Tomato plant blooms

sheri_ok(6)May 20, 2007

Hi Dawn, or anybody else who may be able to help me out.

I planted my tomato plants about 2 weeks ago, they are about 16 inches tall now. Some of them already have blooms on them. Also, I have a more tomato plants to plant, which, have blooms on them as well. I was wondering if I should remove the blooms until the plants get better established?

Also, I think I need to move some of them, they are too close together, is that safe since they have been there for 2 weeks? Thanks Sheri

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hank1949(Z 7 OKC)

We're in the same boat. Elsewhere I said I have 14 tomato plants in about 28 square feet. Kinda a tight fit. Several of mine had blooms when I planted them. I just left them on. The last 4 I planted yesterday look a little wilted. I did plant them pretty deep though, almost a foot in. The other 10 are just not doing anything right now. They're not wilting but not growing much either. I think they may just be acclimating themselves to my soil. It's several layers thick with not a lot of mixing between the layers. There's layers of cardboard and newspapers, sphagum moss, bark and small sticks, peat, hay, sphagum moss, hay, humis and manure, and topsoil. I think the moisture is still balancing itself in the layers.

Let me know how yours progress. Are you caging or staking them up? I just realized if all my tomatos do well I'm going to have way more tomatos than I can eat. Too bad there's not an easy way to sell them without a permit or some kind of booth fee. Why do they make it so hard to just sell a little of this or that from time to time?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 7:52PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Sheri!

It is nice to see you here on the forum. I hope you will be posting often. This is a wonderful garden community.

Before we address whether to remove blossoms or not, let's talk for a second about how HARD it is go get tomato blooms to produce fruit, and how limited their bloom period is.

The hardest aspect of growing tomatoes in our climate is that tomato plants need to bloom before the nighttime temperatures exceed 75 degrees and before daytime temperatures exceed 92 degrees. On top of that, if the humidity is high, the pollen clumps together and the flowers have a hard time forming fruit. By the way, any blooms that form while the night temps are 55 degrees or lower will usually fall off the plant and not form fruit.

So, think about the part of the state where you reside and garden and think about how really brief the time frame is for you where the nights are above 55 but below 75 degrees and the days stay below 92 degrees because after that, there's nothing much you can do but wait out the hot weather.

Having said that, I prefer to leave the blooms on. If you pick the blooms off, which is often done so the plant's energy can go into producing roots, stems and leaves, you will have larger plants in the long run. You have to hope, though, that the heat doesn't suddenly shoot skyhigh and impede flowering and fruiting.

If you leave the blooms on, you will have fruit earlier, but the growth of the plant will be slower and you may, therefore, have fewer fruit in the long run.

So, Sheri, think about the temps where you live. If the weather there tends to stay pretty mild through the end of June, go ahead and pick off those blossoms to encourage the plants to put on more vegetative growth for a few more weeks.

If the temps generaly crank up in mid-June, though, think hard before you start pulling off those blossoms. You plants might put on more vegetative growth, but an early heat spell might keep you from getting any tomatoes.

And, since you have several plants, you might want to pick the blossoms off of half of them and leave the blossoms on the other half. Mark them somehow so you can remember which ones were left alone and which ones had the blossoms removed. You can compare their growth and the number of tomatoes they produce, as well as the quality of the fruit they produce, and decide what worked best for you.

If you have to transplant tomatoes that have been in the ground a couple of weeks, they will be set back. Try to transplant in the late afternoon or early evening so they have the whole night to recover before they have to face the sun.

Whether you chose to pick off blossoms on the plants you haven't put into the ground yet might be dependant on how large the plants are. If they are in 6-packs or 3" or 4" pots, I would pick off the blooms to give the plants a chance to make a little vegetative growth. If they are in quart or gallon pots, they should have pretty good root systems and I'd leave the blooms on.

By the way, some tomato plants don't bloom well at all once it gets hot, but others do. So, all the talk of night temps being this high and daytime highs not being higher than that....well, it is general info applicable to tomatoes in general, but there are literally thousands of varieties of tomatoes and a few of them bloom all summer long no matter what.

I hope the info helps. And, as fas as the spacing of tomato plants....if they are staked or caged, I usually plant them 2.5 to 3 feet apart. If they are going to sprawl on the ground, I plant them 4' apart. If you have them planted too close together, you may have smaller plants and less fruit. You also may have more disease, since air flow is necessary to help limit foliar plant diseases. Since it is already late May, you might not want to transplant plants that are in the ground. Next time, just plant them a little farther apart.

