Solutions to Summer Tomato Problems

Summer Rainbow of Tomatoes from Prior Unity Garden

Its fresh garden tomato time !

Some of our tomatoes have reached over 7 feet and others, that were pruned by the deer, are growing wide and bushy instead.

Yet, as we enjoy our tomatoes, we sometimes have problems in our tomato garden, so here are some solutions for you:

PROBLEM: I’ve got big green bushy plants, but almost no blooms and no fruit.

SOLUTION: You may have fed your soil or plants too much nitrogen (compost, compost tea, manure, fertilizers).  For faster blooming, add bone meal.  To build your soil long term,  add rock phosphate to add phosphorus to your soil.  Home compost usually has enough phosphorus though, as it can be found in banana peels and egg shells. You may also want to back off on watering if you have been giving them lots of water, allow them to stress a little and think they need to reproduce, aka bloom and produce fruit/seed.

PROBLEM: I’ve got green healthy plants, and plenty of blooms, but no fruit.

SOLUTION: If your plants have plenty of flowers but no fruit, there may not be anyone pollinating your plants.  Perhaps lawn chemicals have been used in your area that have killed all the bees and other pollinators. Perhaps there are either too many or too little pollinator attracting plants close to you.  Try adding pollinator attracting plants around your garden.  Add some herbs, even in containers that can be moved where you need them.  Blooming thyme and oregano attract bees for example and will also give you fresh herbs for the kitchen.  Yarrow is a beautiful native perennial that attracts not only pollinators but many beneficial insects. You can also hand pollinate with a small dollar store paint brush.

PROBLEM: My tomatoes are splitting.

SOLUTION: Tomatoes split when there is an inconsistent amount of water. Fruit will split if the plants get lots of water after a dry spell.  Provide plants with more consistent watering schedule.

PROBLEM: My tomatoes seem to rot before the are really ripen.

Russell with our now over 8 foot chocolate cherry tomato plant

SOLUTION: This can easily happen in our humid hot summers. One solution is to pick them when they are still a bit hard and not completely ripe.  Although we resist doing this at Prior Unity Garden because we want them to be really completely vine ripened, it is easy to put them in a sunny window sill for a two or three days to finish ripening, and frankly they seem to taste as good and sometime better because there are no rotten spots.  Another solution is to look for stink bugs on your plants and tomatoes.  Stink bugs will puncture a hole in your fruit and suck it,  leaving a small hole that you probably won’t notice till you go to pick the tomato and feel it is soft on one side, or see a rotten section with a hole.  Hand pick the stink bugs or use Insecticidal Soap.

PROBLEM: My tomato plants have yellow leaves.

SOLUTION: They may need more nitrogen, so add compost, compost tea or manure. It is possible they have bugs eating enough to stress the plant, check for them.  The plants may have Fusarium wilt, a fungal disease that thrives in hot temperatures.  People will often advise destroying whole plants if you suspect this, but first, try removing all the stems with yellow leaves.  Do this every day for a few days and see if the plant revives, this will often extend the life of the plant and provide you some harvest.

PROBLEM: My tomato plants have brown leaves.

A Tasting Tray of 19 varieties

SOLUTION: There is brown from lack of water and brown from other things.  If you haven’t watered at all this summer, water.  If you have watered, the browning is likely from a wilt or bacteria.  Again, remove all the stems which have the browning leaves for a few days.  At the end of the season, if you suspect a fungus or bacterial problem, remove the whole plant off property.

PROBLEM: My tomato plants aren’t growing.

SOLUTION: Plants do not grow if there is too much heat or cold.  With our excessive heat, it is likely they are too hot to want to grow.  If you suspect this, try providing shade cloth.   Alternatively, perhaps they are in a place that does not get enough sun.  Considering another location next year may help this.  In both cases, patience is needed and you still may get some tomatoes.  Another solution may be watering them if you have not been since we are in Moderate Drought according to the US Drought Monitor.  Another solution may be to add compost, compost tea or manure to feed the plants if your soil is nutrient deficient.

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