Tomatoes are ripening way too small

azscpSeptember 7, 2007

This is my first attempt at growing tomatoes but something isn't right. I'm using E.B. Stone soil and fertilizer and I have several large organic varieties in separate containers. I'd say the pots are 12-15 inches tall and about 12-15 inches wide at the top. The problem I'm having is that the tomatoes aren't getting as big as they should be. Not even close. I'm figuring these guys should at least be baseball sized but I'm barely getting dime sized fruit. They are turing red before they finish growing. I live in Arizona and it's pretty hot here so I water every day. I'm at a loss and I'm beginning to think it's too late in the season to salvage anything.

Any help would be appreciated. I'm a little discouraged because what I thought would be simple, hasn't been so simple.



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

Size of fruit is mostly determined by the genetics of the plant variety. So we need to know the names of the varieties you are growing please.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 9:21AM
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Tomatoes on average don't get as large in containers as they do in ground. That has been my experience. Also, later in the season, fruits of many varieties tend to naturally be smaller than the earlier harvested ones.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 11:55AM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Turning red before they finish growing---do they have blossom end rot?

Here where it's mostly 80's to low 90's, for 4 & 5 gallon containers, I use about 3 qts of water per plant daily, plus heavy fertilization regularly. Your temps probably need even more water. If you want big tomatoes from containers, you need lots of water & food... and most organic fertilizers get washed out of containers before they even have a chance to work, and those that stick around often take too long to work.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 12:16PM
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i planted a beefsteak variety.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 4:13PM
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Those plants could have been mislabeled at the nursery, or otherwise mixed up with a smaller-fruiting variety. I would agree that you just have a small-fruiting type of tomato there. Maybe even a cherry. I echo what was said about frequent watering in pots and heavy fertilization. Personally, I also think the size of your pot for a beefsteak variety should be 15 gallon, particularly in your hot area. Try again next season, and make sure you buy your plants from a reputable nursery (places like drugstores and K-marts are more likely to mix up labels).

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 5:30PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Unfortunately, labels can be mixed up even at the "good" places. Customers do it.

Beyond that, I echo the suggestions that you may have a cherry tomato, also that you need a larger pot.

Have fun in your garden. It's one of those things you learn by doing.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 6:33PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

"i planted a beefsteak variety"

Oh c'mon azscp, tell us what you planted. It does matter. Are you hiding what you grew? ;)


    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 1:26AM
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the reason for the small fruit is the pots are to small and plants are root bound.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 10:10AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

While I'd agree that the pots are too small for most varieties, root binding affects the plants themselves, not the size of the fruit. That is determined by the variety genetics primarily though also affected to a small degree by the watering and fertilizer used.

Since you don't know or haven't supplied the name of the varieties then the most likely explanation, given your description of "dime-sized" fruit, is that you have cherry tomato varieties (not beefsteaks) that were either (1) mis-labeled, (2) were grown from a seed that had cross-pollinated, or (3) were a hybrid seed that has reverted. All are the responsibility of the plant supplier.

And yes, it is late in the season to salvage much so enjoy what fruit you do get. Spend the AZ "Winter" researching how to grow tomatoes in containers (it is more complex than growing them in the ground but still quite successful), and finding a reptuable supplier. Then get some larger containers, a good potting mix (not soil), and specific named varieties for next year.

Good luck. ;)


    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 10:28AM
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Varieties determine size to a large extent. But the summer here illustrates again how climate conditions can affect the size of fruit. Most of mine have been smaller. And it has been a year where I've picked 4-14 oz. fruit from the same plant. Just mattered when they set. My soil is very good and I supplement feed some of mine as an experiment and they were the same. The hail hurt me and then you can see the affect the heat had. The fruit that did most of their growing before the heat and then those doing most of it afterwards are a lot bigger. Those that grew during the 100 degree days especially on plants with 30-60 fruit set are considerably smaller. I weight mine and date some so can do a comparison real easy. So size of container, variety and climate conditions all come into play. JMO. Jay

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 11:38AM
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barkeater(Z3b VT)

Droughts with heat causes tomatoes to ripen small when planted in the ground. In small pots in Arizona, then that's almost a given! Add the fact theyre beefsteak varieties which were probably inadequately fertilized, and you can almost guarantee the results you got.

Of course, getting tomatoes this time of year in Arizona is rare, so enjoy them no matter what the size.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 3:49PM
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cziga(Zone 5 -Toronto)

One problem could be that your tomato plant was mislabelled. Cherry tomatoes tend to look different than larger tomatoes. The fruits tend to be in clusters along the stem. I won't be able to explain this very well, someone else might be better at it, but the clustered fruits usually indicate a cherry tomato. You might want to take a look (or post a picture) or the way the tomatoes are forming. If the aren't forming like a cherry tomato would, but more like a regular tomato (just too small), then I would think that your problem would lie more with the container (ie too small, rootbound plants).

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 7:51PM
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If the fruit grow in clusters like grapes, it's a cherry tomato.

Other tomatoes grow in clusters, but they tend to be a smaller number of fruits per cluster. My OP Romas, for example, tend to grow in clusters of 6. Cherry tomatoes tend to have many more fruits than that per cluster, spaced quite closely together - more like grapes than anything else I can think of.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 5:18PM
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And I second the notion that regardless of anything else, your pot size was far too small. Next year try much larger pots. You can get large pots quite cheaply from Big Lots or Dollar General. I'm talking 20" minimum diameter for a beefsteak variety of tomato.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 5:21PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

I have no problem growing large beefsteak types in pots as small as 3-4 gallons but they must be watered & fed regularly. Some of my largest, 2lb+ tomatoes were grown in 4 gallon buckets with 3 gallons of soilmix and drip fertigation. You need water & food to get good size. Heat speeds up ripening too, so does small pots. Your pots are 3-4x the size of mine so I think it's watering & feeding that made the difference.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 9:18PM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

I bet your plants were tag switched. You should have at least gotten a couple that were bigger I would have thought.
That's why I don't let my customers get out their own tomato plants. My hubby or I do it for them, and I have signs explaining that fact and why.
Basically, until they pay for them and take them home, they're MY plants, and I can make the rules. Bossy aren't I?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 6:39AM
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