In Japan, two plants are often planted very close together--often in the same hole, as land is VERY expensive there. Their belief is that even though each plant will produce less fruit than it would with better spacing, the two plants combined will give them more fruit overall in the space available. They also believe the struggle to survive the closeness of the planting forces the plants to make more fruit as they fight for survival. It seems to work for them.

I hope your tomatoes do well this year, and hope this info helps. Don't hesitate to ask if you have more questions.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 10:26PM
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Thank you for the greeting and the much needed advice. I live in Buffalo, so I think I probably better leave the blooms on, you never know when the heat is going to hit. I have a lot of plants anyway. I may have to transplant a couple of the Beefmasters though, I think some may be less than 2.5 ft. apart. I am afraid I won't be able to get to the plants in the middle if I don't. I got the espoma fertilizer and placed it on the topsoil a week ago, and they are starting to grow now. Also, I got 2 Cherokee Purple yesterday at OKCity, that had some white on the leaves, I planted them this tonight. I wonder if some triple action neem spray will take care of the white? Thanks Sheri


I have planted too many tomato plants as well. I had 9 beefmaster, beefsteak a few weeks ago. Then I discovered the heirloom varieties, now I have 27 plants. I keep reading this is the best heirloom etc. so I keep finding more heirlooms and adding on. I have mine caged, which now I see that the small cages are not going to be sufficient, so I guess I may have to stake them when they get big, I don't know what's going to happen. (should have read up before planting them) I'll let you know if I decide to transplant and how they turn out. This ought to be interesting! Sheri

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 12:35AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I am glad you have too many tomatoes, so Hank and I will not be the only ones growing too many! You will love the heirlooms!

For the white on your tomato it a powdery or filmy white? If so, just mix 1 or 1.5 T. baking soda with 1 gallon of water and add a couple of drops of liquid soap. Spray it on the foliage. The baking soda spray will change the pH of the leaves enough that the white fungal type growth should go away.

I am not a huge fan of neem oil in our climate. Both it and even the superfine horticultural oils tend to cause burning on the foliage of tomato plants since tomato foliage is VERY tender. If you choose to go with the neem, spray it in the evening or on a cloudy day that will stay cloudy and that might protect the foliage from burning.

I have learned the hard way over the years that our heat and intense sunlight make it impossible for us to use some of the organic remedies popular in much of the country, at least once the high temps hit the mid-80s. Soap sprays, superfine horticultural oils and even pepper sprays can hurt tomato foliage when combined with our heat.

Welcome to the wonderful world of heirloom tomato growing. It will change how you think about tomatoes--I guarantee it!

Have a terrific day!


    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 9:57AM
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hank1949(Z 7 OKC)

Dawn, thanks for all the good information about tomato growth. Makes one wonder how we get any tomatoes at all. LOL

So the soap and pepper sprays aren't good to use in Oklahoma? How about sharing the organic treatments that do work here? Can one just make these remedies ahead of time or do they have to be made fresh for each application? Seems it would be more convenient to have a spray bottle with each remedy already prepared to use when needed. Are there any general use concoctions for use in the garden? I recall reading somewhere that the soap spray was actually helpful to the soil. They referred to it as a surfactant which is good for soil development. What about epsom salts? I've seen that mentioned other places too.

Thinking about the air circulation tomato plants need, has anyone seen any 'creative' solutions to that problem? Seems like a modified upside down pyramid shaped skeleton frame might work if you could stabilize it. What do ya think?

So where do the coffee grounds and eggshells go? On the garden or in the compost bin? Speaking of compost it seems like before I had the bin set up there was all manner of material to be found around easily. Since it's set up I can seem to find the compostable materials anymore. What's up?

Thinking about the weather I can't recall an Oklahoma summer where the nighttime temps didn't just hang at 80 degrees and above. What happens to tomatoes if the nighttime or daytime temps exceed those for flowering and fruit formation for about three weeks then drops back into range for several weeks or close to 2 months? Do the plants go back to flowering and fruiting when the temps do get back in the proper range?

Inquiring minds want to know. LOL

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 1:41PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


The soap and pepper sprays work as long as it isn't hot and sunny, but once it heats up they really can damage the plant's leaves, even if diluted more than the package calls for. I have learned this the hard using them and having all kinds of foliar burning. I tried both commercial products and homemade ones and now I genearally try to avoid putting anything on the foliage at all.

