heirlooms are huge, but no fruit.

tomatohyjinks(8)July 10, 2012

Well, summer is well underway here and my hybrids are setting fruit and doing well, but the heirlooms are making huge plants but no fruit. There are flowers on the plants, they just arn't setting any. Temps have been in 100's but I've got the tomato patch shaded from noon sun with a canopy. can I do something to encourage fruit set on the heirlooms, or do I just bide my time and wait for temperatures to cool off in the fall?

These plants were store bought, will saving seed from these heirloom plants and growing out next year result in plants better tolerant to my climate?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It isn't so much a heirloom vs. hybrid issue. It is a variety issue. Without knowing the name of the variety one can only guess that they are late season varieties. What hybrid varieties are you trying to compare them to?

You can always try one of the many pollination help tricks - shaking the cages, finger flicking the blooms, brushing the blooms with your hands, even the old electric toothbrush approach, etc. but if the pollen isn't viable due to the temps it won't make any difference.

Another possible cause of Blossom Drop besides air temps is high humidity or excess nitrogen fertilizer. Often the description "huge plants but no fruit" equals excess nitrogen feeding.


Here is a link that might be useful: Blossom Drop FAQ

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:06PM
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The reason for your failure (and everyone else's) is that heirlooms are *incredibly* picky about growing conditions relative to hybrids and what you have simply won't produce tomatoes if their narrow growing conditions aren't met.

I've totally wasted six or seven seasons on heirlooms. I've had dozens of plants and maybe four edible tomatoes, total, in all those years. This is typical for everyone I know where I live who grows tomatoes. I've tried *ALL* the contradictory advice I've gotten here and elsewhere from people who live somewhere else and have great luck with the varieties that utterly fail here. None of it has been worth the time to read. Not a word of it has made the slightest difference in the outcome.

I am now 99% positive that the reason heirlooms fail here is because the summer nights consistently drop below sixty degrees and few heirlooms will set fruit at those temperatures. Most hybrids will set fruit with nights down to fifty degrees.

The days here are very hot and the nights very cool. Unless an heirloom was developed in a climate with a typical thirty-five degree daily temperature fluctuation, and I don't know any that are, it's going to fail here unless those conditions are artificially modified.

The ONLY heirlooms blossoms that have set in my garden this year are ones that were literally touching the ground, therefore getting the stored heat from the soil at night. In the past, the only fruit that set was under thick layers of leaves and thereby also keeping warmer at night.

I've been covering the plants up with plastic at night for the past week or so to try to keep the nighttime temperatures up, but it's too early to tell if this will do any good.

At this point, I have about four pea-sized tomatoes in my entire garden.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 4:06PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

golodkin - Where do you live that you have had such unusually poor results? Location, garden zone?


    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 4:15PM
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I live in the Bay Area, until these last few days it's only been more than 55 degrees at night a couple times. 75-85 days and 50 nights were the norm through May and June.

Anyway, my heirlooms have all been more productive than my hybrids, except for a French Carmello with a couple dozen fruits on it. No issues with any plants setting fruit. A lot of the plants aren't getting as much sun as would be ideal, but are still doing well. Maybe the problem is something else.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 1:17AM
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my heirlooms did very well in this seasons extreme conditions

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 10:39AM
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I agree on Heirloom being bery stubborn. Here in So Cal we got perfect weather for growing them, yet there are varities like Brandywine, Clocolate Stripe, and few others simply refusing to put fruit, while italian heirloom is loaded. all are in great shape, same watering, same location. I think now I am slowly learning on which ones do better here and will target those in the future

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 4:25PM
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thanks for the feedback. I posted my post-season wrap up earlier today. Is there any truth to the idea that saving seeds from heirlooms grown in a particular climate will produce plants better adapted to that climate in the next generation?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:23AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Is there any truth to the idea that saving seeds from heirlooms grown in a particular climate will produce plants better adapted to that climate in the next generation?

It's debated - a great deal. Some swear by it but others swear there is nothing to it. IMO it might help and it sure never hurts to do it.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 2:15PM
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This is the response from Tom Wagner (Tomato Breeder extraordinaire) concerning a tomato gardener in Fairbanks Alaska who had been growing the same beefsteak variety for 25 years.

[Anytime someone keeps a variety isolated from others for an extended time, the tomato variety should be considered unique in many ways.

As a plant breeder, I have deep respect for varieties grown in a particular region for a long time. Acquired characteristics, adaptation, bottle necking of the germplasm, small mutations, elimination of the original bulk population diversity, the template of Fairbanks, Alaska growing conditions is a valid point of identity.]

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 1:17PM
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