Tomato Questions

As you may know I’m a newby to this whole gardening thing, especially the GYO thing. This is the first time I’ve grown tomatoes and it’s been a mixed experience. When they were quite young we had a string of 42 degree plus days in a row. They are in direct sun for about 7 – 8 hours of the day and I worried too much and overwatered them. The fruit started getting blossom end rot. Then I got paranoid and constantly had a “to water or not to water” dilemma. The leaves were telling me to water them, but I didn’t want any more blossom end rot. They have given me heaps of fruit and are absolutely delicious but the fruit is quite small – more like biggish cherry tomatoes. I’ve got a San Marzano Roma and ‘Burnley Sure Crop’ (Lycopersicon esculentum). They are still giving me fruit but the leaves are completely dead. This is what they look like now:

unnamed (4)

So my question is: what should I do differently next time? My guesses include:

  • Planting them earlier (I didn’t plant them until December because I was waiting for my beans and garlic to finish so I could top up the soil in my vegetable box first. I thought this would be ok because our spring was really mild this year).
  • Don’t overwater! Keep a more steady rate of watering. Focus on what the fruit looks like rather than the leaves. Is this right? The leaves often look really wilted. Is this just because they’re in direct sun for so long, rather than being thirsty? And by the looks of them now, perhaps I’ve been underwatering them?

Thanks in advance, fellow tomato growers!

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6 thoughts on “Tomato Questions

  1. You could try giving them a bit more shade by using fine netting or shade cloth. I think the trouble has been the heat, though. Plants tend to ‘bolt’ or produce their fruit or seeds as quickly as possible when conditions are not good, hence copious quantities of small fruit (= lots of seeds). Planting earlier would take care of this problem. You could bring the seedlings on inside, and not plant out until they’re a good size and the soil has warmed up. The key I use to watering is sticking a finger in the soil all the way. If the fingertip comes up black and moist, they’re getting enough. If it’s dry down to a finger depth, water a bit more. And do it consistently, rather than dry for days and then a drenching.

  2. Hmm.. the bolting theory makes sense. We’re pretty short on space indoors but will definitely plant earlier next year and be more careful with watering. I like your shade cloth idea. They had the netting that you see on the ground over them, but not until the tomatoes started ripening. Next year I’ll put it on straight away and put the umbrella up over them when the sun’s really hot. Hopefully this time next year you’ll see photos of giant tomatoes! 🙂

    Thanks again for letting me pick your brains Kate!

  3. Hi Jen, blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency. I used to, and still does crush up egg shells and scatter them among all my fruiting plants because calcium is an important nutrient for them.
    If tomatoes are anything like potatoes, they do show wilting in the heat of the day, but will recover on their own later on in the evening.

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