Lisa Merrell in the Tulsa World

sammy zone 7 TulsaJuly 9, 2011

Lisa Merrell will begin selling tomato plants next week. The article in the Tulsa World is enouraging us to plant in the next few weeks for fall production. There is very little chance that our temperatures will be cooler in the next few weeks, so even though this is a disastrous year for me, I cannot imagine trying to start over.

I wish her well, but is there something I am missing? How could new plants become successful?

She also spoke of using a shade cloth, and that could lower the temperature up to 10 degrees. Down to 100 or 95!!!WHee.

Have any of you used a shade cloth?

My tomatoes and roses are cycling fast. They are coming up small and of the large ones deformed.

I wonder what i don't understand.


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There is no guarantee that later plants will be successful. Although here in my garden those planted later usually produce more. I'm at the very end of my planting window. I will be planting the last this evening. A young plant with no fruit load will tend to grown and survive the heat and stress better. If about the time they are really blooming and setting fruit the temps are moderating then they should do well. An early plant with a large fruit load and then the added stress of wind and heat many times will fail or basically shut down. I usually plant my last plants a 7-10 days earlier. But with the heat ect I haven't got into any hurry to put the last in. A few of them will go into the ground. Then at least 6-8 will go into containers. I will move them into the lean to when temps drop. This should let me extend the season some. A short season type is the best option at least for me when planting at this time. Jay

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 3:07PM
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My plants look awful, but I picked the first two slicers today. I have had a dozen or so small tomatoes and some cherries and currants, but this is the first day for slicers. Even at that, I picked them a little early. Bird pecks are not normally a problem for me, but with it so dry, I decided not to take a chance on letting them get totally ripe on the vine. I imagine that since the birds always have a water source with the lake nearby, that thirst isn't as much of an issue.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 3:24PM
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A couple years ago my dad put in some tomatoes late from plants that the feed store had held for some time. Those midJune planted tomatoes grew well over the summer and produced humongous amounts of fruit in Sept when my April planted tomatoes had almost quit. I provided him with tomatoes through July and August and he provided me during Sept and Oct. I didn't understand either until then. Jay did a great job of explaining it.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 11:17AM
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If I have slicer sized tomato plants that haven't produced any fruit, will leaving them in until fall have an equivalent/similar effect as planting new plants for fall? I dread trying to get new plants established in this heat. My plants are about 4 ft and some are heat stressed (crispy leaves) but seem like they will bounce back and put out some blooms if it cools off a bit.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 11:30AM
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Here in AZ, we plant fall tomatoes in the end of July through August. That means planting out seedlings in 110 degree weather. Shade cloth is a must for all tomatoes in the summertime. I use white sheets, which work just as well. You can put your shade on top of the cage or shade a whole raised bed. Shorter season varieties are very good for the fall.
I also like to plant some dwarfs in pots in later fall that I can haul in and out of the house for winter tomatoes. My favorite is "Lime Green Salad ". plan on needing to use lights because even with good winter weather you won't always have enough light for fruit around the winter solstice.
Count on losing a lot of seedlings but the ones that make it will do well. I'm nursing some little basil and ground cherry seedlings right now, with the ground cherry under shade. I'll plant my tomatoes next month.
I know Dawn plants for fall tomatoes, hopefully she'll chime in with more information.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 1:04PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I thought Jay explained it very well. New plants are full of energy and grow more vigorously because that is all they're doing at that point---growing and preparing to bloom and set fruit. By contrast, old plants are just tired and worn out from all the stress they have experienced for months.....high temperatures, hail, moisture stress, high wind, intense sunlight, pests chewing on them, etc. It takes energy to fight all those stresses and also produce and ripen fruit.

Some years, I've done a variety of things. I've left the healthiest, best-producing plants and let them continue producing. I've cut back by about 50% the plants that are relatively healthy but which have stalled. I've removed any plants that look really pathetic, and placed them with brand-new, fresh, young plants. The brand new plants, hands down, outproduced all the others no matter what variety they were.

Another option if your current plants are healthy is to root cuttings from them. That works about as well as new plants, provided they came from plants that were not struggling too muc with diseases or pests.

I planted a rooted cutting of a Sungold about 3 weeks ago. It was about 6" tall. Other than watering it regularly, it isn't getting any special care or treatment. It is overflowing with "youthful energy" and is about 15" tall and has 6 or 8 blossoms. In this heat, I am surprised at how well it has grown in such a short period of time.

