Monday, August 10, 2009

Help! Tomato Problem

My Early Girl tomato plant has been thriving all summer, until about two weeks ago when I noticed that the flower blossoms were dying and falling off. They're not producing fruit any more and I'm more than a bit pissed off. I've read a few things: 1. that it could be too much nitrogen fertilizer, 2. the extreme heat we had a couple of weeks ago, or 3. a lack of bees doing the pollinating. We have tons of bees and I quit using a nitrogen fertilizer back when they first began to flower. Does anyone really know what causes this, and, what, if anything I can do about it? The tomatoes that were there still seem to be growing and ripening.

I guess you could call me stubborn when it comes to growing my own tomato plants. My dad grew tomatoes all the time when we were growing up, and I've grown them successfully in Los Angeles and Georgia with little effort or worry. If I have a summer addiction it's the taste of home grown tomatoes. In fact I can't understand why in the world anyone would ever, ever, ever want to eat an unripe or pretend ripe tomato that was picked way too early and has NO ACTUAL FLAVOR. Unless you consider mush a flavor.

Here in Everett my tomato growing adventures have been less than successful. In 2006, our first summer in this house, I planted two Early Girl plants in the backyard raised beds. They grew like crazy with lush green leaves and tons of blossoms, but that was the year I learned about the path of sun over our house. By late August the raised beds back there get maybe three hours on sunlight and it's mid-day sunlight at that. And cold came earlier that year, like mid-September if I remember correctly. I think I got three tomatoes before a frost came.

I spent a few months in mourning, then, in January ordered tomato seeds from The Cooks Garden and spent February, March and April nuturing seedlings. Of course I had too many so I gave a few away and planted the rest in the front (south facing) yard. The Sun Gold, Cherokee Purple and Organic Garden Peach did the best. There were so many Sun Gold turning yellow and orange that I had nightly dreams of home made salsa, fresh salads with sliced tomatoes and cold blue cheese dressing to dip them in. Then during the last week of August I found out I was pregnant and my body decided it couldn't stand the taste of fresh, ripe tomatoes. Cruel.

Last year Lily was born at the end of April and I had no vegetable garden to speak of.

This year I decided to try to grow things that do well in this climate, you know the rainy, cool, breezy weather we typically have here in Everett. I purchased beet, carrot, spinach, kale, scallion and two kinds of pea seeds. I swore I wasn't going to grow tomatoes anymore, after all I can purchase them from the farmers' market. Well that oath didn't last long, especially when Central Market lures me in with beautiful tomato starts just outside the entrance.

Turns out our wacky hot weather we've been having this summer has been great for tomatoes, but could it have gotten too hot? My Sun Gold is thriving, but that Early Girl, I just don't know. Maybe I'm really not meant to grow tomatoes here. If anyone has an answer as to why the blossoms are withering and falling off without producing any more fruit, I'd love to hear it.


  1. Hi Sara,

    That pic of Lily with the tomato in her mouth is so sweet I can't stand it. I hear your pain on the tomatoes. This year I even got hoops and built a hoop house, determined to make them work and lo and behold we've had an amazingly warm summer for the first time in years. I have lots of flowers on mine still that look like yours but I haven't noticed them falling off yet so I'm not sure if I actually pick the fruits on there they may still develop. I know with cucurbits if you don't pick the fruits the plants will think they have made enough seeds to ensure the species survival and stop producing more seeds. It could be the same with tomatos?

    You can always phone the Garden Hotline ( at 206.633.0224) Their email is help @ garden as well. If you get an answer please post back so we can all learn!

  2. Hi Babe,
    Love all of the pictures & the comments are great. It's so fun for me to see Lily enjoy the fruits & veggies from the garden.
    Good Job!!