Ripe Tomato Problem

I ordered some heirloom tomato plants from you and had some problems, could you help me out? I planted some of them in the garden and some in pots. I used a fertilizer from the nursery, not sure what is was. All of the plants grew to around 4' high. When it got hot, they did not bloom and I hardly had any ripe tomatoes. I have a question about green tomatoes; I heard they were poisonous if they were not cooked?

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  • Reply
    November 4, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Tomatoes, while easy to grow, still have some specific requirements to generate fruit in abundance. You mentioned that they were not fruiting when the temps were hot. The flowers of the tomato are actually pretty picky about temperature and pollination, and they vary from variety to variety, but generally they will not pollinate or develop if daytime temps exceed 92 degrees and nighttime temps are above 68 degrees. Temperatures falling below 55 degrees in the evening can also inhibit pollination, which is why it is important to not set them out too early. It seems the heirloom or older varieties are more sensitive to temperature extremes. So this may be one of the reasons your plants did not bloom well or fruit.

    Also make sure they are receiving adequate sunlight, at least six hours a day. Make sure your fertilizer is balanced for blooms, meaning the middle number on the package is the highest. Some store fertilizers for tomatoes are rated 18-18-21, so it has balanced nitrogen and phosphorous and a higher lever of potassium and trace nutrients for root development. Remember to not overfertilize and especially not one high in nitrogen (the first number) or you will have a nice green, leafy plant and no blooms.

    As for varieties: The Hybrids have been improved with more disease-resistance, so if there is tendency for a specific problem in your area, check the labeling for cues as to what the plant has been developed for. The labels will show the initials V, F, N, and T after their variety name. They indicate that plants are resistant to common tomato diseases such as Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt, Nematodes and Tobacco mosaic.

    Also when choosing be sure to check your variety for days to maturation so that for your situation, the tomatoes are fully developed before the weather becomes too warm for the blossoms to set.

    Fried green tomatoes are a favorite food in the South and they are gaining in popularity throughout the U.S. Green tomatoes can be pickled and sauteed, as well, but nothing beats the old classic fried side dish. I’m not sure about their being poisonous if eaten uncooked, but I don’t know why anyone would want to eat them raw, as they would be hard and very sour.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    This past year we tried to grow tomatoes without using any pesticides, however, they got ‘wilt.’ Any suggestions on how to take of this next year?

  • Reply
    December 16, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Wilt is a pretty generic term and could apply to several fungal, bacterial, viral or environmental conditions. To determine a course of action, you need to determine the culprit. One place to start is to purchase healthy starter plants or seeds. Some varieties have been hybridized to be more resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes and tobacco mosaic virus.

    One good practice for next year is to plant your tomatoes in a different location or portion of the garden. This will help eliminate any soil-borne problem. During the growing season keep the area around the tomatoes clean of dead or diseased leaves or fruit and do not put that material in your compost pile. Tomatoes are rather prone to some pests, so starting with a resistant variety will help to ensure a good harvest. Also consider planting a variety of cultivars to help lessen the chance of a problem that would diminish your entire crop.

    Here are just three of the common problems and what to look for:

    Fusarium wilt: One of the most common diseases. Generally not
    damaging unless soil and air temperatures are high in much of the season. Slight yellowing of a single leaf, or slight wilting of the lower leaves is followed by an overall yellowing. Brown discoloration of vascular tissues in the stem of wilted leaves is common.

    Septoria blight: Most severe in rainy seasons or crowded patches.
    Usually not seen before mid-July. Older leaves have many small, watersoaked spots, usually 1-2mm diameter. Leaves may drop, and progressive defoliation may occur.

    Verticillium wilt: Symptoms may be confused with those of Fusarium wilt. The two fungal wilts cause similar symptoms. Verticillium, unlike Fusarium, also attacks brambles, eggplant, okra, pepper, potato, strawberries, and 300 or more other herbaceous and woody plants. Verticillium thrives in cool, moist soil (60 to 75 degrees F) and therefore is not as common as Fusarium in southern or warmer growing climates.

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