Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cupped, Twisty, Weird Tomato Leaves: Herbicide Damage

I have seen, in the past couple of weeks, several examples of tomato and pepper plants that show signs of damage from weed killers. The leaves are variously cupped, twisty, fanned, excessively pointy, and otherwise just plain weird. The gardeners whose plants these are have not been using weed killer in their gardens, nor have they applied any manures (another source of herbicides), but they have used weed killers (or employed a lawn care company that used them) on their lawns.

K-State has a great little "Problem" page about accidental herbicide damage, and this sentence is especially eye-opening: "Some broadleaf herbicides such as 2,4-D are volatile, especially during hot weather, and may drift across the yard or even adjacent yards in concentrations sufficient to cause injury."

Twisty, weird tomato leaves with unusual vein pattern.
This means that even carefully applied lawn herbicides can cause unintended damage in the vegetable garden.

Those of us who have "freedom lawns" (random-weed-and-turf-grass mixes) rather than monoculture lawns typically don't suffer from herbicide damage, because we never use any, but there are plenty of gardeners in urban/suburban areas who live in neighborhoods that demand botanical uniformity in lawns. Vegetable gardeners in these neighborhoods may be stuck "between a rock and a hard place."

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