The summer taught me a few things about growing tomatoes. I’ve always heard that tomatoes love hot weather, and I believe they do, but not day after day of 100 + degrees and nighttime temperatures that stay above 70 degrees. The relentless, blistering heat did more damage than the drought. The tomato plants that I set out early produced very well. But the volunteer plants that came up later have not produced a ripe tomato yet. When the temperature was in the 100’s, the blooms on all the plants did not mature into fruit. They just sat. Now that the temperature has cooled off into the 80’s, the early plants are setting on tomatoes again. One of the volunteer plants has finally set a couple of tomatoes. I don’t know if it helped, but I sprayed Blossom Set on the blooms to see if I could spur them along. Of course, here we are in late August so the tomatoes will be racing to ripen before the first frost. I’m not too worried because if need be, I’ll pick them green and use them for relish or let them ripen in a window.
The tomatoes haven’t been beautiful, but they’ve been tasty and great for canning. We had 20 plants, but only thirteen contributed to the canning. Most of the plants were Celebrity and Abe Lincoln Hybrid varieties. Three plants were cherries, and four were the volunteers with no fruit. So far, I’ve canned 30 quarts and 8 pints. A good number of the tomatoes were split which I’m pretty sure is due to my inconsistent watering. It’s been tough trying to figure out how much and how often to water.
I am convinced that mulching saved the tomatoes from the intense heat and the drought. I think it kept the roots from burning up in our clay soil and preserved the moisture.
I also believe that the fertilizer I used this year helped with production and kept the bottom rot to a minimum. In fact, only one plant had the problem. The plants got a good dose of Sea Magic Fertilizer (it’s stinky and fishy) when I set them out. At the first sign of blooming, I gave them a generous dose of Miracle Gro. After that, I used Miracle Gro or a cheaper generic at every fifth watering. I think it helped with the plants’ calcium absorption. Next year, I plan to use more seaweed-based fertilizer.
The summer has been a tough teacher, but hopefully it will make us all better gardeners.