Tomato, tomahto. It doesn’t matter how you say it, this time of year, when it starts getting really hot, they have a tendency to cause us a little grief. Some of the most common questions I’ve been getting lately have had to do with tomatoes.

  • One question I hear from across the valley is “Why aren’t my tomatoes setting fruit”? This is a common weather related problem. The blossoms drop off without setting fruit when the daytime temperature is over 95 degrees or nighttime temperatures fall below 55. Dry soil could be another reason the blossoms are dropping. Is the plant receiving at least 6 hours of sun a day? Too much shade causes blossom drop. One other consideration could be that the plant is getting too much nitrogen. That will promote leaf growth at the expense of blossom and fruit formation. There are products, Blossom Set by Green Light for example, that can be sprayed on the tomato blossom to supposedly help alleviate the blossom drop.
  • “My tomato has a rotten spot on the bottom. Why”?  No doubt about it, that ugly black area certainly does spoil the look of an otherwise perfectly good tomato. It’s called Blossom End Rot and it’s caused by a calcium deficiency. You might also see this problem on peppers, and squash.

Usually, an extreme fluctuation in soil moisture brings on the problem. Keeping the  plant evenly moist is a good way to eliminate this problem. High nitrogen fertilizers or large quantities of fresh manure may also cause this problem. Green Light also makes a product for this disorder called End Rot, but without correcting the watering issue you will most likely continue to have the problem. By the way, as disgusting as this looks, it won’t contaminate the entire tomato. You can cut the yucky part off the bottom and enjoy the rest of the fruit.

Bowl of Tomatoes“How can I get my tomatoes to ripen”? Once night time temperatures start dipping into the low 70’s, you aren’t going to get many new fruits forming. To speed up the ripening process of existing green tomatoes pinch off any new flowers.  Also, remove any small green tomatoes that have no chance of maturing.  Cutting back on water might help, too.  Some folks believe that if you pick the tomato just as it’s turning pink and ripen it in the house it will be just as good as vine ripened without any splitting or green shoulders.  Sit them in a bright place but not in direct sunshine and the ripening process will take about a week or 10 days.

Other questions can be sent to me at the e-mail address listed, or give me a call some Saturday morning on the D&B Garden Show and let’s talk gardening.  Enjoy the rest of the growing season!

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