Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Tomatoes - Yummy!

Image of ripening tomatoes on the vine.
(Picture from catalog)

Have you noticed that every summer is unusual as far as crops? Living in the Midwest involves being able to figure out what your plants need this particular year and being adaptable to change.

I'm not a commercial tomato grower nor an expert. I do have some hints that may help your tomato crop.

If you have lots of flowers but seldom get tomatoes, it is usually a sign the flowers are not being pollinated. It's unusual around here since we have so many pollinating insects.

Tomatoes crack open when they are receiving irregular watering. When the ground gets very dry between watering, and then you start back watering, the inside grows faster than the skin (which is brittle from no water). They can still be used but may rot faster.

Tomatoes that get a soft black bottom have "blossom end rot." This is often caused by irregular watering. It is thought the calcium needed by the plant, is carried by the watering. If it receives too little, the leaves will absorb all the calcium which leads the tomato to rot. Throw away all tomatoes with end rot and resume regular watering (at least an inch a week).

Green Shoulders or tomatoes that do not ripen or very slowly ripen on the top. This is usually caused by too much heat and sun directly on the tomatoes. This happens more often with heirloom tomatoes because the new varieties have been bred to eliminate this. Pick before they are totally ripe. Let them ripen out of the direct sun. You can eat these tomatoes (even if they do not ripen at the top) by cutting off the green portion.

Leaf diseases, Septoria leaf spot and early blight, are two of the most common. Dark or brown spots on the lower leaves which progress up the plant. Take off these leaves and destroy. Make sure soil is not splashed on plants by mulching and stake the plant to keep it off the soil. These problems are worse in wet weather.

Tomato horn worms will eat the foliage. Pick the worms off the plant and destroy. A quantity of worms can destroy your plant. If the worms have little white capsules, they have had wasps lay eggs on them. Let the larvae kill the worm and you will have more beneficial wasps.

Catfacing or misshapen fruit on the blossom end is usually caused by poor pollination during too cool of weather. These fruits may be eaten.

Verticullium and Fusiarum wilt are soil borne fungal diseases on the leaves. Either do not grow in the same place each year or only buy disease resistant varieties. If you can not take off the leaves that are infected, then the plant will probably have to be destroyed. Check your local stores for powders that may help.

Below are very small hints and do not include what you "should" have done only what you can now do to help your tomato crop.


(1) If it does not rain, water one inch a week.

(2) Only water in the morning and do not get the leaves wet.

(3) Mulch your plants heavily.

(4) Pick before they become totally ripe if you are not successful controlling disease and insects. Sit in a semi shaded area to ripen.

(5) Picnic bugs will enter a break in the tomato skin. If caught early, they may be washed out with running water and the invaded area removed. Use the tomato immediately.

(6) Putting a tomato in the refrigerator will stop the ripening process and inhibit taste.

Because most tomato plants were put in the ground late, we've had extremely wet weather, and the a lack of hot temperatures, tomatoes have been slow to ripen. I don't hear lots of bragging this year but if your plants are like mine, they are full of green tomatoes. I've had several ripe ones and they were as wonderful as I dreamed.

Count your Blessings that you live in an area of the world where you will have fresh tomatoes either from your garden or purchased locally. The Midwest fresh tomato is a whole other fruit from the store bought tomatoes.

Farmers' Markets and Fresh Produce Stands are in abundance right now. They provide the "best of the best" if you need something you don't grow. Most have sweet corn, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beets and green beans. Some have tomatoes, collards, and other great choices.
I try to visit our local stands. Recently, I got some very good sweet corn (and other things) from Stahl's home market. Turn right (I'm directionally impaired) coming from Galva right before you get to Lafayette (at the cemetery road.) It's down a ways on the left - a white ranch. Most times they have the produce in the garage so pull up and walk in. Good folks growing good food.

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