumbers, all the water and nutrition are going up the stem to the new fruits and leaves at the top leaving the leaves at the bottom to slowly die off.  This is often the problem with all fast growing crops, squash plants are exactly the same, they are very hungry and do benefit from regular feeding.

One of the main problems to look out for in Cucumbers is Cucumber mosaic virus: Plants and leaves are stunted and deformed, and leaves show distinctive yellow mosaic patterning. Flowering is reduced or non-existent, while any fruit that do appear are small, pitted, hard and inedible.  However this does not sound like this is your problem this year but you will be prepared in furture years. 

I hope this has helped you with your query and I hope you enjoy your greenhouse for many years to come.

Kind Regards

Lynn Burton
Horticultural Adviser