Solving Problems with Your Tomatoes

A post I wrote about growing great tomatoes was recently featured on the lovely blog (and one of this month’s sponsors!) Black Fox Homestead.  Here is part one and part two of that post.

Having that post be brought up again got me thinking.  What if your tomatoes don’t turn out great?  What if you put in a bunch of effort and time and your tomatoes end up with blossom end rot or they start cracking on the vine?  What then?  The sad part is that these problems don’t start rearing their ugly heads until you have ripe (or almost ripe) tomatoes on the vine.  However, there are some things that you can do.

Photo courtesy http://ybertaud9.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/organic-tomato-garden-tips/ 

Cracking

Irregular watering can be a real enemy to tomato plants and cause the skin of the ripe/ripening tomato to crack.  As much as possible, you should keep your tomatoes on a regular watering schedule and stick to it.  Obviously you can’t control the weather, but mulching around your tomatoes will help keep the soil moist.  I’ve also read that over-fertilizing can cause cracks.  (As a side note, over fertilizing (especially with a fertilizer high in nitrogen) can also cause a lot of vegetation growth without any fruit being produced.)

Blossom End Rot

This is the first year that I haven’t lost any tomatoes to blossom end rot.  For one thing, I’m not growing a bunch of heirloom varieties (sadly, this is mainly due to the move that we experienced in November). I’ve been told that it is not abnormal for the first few heirloom tomatoes on the vine to experience blossom end rot, while the rest of the subsequent tomatoes will ripen beautifully.  This problem is primarily a result of the root of the plant being unable to transport sufficient water and calcium to the ripening fruit.  The best way to prevent this is to have warm, well-drained and well-aerated soil.  I’ve also read that a fertilizer lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphate will be helpful in the long run.   

Sun Scalding

I’ve had this problem affect my tomatoes on occasion.  Green and ripening fruit can be very sensitive to hot, direct sun.  Protect plants from intense sun rays if possible.  A sun scorched tomato is still edible but the scorched spot (evidenced by a light or white patch on the tomato that occurs on the side of the tomato that is most exposed to the sun) should be cut off, as it won’t be pleasant to eat.

Greenbacks/ Green Shoulders 

When the tops of your tomatoes (the part of the tomato surrounding the stem) stay green, this condition is called greenback.  It is caused by high temperatures and/or too much exposure to sunlight.  As with sun scalding, protecting your tomatoes with screen or some other fabric that will reduce its exposure to intense rays should help.

HOWEVER, enough with the bad news and negative vibes. 

What is more likely to happen is that you’ll have a bumper crop of tomatoes and you won’t know what to do with them all.  So, when that happens, here is a great, easy recipe to try.

Ingredients:
2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes
1 cup diced cucumber 
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste 
Directions:
1.  Mix all ingredients and serve. 
Variations:  
  • Balsamic vinegar works great in place of the red wine vinegar.  
  • Adding basil or oregano is also delicious.  
  • Feta or fresh mozzarella also accompanies the flavors in this salad really well.
  • Salad can be served warm or cold.   
And now, a picture of a cute little girl with a really big tomato – just for fun of course.  :)
Sources:
http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/factsheets/Tomato_BlossRt.htm

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Comments

  1. what do u use for mulch around your tomatoes? and how often should i be watering? (we’re in upstate ny so our weather will be 70s and 80s most of summer with some 90s thrown in (like today).
    do u grow peppers also? just wondering if i should be mulching them too. building small hoop houses next year for tomatoes and peppers so i can protect from late frost (we had one earlier this week) along with get them growing better and faster.

  2. We just had tomato, cucumber and raw maple cheddar salad last night, just tossed it with balsamic.. One of my favorites. Lisa.. I am in upstate NY as well, with our tomatoes we have always done sacrifice and save.. just let them get a bit wilty and then water.. they have always done well, something we picked up from our local farmers. Sorry, just my 2 cents I am sure Colleen will advise you. Colleen great post, tomatoes, at least for me, are such an emotional crop. The only fruit/vegetable that can actually make me cry like a baby if it doesn’t turn out. Like the year I pulled 25 tomato plants out of the ground and burned them due to blight.. That was a bad day.

  3. Great post. I have a friend who is stuggling with blight right now, it’s really, really sad. I would love to put some garden shade fabric over my tomatoes next year. We always seem to get sun scorched.

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