How sensitive are tomato leaves? One year I sprinkled all purpose flour on the leaves to deter grasshoppers (the flour gums up their mouths). It worked. The grasshoppers quit feeding on the plants and either died or went away. Unfortunately, wherever the flour landed on the leaves, the leaves became spotted and looked ill. I hosed off the leaves as soon as I noticed it, and I have not used flour in the garden since.

Once the temps are topping 80 degrees or so, I don't put anything on the leaves. Tomato foliage is prone to all kinds of disease anyway, so anything sprayed on the leaves (except for Daconil and similar products OR some organic fungicide sprays, compost tea, fish emulsion, or Garret Juice) can contribute to the problem.

I pretty much believe in feeding the soil with compost, manure, and other organic amendments and letting the soil feed the plants. When it comes to pests, I just try to ignore any insect problems because the good bugs will defeat the bad bugs naturally if I am patient. In my garden I usually only have bad pest problems if I overfeed the plants with a nitrogen product.

For foliar disease, the baking soda spray in my original reply to Sheri's question is about the only remedy I ever use.

For a general plant tonic and to help prevent foliar problems and spider mites, you can spray the plants with liquid seaweed or fish emulsion following the label directions. For anything else, you can just use Garrett Juice. I've linked the recipe for Garrett Juice and other Dirt Doctor recipes below. I don't use citrus oil, either, on plants because it burns the foliage. Other than that, though, any of the Dirt Doctor recipes I've tried have generally been effective and have done what they were intended to do.

Epsom salts seem to have a remarkable beneficial effect on pepper plants but seem less effective on tomato plants.

You don't have to take extraordinary measures to ensure good air circulation. Just leave some space between the plants and either cage them, trellis them or stake them.

I put coffee grounds and eggs into the compost pile first. Some people just toss them onto the ground and let them break down in place. Either way is probably equally effective.

Where did the compostable material go? Probably others beat you to it. You should be generating plenty of compostable material at your house. You can compost shredded newspaper, leaves, grass clippings, prunings from healthy plants, cardboard (wet it down to make it break down faster), eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, fruit or vegetable peelings, seeds, pits, etc., animal hair (like dog hair pulled out of a hair brush), human hair (if your local hair salon will sweep it up and save it for you), etc.

In general, tomato plants will produce few if any fruit when the temps get too high. That is the reason you have to plant your tomatoes as early as possible in the springtime--so you can have large plants that are ready to flower and set as much fruit as possible while the temps are cool. You will have little new fruit formed on most plants when it is very hot. However, both cherry/grape type tomatoes and plum/paste tomatoes tend to go on producing in spite of the heat. There are a few varieties that don't slow down much because of the heat--among them Better Boy, Arkansas Traveler, Homestead 24, Nebraska Wedding and Persimmon.

When the temps drop into the normal range, even for a few days, you usually get the formation of new tomatoes. Most people see few new tomatoes forming in July and August, but will immediately get new fruit when the temps drop in September.

There are some tomato plants bred to set fruit in spite of the summertime temps, including Heat Wave II, Sunmaster, Solar Set, Sun Leaper, Sun Chaster, etc. Based on my experience with some of them, I will say that they do form fruit in the heat, but it is clear that they were not bred for flavor, i.e., just because it looks like a tomato doesn't mean it tastes like a tomato.

To get around the problem of the tomato slowdown in the heat of the summer, I do all of the following:

1) Plant too many plants.
2) Plant as early as possible to get maximum fruit set before summer's heat begins interfering.
3) Plant a LOT of cherry and grape tomatoes, as well as a lot of paste/plum tomatoes, to fill in the heat-related gap.
4) Plant varieties that produce smaller tomatoes (usually in the 8 to 12 oz. range) rather than the really large 2 to 3 pound tomatoes. The larger the tomato fruit a plant is supposed to produce, the less well it seems to perform in our heat.
5) Either severely cut back tomato plants in late June or early July to encourage new growth that will produce lots of flowers/fruits later on, OR replace the tired plants with new ones for a fall crop (or cut back some and replace others).
6) Grow some tomatoes in containers that I can drag into dappled shade or part shade in the heat of the summer.
7) Water and fertilize properly early in the season. Too much water and too much fertilizer early on results in too many leaves and too few tomatoes. If you keep your plants busy doing excessive foliar growth, they won't make as many tomatoes.
8) Pray for cool spells in the midst of the heat so the tomatoes can make a few fruit.

What else do enquiring minds want to know?


