In the Garden Blog
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Tomato Questions and Answers
In Cincinnati, we love tomato gardening. At Natorp’s we grow over one hundred kinds of tomatoes for the garden. Here are your tomato questions and answers:
“When is a good time to feed tomatoes and peppers? And what do you use?”
When they start to set flowers and fruit, that’s an excellent time for a nice side dressing of fertilizer. I use Espoma’s TomatoTone. It’s all-natural/organic, and somewhat of a slow feed. It also has 8% calcium to help with preventing blossom end rot. You want to make sure to keep even soil moisture as well.
“What is the difference between indeterminate and determinate tomatoes? Should tomatoes be planted deep in the ground?”
Great questions! Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow all season until the frost takes them out. So you keep having flowering and fruiting to the end. And many of these can reach a pretty good size, so staking, caging, trellising is needed.
Determinates usually stay smaller (many are a bush form), flower, set fruit, and are finished at some point. These are great for smaller gardens and containers, although all tomatoes can be grown in containers if adequately staked.
For your second question, yes, planting those plants deeper than what they are in the pots you purchased them in helps create a better root system for the tomatoes! So yes, plant deeper, UNLESS you’re planting grafted tomatoes. In that case, the graft stays above the soil line.
“What can I do to stop tomato blossoms from dropping off?”
Okay, so your new tomato plants are developing yellow flowers, but they dry up and fall off, leaving your plants with flower stem stubs and no fresh tomatoes. What’s a gardener to do? Be patient! You’re experiencing Blossom Drop in tomatoes.
What causes Blossom Drop? There are several possible factors:
- Temperatures / Humidity Levels (too high / too low) – If daytime highs go above 85 degrees or below 55 degrees or if nighttime temperatures go below 55 or stay higher than 70 degrees, flowers will abort. The best range is between 70 and 85 degrees.
- Choose early maturing varieties for cooler climates and heat tolerant for hot/humid climates. Ideal humidity levels are between 40% &70%. Too high or too low may interfere with pollen release or sticking.
- Nitrogen (too much / too little)
- Too much food and the plants produce all foliage and weak flowers. Not enough and the plants
- Usually, the lack of or inconsistent levels of moisture in the soil.
- Stressed Plants – Plants stressed from insect or disease issues, as well as moisture levels will abort flowers.
- Heavy Fruit Set – In some cases, plants that set too many tomatoes can only handle so many, so the flowers automatically get dropped.
- Lack of Pollination – Tomatoes are self pollinators, but still needs to be moved around.
- Lack of wind (or too much), insects, and plant movement may restrict pollination (too much rain as well).
These are just a few of the many factors that could cause Blossom Drop. The bottom line is, be patient. In most cases, as the plants mature and the weather changes, the flowers eventually turn into fruit. And if you don’t want to be patient, you can always try spraying the flowers with ‘Blossom Set’.
“What can we do about leaf diseases on our tomatoes?”
Well, crop rotation helps when you’re dealing with soil-borne diseases. Preventative fungicidal sprays can help protect your plants from the air and soil-borne diseases. And planting hybrid tomatoes that are bred for their disease resistance helps as well. One tomato that flies under the radar for a great tomato with resistance to these diseases is IRON LADY. Not a very common tomato at this stage, but should be, especially for those dealing with tomato disease issues. IRON LADY, and yes, we grow her!
What’s the tomato you like that ripens quickly and produces a lot of medium-sized tomatoes?”
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“How can I get rid of the black bottoms on my tomatoes?”
Probably, Blossom End Rot, a common problem with tomatoes, especially early in the production. A multitude of factors can cause it, but the most common is lack of calcium in the fruit, due to lack of calcium in the soil, uneven soil moisture, tomato not rooted in well enough, cold temperatures, etc. So, make sure you have good levels of calcium in the soil. Some sources of calcium include: Espoma’s TomatoTone has extra calcium, Gypsum, Lime is a source, but watch your pH levels, Calcium nitrate, etc. Also, provide even moisture in the soils all summer long. Mulching helps keep even moisture.
Cincinnati Gardening Made Simple! Have a tomato question? Ask our plant experts!