The last three months of weird weather has hurt many home gardens, especially the tomatoes. Instead of harvesting and eating tomatoes in late June, many folks are scratching their heads and wondering where the tomatoes are. Despite an early spring, the unusual cool temperatures in May ultimately prevented many plants from growing and setting fruit. Nighttime temperatures below 55 degrees F can cause plants to drop their flowers prematurely or not set fruit. A lack of pollination is evident when the plant continues to grow, produces flowers, yet does not form as much fruit as expected.
The weather pattern we’ve had in June of extreme heat isn’t ideal for growing tomatoes, either. At the opposite end of the spectrum, nighttime temperatures above 70 degrees F and very hot days will also affect tomato pollination, resulting in less fruit. Combine that with lack of rainfall and you get stress.
Mature tomato plants suffering from such stress may produce small fruit, hold fruit on the plant but not enlarge, or drop their flower blossoms. Plants that are curling their leaves and/or wilting are likely suffering from extreme heat stress.
In addition to no tomatoes, many of the cosmetic flaws found on tomatoes — cracked fruit, catfacing and in some cases even blossom end-rot — can be attributed to the drastic changes in temperature and moisture levels.
Unfortunately, weather-related problems are not easily prevented or resolved. Regular watering and general care may help improve some situations. Heat-resistant varieties of tomatoes that are able to set and produce fruit during very hot temperatures are now available and worth trying.
Shane Harris is an Extension Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Advanced tomato workshop
Due to the popularity of tomatoes and the issues that can arise, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System will conduct an advanced, hands-on tomato workshop, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. July 15 in Wedowee.
“Home Grown Tomatoes” workshop will be at the ALFA Insurance Building in downtown Wedowee in the heart of Randolph County. It will feature tomato variety taste-testing, info on varieties and their culinary uses, fresh produce safety and a drip irrigation demonstration. Participants will also learn how to identify common tomato problems and pests.
Attendees can bring fresh samples of an insect, disease or other problem found on their tomatoes, as well as three to six tomatoes of a named variety for entry in the tomato tasting.
Cost is $15; lunch is included. Registration must be made and paid by July 8. Contact the Randolph County Extension Office at 256-357-2841 to register or visit www.aces.edu/homegarden to obtain a registration form.