Okay so you bit the bullet and finally started that vegetable garden you’ve always dreamed of. You painstakingly sourced seeds that you’re excited about, started the seeds in little cups or trays, watered them daily and gave them plenty of sunshine. It’s nearly time to plant them in the ground and they’re looking, well, bleak… Before you throw the towel in, know that they can be revived!

If you’re a gardener, you know that these things happen to all of us at some point or another, whether it’s from pests, a lack of nutrients, too small of pots, over or under-watering, not enough sun, extreme temperatures, etc. In some ways, it’s a rite of passage.

So we polled our incredible community for advice on how to revive sad vegetable plants and it turns out a staggering number of you are farmers and serious gardeners!? The tips were too good not to share, which is why we decided that they need to live on the blog forever. This advice pertains to tomatoes specifically, but honestly many of these suggestions can be applied to most plants!

Tips from the OO community:

  • Sprinkle organic tomato food around your tomato plants. Tomato food is a type of fertilizer that is specifically designed to nourish tomato plants and is made from organic ingredients like blood meal, feather meal, bone meal, manure, bat guano, kelp and alfalfa. These ingredients enhance plant growth but primarily aim to produce high quality fruits while also preventing any common disease or disorders.  
  • Amend your soil with compost. Compost is an excellent idea for most plants, but especially fruiting plants like tomatoes. It provides a balanced mix of essential nutrients (like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) as well as trace minerals that tomatoes require for healthy growth. It also enhances the structure of your soil, ensuring that it can retain water and nutrients while improving aeration. This creates a healthy environment for beneficial microorganisms that live in the soil and help to break down organic matter into nutrients that your tomato plants can absorb. They also help to protect your plants against any soil-borne diseases!
  • Make an eggshell tea and water your plants with it. Eggshells are rich in calcium carbonate, which helps strengthen plant cell walls and prevent issues like blossom end rot. Plus, using up eggshells from your kitchen waste is sustainable, cheap, and eco-friendly. To make eggshell tea, simply dry your stockpiled eggshells (about 10-20), crush them up, and steep them in 1 gallon of boiling water for 24 hours. Once the time is up, strain the liquid and use the eggshell “tea” to water the base of your tomato plants about 1x per week. 
  • Make a banana peel tea and water your plants with it. Just as eggshells are rich in calcium, bananas are high in potassium – an essential nutrient that helps plants develop strong roots, improves water and nutrient uptake and enhances overall plant health. Yet banana peels also contain phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and other trace elements like sulfur, manganese and zinc that nourish tomato plants. To make banana peel tea, cut up saved banana peels into small pieces and soak them in water for 2-3 days. We suggest using about 2-3 banana peels per quart of water. Once they’ve finished steeping, strain out the peels and water the base of your tomato plants with it every 1-2 weeks. Note: if your banana peel tea is super concentrated and dark, you can dilute it with water. 
  • Give them more space to grow! Once your tomato seedlings have 2-3 sets of true leaves (typically around 6-8 weeks old) they are ready to be transplanted directly into the soil or into much bigger pots. 
  • Place copper wire in the soil around your plants. Copper is not only an essential micronutrient but also a natural fungicide that can help fight diseases (like blight) and pests that can plague tomato plants. But most notably, you can place copper wire into the soil around your plants in a practice called electroculture, which is said to use the Earth’s natural magnetism to improve plant growth. To do this, you coil copper wire around a stick and anchor it into your soil, with the top of the wire sticking out and acting like an antenna. The copper wire supposedly conducts low level electrical currents that energize the soil and stimulate plant growth, perhaps reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides. 
  • Apply a fish emulsion fertilizer. Fish emulsion fertilizer is a type of organic fertilizer that is made from the byproducts of the fishing industry – like bones, scales and internal organs. It’s extremely nutritious, providing a balanced blend of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as well as micronutrients and trace elements. Since it’s water soluble, fish emulsion is readily absorbed by tomato plants through their roots and rapidly taken up. You can use fish emulsion every 2-4 weeks during the growing season.
  • Trim off all the yellow leaves and bottom branches. By removing the non-productive parts of the plants, your tomato seedlings can redirect their energy towards producing more flowers, fruit and new, healthy growth.
  • Replant seedlings DEEP in the soil. When transplanting, you can bury your tomato plants up to where the first leaves are present. This encourages those tiny little hairs along the stem to turn into roots and take up more water and nutrients from the soil.
  • Use kelp plant food as a fertilizer. Similar to tomato food, kelp plant food is a category of fertilizers made from dried seaweed or seaweed extracts (primarily kelp). These fertilizers provide all of the beneficial vitamins and minerals needed for plants in a super easily applied form. If you’re interested in a simple, environmentally friendly fertilizer, this is a great option for you.
  • Water your plants with an Epsom salt solution. Note: plant researchers caution gardeners from using Epsom salts unless you know that your soil is lacking magnesium. If it is, a dilution of 2 tablespoons of salts per gallon of water is an ideal ratio that you can use to water your plants 1-2 times a month during the growing season, or every 8 weeks if your plants are showing signs of a magnesium deficiency. This looks like yellowing between the leaf veins, sometimes with reddish brown tints and premature leaf shedding.
  • Ensure they get lots of sunshine! 
  • Give them ample water daily but DON’T overwater.  It’s important to let the soil dry out between waterings to prevent overwatering which can lead to issues like root rot and nutrient deficiencies and can even kill your plants.

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