From the Farm: A Taste of Summer, Tips for Growing Tomatoes
Here I'll share what's happening at the farm this summer and some tips for growing tomatoes.
Summer Growing Season…So Far, So Good
We are in the thick of our summer growing season at the farm and the heat and humidity have not disappointed so far. The temperatures have not been quite as high as in prior years, but the humidity is consistently in the 90-100 percent range.
We have had fairly reliable rainfall throughout June and July and while this is a good thing in the growing world, it tends to amplify some of the pest pressures we deal with at the farm. Squash bugs and downy mildew have been primary issues with our squash and cucumber plantings. And the abundance of rain has caused many of our tomatoes to split before fully ripening.
We are harvesting a plethora of peppers and eggplant right now and our okra is just starting to come in. Our first planting of field peas was washed out by heavy rains earlier in the season, but our second planting is coming along nicely and the first blooms are starting to peak out.
Tips for Growing Tomatoes
One thing that I hear people talk about during the summer growing season is trouble growing tomatoes. In fact, the number of people that have experienced issues this year seems to be much higher than any of the past several years.
All of the comments I have heard this year sound something like this - “I have great, big, green, beautiful plants, but NO TOMATOES!” Sound familiar? If you have ever grown tomatoes, then you have likely experienced this phenomenon before. So, why does this happen?
There are a few reasons why plants may look healthy but aren’t producing any fruit. One of the more common issues is improper fertilization. If you put down the same fertilizer blend that you use on the rest of your garden veggies, then you might be putting out too much nitrogen for your tomato plants.
Tomatoes don’t need a lot of nitrogen and they benefit from ample amounts of phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Most fertilizers marketed specifically for tomatoes have higher levels of P and K and lower levels of N (ex. 5-8-8). Nitrogen drives vegetative growth in plants and phosphorus helps promote the growth of blooms and fruit. Tomatoes are particularly sensitive to too much nitrogen and will often appear very healthy and green, but lack any sort of fruit production when nitrogen is over applied.
Help Pollinate Your Tomato Plants
Another common issue is poor pollination when it comes to low fruit production in tomatoes. Tomatoes are self-pollinating, but that doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from nature’s pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Too much rain, high temperatures (or low temperatures), and high humidity are all reasons for poor pollination. If daytime temperatures are over 85 degrees and nighttime temperatures stay above 75 degrees, then you will likely experience weaker pollination as much of the pollen isn’t viable at those temperatures. High humidity can also bind up pollen and prevent the natural flow of the pollination process.
If you are experiencing issues with your tomatoes, look to fertilization and pollination first. Typically if you can keep the plants healthy and address some of these issues then the plants will eventually make their way to a happy state and begin producing fruit for you.
Don’t get discouraged! It will all feel worth it if you manage to pick even just one homegrown tomato that you can slap on a tasty sandwich or salad one summer evening.
I hope these tips for growing tomatoes are helpful in your quest. Happy summer growing everyone!
Brad manages our farm operations, which include our certified naturally grown garden outside Madison and the Kelly family’s plantation in Leesburg, Ga, known as Rock House Farm. Rock House Farm produces grass-fed beef, heritage Berkshire hogs, and two varieties of heirloom corn, as well as commercial row crops.