Here is a link that might be useful: Dirt Doctor's Recipes

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 9:01PM
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Dawn, the white on the cherokee purple leaves, is not powdery, the leaves, themselves appear to be turning white. I hope it's not a disease.
I was wondering, in a greenhouse environment, will tomato plants produce year-round? Thanks Sheri

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 11:51PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Good Morning Sheri!

If the leaves themselves are turning white, then most likely the plant was not properly hardened off to endure outdoor conditions, including sunlight and wind. It is probably sunburnt and/or windburnt.

When you raise your own seedlings indoors under lights, as I do, you have to expose them GRADUALLY to outdoor light and wind conditions in ever-increasing dosages over a period of a week to ten days. This gradually acclimates them to sunlight, which is much, much stronger than even the strongest lights you use indoors to raise the seedlings. The process is known as 'hardening off'. When you buy seedlings from a retailer, the assumption is that they have been hardened off, but that is NOT necessarily true.

A plant that goes directly from a sheltered environment where it never has been exposed to direct sunlight and strong wind will sunburn and/or windburn and can die. A plant that has beem partially hardened off will burn but may survive. It just depends on how extensive the sunburn or windburn on the leaves is.

If your plant (or plants) with the white leaves is putting out new growth, the plant is going to survive. If the white leaves are the uppermost ones, and their is no new growth coming out, the plants may not be able to survive. In general, though, I think a tomato that is sunburnt has about a 90% to 95% chance of survival.

In a greenhouse a tomato plant, in general, will NOT produce year-round.

In their native environment as understory plants in a frost-free region, tomatoes are indeed perennial and can live and produce a long time. In some climates, like in parts of California, Florida or other frost-free regions like the Gulf Coast, tomatoes can live for many months and can produce for a long period of time if they have very good to perfect conditions. However, the coastal summer heat is hard on them. Many people who grow tomatoes in very warm regions can grow them from the late summer to the following spring if their area remains frost-free and disease doesn't rear its ugly head.

However, greenhouse-grown tomatoes do not have perfect conditions. In our climate, they will roast in the heat from about April or May until September, unless your greenhouse has a heavy shadecloth and a good ventilation system. In the winter, they will suffer from a lack of natural light. And, when grown in a greenhouse, most are in containers, and the size of the container limits their growth and productivity. Greenhouse tomatoes are also subject to bug infestation and may have disease problems on their foliage if they do not have adequate air circulation OR if the greenhouse humidity stays real high.

Realistically speaking, if you plant fall tomatoes in late June to mid-July, and they are still healthy in late fall, you could dig them up, pot them up in a very large container, prune them back by about 50%, carry them into the greenhouse and keep them alive and maybe even producing tomatoes for a few weeks to a few months. However, tomatoes grown in greenhouse conditions generally do not taste as good as homegrown tomatoes grown in the ground.

If you want to grow greenhouse tomatoes, it would be best to purchase seeds of a variety specifically developed for greenhouse growing. Greenhouse-type varieties are available from many seed company's including Territorial Seed and Johnny's Selected Seed. Determinate tomatoes are better for a greenhouse as their growth is self-limited. Cherry tomatoes are better than larger tomatoes in this situation too.

Most tomatoes will produce until they exhaust themselves. I read an article once that said some commercial growers pull out their tomato plants after about 13 weeks of tomato production because the plants exhaust themselves by that point and production severely declines. Many commercial growers stagger their plantings by succession planting over a period of weeks or months so they always have plants coming into production to replace those being taken out of production.

Most serious home gardeners who love tomatoes don't even attempt to raise them indoors in the winter. Well, they may try it once or twice, but they soon realize the results are not worth the cost and the time involved. Greenhouses are great for raising seedlings, but not so great for full-sized plants and tomato production.

There are small, commerical market growers who invest many, many thousands of dollars in a greenhouse or high tunnel and all the equipment that goes along with that, and some of them have success in raising tomatoes in that environment. Most of the ones I know of, though, start their tomatoes in late winter and don't try to get them through the heat of the summer in a greenhouse. Some of them who have high tunnels can remove the plastic covering at some point and then their tomatoes are basically growing outdoors.

People who dig up pepper plants out of the ground rather than tomato plants seem to have more success raising them indoors in a sunny window or in a greenhouse than those who try to do the same thing with tomatoes, by the way.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 7:34AM
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Anyone know how to make homemade tomato bloom spray? Tkx


    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 10:33AM
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