More Tomato Woes Factors

A green Beefsteak tomato in a Bluebird Gardens deck pot.

A green Beefsteak tomato in a Bluebird Gardens deck pot.

More Tomato Woes Factors

Summer is a time when local farms sometimes share their extra produce, assuming conditions have been good for growing. This year, record hot and humid conditions have made tomato growing challenging.

In addition, two other factors have contributed to the challenge of growing tomatoes.

Proper Fertilizer

Tomato plants taller than their growers usually means tomato plants may be getting too much nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen encourages the green growth that spurs plants to unnatural heights.A balanced plant meal requires nitrogen for growth, phosphorous for moving energy through the plant, and potassium for stress tolerance.  Our Ozark soil can provide nitrogen but the other two fertilizer elements usually need a boost. 

Soil testing through a local University of Missouri Extension office will help determine what is missing. A test costs $14 and includes not only what is in your soil but what you need to do to amend it.

Even Watering

The other delicate part of raising tomatoes is watering. Tomato roots in open ground can grow to 5 feet deep. Tomatoes even grown in containers prefer to be evenly moist so with temperatures, and humidity, either at record levels or varying widely requires careful monitoring.

I have sunken plastic bottles with holes in pots keeping my tomatoes company so that I can better keep the roots moist. I also use a paint stick propped into the side and moved over an inch to check how wet the soil is before I water.

Charlotte

Tomatoes Dropping Flowers

A Beefsteak tomato at Bluebird Gardens with blossom drop from record hot temperatures.

A Beefsteak tomato at Bluebird Gardens with blossom drop from record hot temperatures.

Tomatoes Dropping Flowers

When I dream of my summer garden, or see a summer garden quilt throw, I look for tomatoes first. If there is one vegetable that represents summer vegetable gardening, it's these wonderful fruits that add color, flavor and good antioxidants to our salads and other food.

Our local newspaper asked me to call someone about their tomatoes. The gentleman was polite on the phone but clearly frustrated. His 6-foot high tomatoes in barrels at a 7 Ph level where flowering but then the flowers were falling off. He said something similar had happened to his potatoes last year.

Several Possible Factors

There are several factors that cause tomatoes to drop their flowers, starting with the impact of record high temperatures. Tomatoes, like most flowering plants, go into survival mode if temperatures are above 90F for five or more days in a row. We just set record temperatures for June in Missouri so the record hot temperatures may be a leading culprit.

Plant survival mode means most systems are shut down, including pollen production. It’s why a plant may seem to die in hot weather and yet reappear the following year. As long as the roots can pull through, most plants will survive.

High Temperatures and High Humidity

Tied to temperature is high humidity. Humidity that is too high prevents pollen from sticking to the stigma once it is released. Without pollen, there are no pollinators and without pollinators, there are no flowers that produce tomatoes.

Leading tomato pollinators are native bees, especially bumble bees. These little hoodlums of the bee world literally shake the plant, releasing pollen all over the stigma and themselves. When high temperatures shut down pollen production, they also put bees out of business.

Next, two more factors that can impact successful tomato growing. Any guesses what they might be?

Charlotte