Tomato Explosion?

gallenJune 1, 2012

ok: a dumb question. I have some tomatoes; mix of cherry, pear, and some larger ones. About 2 weeks ago I noticed that some of the ripe cherry Ts looked like they had been pecked into. Holes with the skin flaring outward around. So I figured birds and scrounged through my chicken wire making cages to surround the remaining plants with the few ripening tomatoes. Now I notice these are showing the same symptoms. No bugs in sight. It would take a VERY small bird to get through PLUS we have a lot of the "wild" tomatoes (very small but produce throughout most of the summer) and those aren't being eaten. Anyone know what might be going on here or experience similar problems? These aren't preceded by cracks or blemishes on the tomatoes. They look great prior to their downhill slide. Thanks!!!!!

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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

None of the chicken wire would allow a bird to peck through it? It sure *sounds* like birds.... hmmmm...

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 8:35PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

I have observed a very small grayish bird enjoying my tomatoes. Chicken wire wouldn't hinder it at all.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 12:05PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

I use netting, like for bridal veils, petticoats, pot scrubbers. A JoAnn's near me was closing last year and I got the remains of a large bolt for a good price. I just drape large pieces of it over a plant.

Another option is mosquito netting, like this. I got it at an Army suplus store, it's designed to fit over a cot. Fits my 4'x6' raised bed perfectly. The pvc tubes are 10' and cost $1.86.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 12:47PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

dunno why that picture comes out so small sometimes. Oh well, you should get the idea anyway. Good luck with it. Between BER, bugs and birds, I lost a lot of tomatoes before getting them all under control. Will try again in the fall for a good tomato harvest.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 12:49PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Can you think of a creature other than a bird that would/could make a hole in a **green** tomato? I have one plant that made a lot of tomatoes and a few were very near the ground. I have found two of those with very round holes about 1/2" across and about the same depth. There are a few small marks in the skin around the holes, but nothing to indicate that the critter was venturing beyond that one spot. There are no horn worms anywhere, but why would this happen only to the tomatoes close to the ground and not higher up on the plant? Makes me really mad, but also very curious. Ideas?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 1:11PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

That bug you told me to hug and not hurt....milk weed bug, it will pierce the skin of the tomato and suck out the juice. After sprinkling DE, that problem ceased. Then the birds started. Now all my preventive measures are in place but the plants are about done. sigh...the life of the farmer is not for the faint of heart.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 1:41PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

LOL @ mary :) SO True! I'm very happy with my tomatoes. This is the first year that had any semblance of success. I did put bird netting on the plants for a while, but a cactus wren got under it and took a caterpillar, then panicked when it couldn't get out, dropped the caterpillar, and I haven't seen them in my yard since. :( This was a pair that used to come scout for bugs in my yard every evening. I don't mind sharing a little fruit with some birds if others come to remove worms.

I learned a lot this year. One tomato (Peron) was in a spot that wasn't draining as well. The leaves curled from too much water, but the tomatoes were good except for those that got BER. I scratched in some crushed eggshell around the base of the plant and that all but eliminated BER. The Black Sea Man is doing well on the other end of the same bed (better draining there I guess) but I was expecting larger, more flavorful fruit. I don't mind the birds getting some because there are still enough for us. The San Marzano is in a pot and does really well. The birds mainly leave it alone, preferring the other varieties. The fruit has really good flavor and after adding crushed eggshell, there is no BER at all.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 4:37PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

BTW, why hug milkweed bugs? I have some in my yard and they don't seem to be doing any damage, but is there some benefit in having them?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 4:39PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

I don't remember making a comment on "milkweed bugs", but who knows. I thought it was an assassin bug which are viewed as garden friendly. Here's the assassin bug.

Here is a link that might be useful: Assassin bug

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 7:45PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

... And here it is again, this time called "milkweed assassin bug"! Sheesh....

Here is a link that might be useful: Milkweed assassin bug

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 7:49PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

... And here's why it's supposed to be your friend!

Here is a link that might be useful: Good bug! Go get those pests.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 7:52PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Alma - I didn't read all those - yet. Yes you are right, you thought my milkweed bug was probably an assasin bug...hug it cause it's good.

haname - others may not know: haname bought some tomato plants from me around March and is giving feedback, which I desparately want from my adoptee homes. Most folks lost the labels and don't know what's doing good and what's not. One friend let a Lrg PINK Bulgarian fruit go until it was bright red - at which point it was over-ripe and rotten inside - and then complained about the rotten tomato. It's a PINK tomato okay??? Anyway.....everyone got a cheat-sheet with their tom plants but alas, not everyone is OCD. I can't do smiley faces here, they come out weird.

My Peron did not do so good either.

San Marzano's got BER bad. Did not know that about the egg shells. I'll try to remember.

Got a few Black Sea Man's and they are awesome flavor. This plant did not like the sun. Once I moved it to where good shade hits about 10am, with the sun coming up and hitting 8am to 10, it was much happier.

Marianna's Peace....WOW! Smack 'yer lips.

I sowed about 120 cells today, mixed bag but nearly all tomatoes. Stay tuned.

Maybe it was not the milkweed bug but *somebody* was piercing and sucking, then the ants came in and now there's no further evidence of that particular issue. DE is my friend.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 8:15PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

tomatofreak, Interesting on the milkweed assassin bug. I will try to get a pic of the ones I see in my yard and try to get an ID to find out if it is the milkweed seed eater or the assassin bug. The most common assassin bug in my yard is this one, Zelus luridus. I shot this pic of an assassin bug laying eggs on a sunflower plant earlier this month:

Mary, the BER is caused by lack of calcium. It can be due to overwatering which makes it hard for the plant to take up calcium, or it can be from a lack of calcium in the soil. Take some dry eggshells and crush them into a fine powder, then scratch it into the soil and you should see quick results on fruit that is sizing up that hasn't shown the BER yet.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 9:00PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Huh.... I thought our soils had a ton of calcium in them??? Maybe it's just not usable calcium?

I had some yellow tomatoes last night that were just wonderful - no idea what they were, but I'm thinking I'm going to have to try some next year.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 9:45PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

My tomatoes aren't in native soil. Two are in planters filled with some purchased soil, and one is in a pot with potting soil. Plants in native soil with BER might have drainage or overwatering problems. Next year I'm going to put the tomatoes in the ground and see how that goes.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 10:25PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Most of my plants are in containers, some with potting soil, some with a mix I made using bark mixed into the soil. I have two in ground and they are doing very well (with the exception mentioned above). The ones in bark/soil mix are going great guns. I'm sorry to say that I, too, lost about half the tags and don't know which is which. Makin' a memo for fall...

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 11:39PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

tomatofreak, I emailed you with the link on your My Page. Please check and reply re: passion vines.

pc, was the yellow tomato regular size? I've started two different ones but both are small, cherry types. Sun Gold and Yellow Pear.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 8:14AM
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