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Knock on wood, please, because I may jinx myself by declaring publicly that my tomatoes look awesome. It is the healthiest set of plants and fruit that I can ever remember, honestly.
The plants are remarkably free of any pest problem, brown or yellowing leaf or rotting fruit. Most are heirloom varieties; they were fertilized once at planting with fish emulsion and immediately mulched with newspaper and pine straw.
One irrigation occurred during a hot, dry spell but that is it…could the simple approach be the winning formula? Probably not but, but in combination with other good cultural practices maybe this year will be a bumper crop if the hot weather doesn’t ruin it!
We cannot control the weather, but we can control what our plants eat, so to speak. At planting time the soil was well-prepared with composted horse manure and a little organic fertilizer; and the plants were mulched in order to moderate soil moisture and preventing soil from splashing on the foliage which can spread soil-borne diseases from last year the first day out for this year’s crop.
This year drainage in the garden is crucial because of some significant rain events and pop-up storms. Tomatoes rather like being a bit on the dry side, so sitting in waterlogged soil can cause a problem.
Rapid fluctuations in soil moisture is the primary cause of the most common tomato condition known as blossom end rot (as well as being a contributor to blossom drop, leaf curl, and splitting fruit). When plants fluctuate between too wet and too dry, a calcium deficiency develops in the plant, which then causes the blossom end of the fruit to rot.
It’s quite disappointing when you grasp that first ripe tomato and discover it’s half rotten. You can avoid the onset of a calcium deficiency with good cultural practices. But if you do have a bout of it, there are products that you can spray on your plants formulated to restore the calcium level.
High heat can cause some problems for our tomatoes, as well. Daytime temperatures in the 90s typically cause plants to stop blooming. When temperatures drop back into the 80s, they will rebound.
But there are other problems to address:
§ Too much nitrogen can jeopardize bloom. Nitrogen encourages leafy growth at the expense of bloom. Use a fertilizer lower in nitrogen and higher in potassium and phosphorus during bloom time to encourage good blossom set. Fish emulsion is my choice because it delivers small amounts of macro and micronutrients.
Pick your tomatoes when they are uniform in color and still firm. Don’t store them in the refrigerator or place them in a sunny window. This does not further ripening and just makes them mealy.
Instead store tomatoes in a basket in a cool corner of the kitchen. To expedite ripening, you can put them in a brown bag along with and apple.
Oh, yes, and I did pick a ripe Cherry tomato on June 24.