Why the poor tomato season

ryseryse_2004December 14, 2012

I am in Z5 and for the first time ever, I had practically no tomatoes. I thought it was because I planted them too close to Black Walnut trees but then was hearing that it was a bad year for everyone in this zone. We had scorching hot weather and severe drought but most people kept their plants watered.

So, my question is: was it too hot? Does that make sense? I thought tomatoes loved hot weather - they grow in Mexico. My peppers did just fine in that same bed and they are of the same family. I just don't want a repeat this coming year. I wasn't able to do any tomato canning at all.

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

Based on all the past discussions here this summer, the excess heat was the villain for most folks. It came on far early than normal and lasted much longer than many are use to with no intermittent breaks. The plants tolerating heat is a very different issue from the blossoms tolerating heat and turning to fruit.

But then every year most of us go through a dormant period with our plants - those dog days of summer when tomatoes won't set fruit - that is the nature of tomato plants. The dog days where just much longer this past year.

Blooms just won't set in such high heat as the pollen is not viable. And when high humidity is added to the heat the problem becomes even worse. This is discussed in more detail in the FAQs here, especially the one about Blossom Drop.

Many experienced gardeners are talking about ways we can make adjustments for it for next year - planting much earlier even if protective covering is required early on in an effort to beat the heat, moving locations to places where shade is provided in the heat of the day, or providing artificial shade when needed, much heavier mulching of plants, etc.

Dave

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 6:43PM
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ryseryse_2004

That was a great explanation Dave. I appreciate your expertise in all these threads.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 8:27AM
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tdscpa(z5 NWKS)

I agree. Way too hot. Had almost no production. NW KS was 100F almost every day 6-10 to 8-20.

Almost no beefsteak tomatoes, only a few round tomatoes. Too hot for tomatoes and green beans. Peppers loved it.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 5:22AM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

I had an excellent crop, best in years, even with the heat. I think it was because of the very heavy layer of mulch, shredded oak and hickory leaves. I piled them over a foot deep the fall before and I just planted them in the leaves.

Most of the others around me didn't get hardly any.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 11:25AM
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junktruck

yeah the freaking drought was terrible here / watering from the tap isnt the same as rain water , good for short term but this long term drought we had was bad for maters /however my basil was better than most yrs

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 3:34PM
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containerted

You mentioned that the tomatoes may have been planted "too close to walnut trees". If so, this may have been another contributing factor to the problem. I agree with Dave's comments on the heat. He is spot-on about the pollination problem with heat and humidity.

But, if you have walnut trees near your garden, you might have another factor hurtng production. The effective area for juglone presence around a walnut tree is the entire area directly under the drip line of the walnut tree. Then, there will also be a juglone effect that diminishes as you move away from the drip line for about another 10 feet. This is due to leaching within the soil when the soil is very wet from rain, etc.

So, I would offer my theory that you may have had two negative agents affecting your crop. Juglone from the walnut trees (via the fine hair-like roots), and then the heat and humidity factors greatly reducing fruit production. Whether or not the walnut trees affected you has everything to do with how close to the walnut trees your tomatoes were planted. If rain runs on top of the soil from under the walnut tree(s) to your garden, you can get juglone encroachment that way.

Depending on which article you read, the juglone will be with you for anywhere from 5 to 20 years. It can't be rinsed out, but must biodegrade. It biodegrades VERY slowly.

Hope this helps you solve the production problem and also helps you plan your tomato plant locations next time around.

Ted

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 1:13PM
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ryseryse_2004

I knew Juglone was a problem with some things but just didn't think about it when I dug my bed last spring. We have tons of Black Walnut trees and I grow lots of things - I have rarely fine anything that won't grow under them in my shade gardens. I have a beautiful hosta garden with ferns throughout under a bank of Walnuts as well as many shade ground covers growing in another area filled with daylilies in the sun spots.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 9:17AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I have rarely fine anything that won't grow under them in my shade gardens. I have a beautiful hosta garden with ferns throughout under a bank of Walnuts as well as many shade ground covers growing in another area filled with daylilies in the sun spots.

Juglone has less effect on shallow rooted plants such as those you list. Deep and tap rooted plants are another issue entirely. If you can expand the beds to get well out from under the drip line of the tree top you'll avoid most of the tree roots and have better luck.

Dave

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 10:42AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Juglone will severely stunt or even kill tomatoes. They are more seriously impacted than most other plants. I was not able to grow tomatoes any closer than 50 feet from black walnut trees in my yard. I now grow all my tomatoes in 25-gallon containers, and I had a very good year in Southwest Ohio in spite of the heat and drought.

If your tomato plants appeared full size and healthy, they probably were not affected by juglone. If they were stunted and sickly, juglone could be the culprit.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 5:27PM
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bigpinks

2011 and 2012 my tomatoes did very well. Makes me uneasy thinking of 2013 as three in a row seems too much to hope for. The really wet summers are my enemy as my clay soil will not drain and only grows weeds. I am building a smaller area tho of looser soil in another area. I had a Chapman, an orange Burpee and 4 Cherokee Purples there last summer that did well even with less sun than the big garden. I have been able to amend the soil there as it is a much smaller area.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 8:07AM
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