Mia, They may bounce back and produce well or they may not. There's no way we can "guess" how cruel or how kind the weather may be to them for the next 4 to 6 weeks. Usually in a hot, dry year when I carry plants over into fall, they seem to run out of energy about the time the temperatures cool down. It is a lot easier to get good production in the fall if you've had a milder, cooler summer. Plants carried through the summer from an early- to mid-spring planting usually will produce, but they will not produce as well as fresh plants 8 or 9 years out of 10.

Tracy, Yes, I'm here but I'm slow to respond to this one. We've had too many fires lately and the fire activity takes me away from the garden and the computer. It seems like for every hour I spend at a fire, I spend 2 or 3 or 4 hours running around picking up more food and drinks and other supplies so that we're ready for the next one.

I usually plant a whole lot of tomatoes for fall, but we are too hot and too dry and the fire activity is chewing up huge chunks of my time. This year, so far, I have planted one rooted Sungold cutting for fall, and I have two Big Beef plants for large containers, although I haven't put them into the containers. They're out sitting on the patio right now where they get only morning sun and then afternoon shade.

Our Keetch-Byram Drought Index numbers are high enough in my part of the state now that even underground plant roots burn during a fire and often the roots underground continuing burning even after the above-ground fire is put out. I've learned from past experience that when we're that dry, fall tomato plants don't do well, so I'm only going to plant those 3 I mentioned, unless I go somewhere and a stray tomato plant follows me home, looking at me with sad-puppy-dog-eyes, saying "please, keep me".

From 100 plants in the spring to only 3 for fall--what a horrible change. I haven't even made a single jar of salsa yet, although I've been freezing tomatoes so I can make salsa when I get around to it.

We have had lots of fresh home-grown tomatoes so I'm not feeling starved for tomatoes or anything, but I hate thinking about the inevitable day when I'll walk out to the garden and there won't be a single ripe fruit ready to pick.

I use shadecloth too, and cannot imagine getting through a long, hot summer like this one without it.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 11:59PM
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Dawn, I'm just going to leave my plants alone and see what they do. they don't look bad, and are covered with bloom. The Sweet 100 are setting fruit, and if the others don't produce, I'm going to skip it until next year. I've had my fill of ongoing watering and then facing the electric bill. I used a makeshift shade cloth for my bush beans this year and kept them going after others had failed, but next year I'll be getting a real DeWitt 50% shade cloth.

Jumping from tomatoes to the subject of fire, and what it can do in dry conditions, you brought up a very good point. As impossible as it may seem, fire can go underground. I saw it happen in our CA orchard, where it popped up out of the ground and ignited some leaves about 100' from where it had started. During Fountain Fire, one poor fellow had it follow tree roots under his house and come up in his living room. He was a volunteer firefighter and knew how to deal with it, but it meant chopping a hole in the middle of the floor to do it. Not a pretty situation! The fire had been kept away from his house, but not nearly far enough away. Completely bizarre, but true.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 1:39AM
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All of my plants are in partial of full shade and most of them are doing well in growth.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 4:06AM
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My tomatoes look amazingly good right now, despite the two weeks of 115 degree weather we had. We've cooled off to more normal temperatures now. No blossoms but if weather continues the way it is, I'm going to pull the few on the south and west ends of the garden, replace with new plants that I have in the house and just prune back the others. I'll probably yank out my Reisentraubes, too, and replace them with some black cherries/green grapes.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 7:46PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


We have a lot of trouble with tree roots burning underground here in a drought year....the firefighters say sometimes you can hear them sizzle, but I've never heard them. (Maybe my ears are too old!)

During the 2006 drought, numerous motorists on I-35 would call 911 and report smoke in a specific area near the highway. The firefighters were dispatched there, often 2 or 3 or more times a day and never found a fire. Yet, there was smoke. Finally someone figured out the roots were smoldering underground. There wasn't much of a solution since it is nearly impossible to break up dry clay in a drought, but at least everyone understood where the smoke was coming from.

One of my biggest wildfire fears is not that a fire will get our is insured, after all. (NOT that I want for it to burn, but we could replace it.) It is that a wildfire will burn up my garden, including all the compost and humus in the soil, and it obviously is not insured, so "replacing" it would take years of rebuilding the soil. I can't imagine starting over from scratch to rebuild the soil or even to rebuild all those raised beds with boards that hold the soil in the bed. I can imagine how much hilarity would ensue if I called our insurance guy and told him I wanted to insure my garden......


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 3:55PM
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