Tomatoes, ye shall not grow . . .

I don’t know what’s happening. It’s odd. Troubling. And down right ticks me off. For the last two years something, perhaps myself unknowingly, has been murdering my poor, defenseless tomatoes. The lush, green plants starting life off with vigor – growing waist high – and then withering away.                                                                                                                tomato1

The first year I thought it was just a rough season for the jet star plants, the second year it’s something more, after the languishing of both the heirloom and beefstake. And now I’m looking to you, fateful reader, for the hint, the clue, the story behind this story – why these tomato plants keep dying.

Here’s the garden layout. The left side of the backyard has a small dirt plot about 5 ft. by 5 ft. It’s the savory section. Here are where the heirlooms, garlic, greek oregano, and mint reside. This bit of dirt borders the garage, and chicken wire encloses its cube shape.

Dividing the backyard from the rear portion of the driveway is a lattice and post fence. And lying in between the fence and driveway is a, roughly, 12 ft. by 5 ft. strip of garden. This long and narrow plot runs the length of the fence. This is the spicy side of town. Living here are habaneros, jalapenos, green bell peppers, and more tomatoes.

Up above where the squirrels roam, leaping from branch to branch, I’m affraid is where the tomato trouble may stem from. Not necessarilly with the squirrels, though, they robbed my raspberries, but with the broad and leafy canopy the trees create. The backyard of my home is boxed in by neighboring yards on three sides. I share their trees, they share mine.  Black walnut, catalpa, locust and pine make up the vegatative sunshade. However, the sun permeates the tree cover about a half dozen times a day. Is this enough though, I wonder?

Minding this question, I hypothesize my poor tomato plants may not be receiving adequate direct sunlight. Though strangely enough, for two consecutive years they were growing waist high before they were showing symptoms of stress.

Moving on to hydration. The young plants get a good soaking from the hose daily. I have read it’s crucial to water, and water well, the first weeks after planting. I soak the plants until a small puddle forms at the central stalk. And I do this every day. And the tomatoes continue to grow. After about 10 weeks, I see the leaves on one plant begin to wilt. Well, it’s normal to lose at least one I say.

A couple days later another plant is wilting. I can’t believe it, it’s happening again. Before I know it, the whole crop is wilting. I stop watering. They rivive, slightly. I water again. Wilted. It goes on like this for a couple of weeks, but by this time it’s useless, they just wither into nothingness. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a couple fruit the size of marble.

Neighbors say it’s a lack of sunlight, or a lack of water. I hear too much water. It’s blight. I have no idea. It’s only my second year as a gardener, and all I know is I cannot tango with tomatoes.

That’s why I turn to the homesteaders and gardeners out there. What is going on with my tomato tactics? My watering habits and the amount of sunlight doesn’t seem to affect other garden members. The herbs, the peppers, flowers – all grow fine. Are tomatoes tempermental to watering? Or are they extra fond of the summer sun?

What do you think?

 

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5 thoughts on “Tomatoes, ye shall not grow . . .

  1. Our first tomato plant this year got full sun, water and weekly plant food and did exceptionally well. My later tomatoes got neglected in all of the above categories, so started to wilt, yellow in the leaves, and eventually shuffled off their mortal coils. Our herbs did not need as much attention but tomatoes are more finicky in my limited experience.

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  2. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, and need a fair bit of water to produce fruit. In addition to water, good soil and sun, there are two tips that I have for tomatoes.
    1) if you’re planting a non-grafted tomato grown in a pot, plant it while small (once frosts have passed) and plant it deep in the ground. Normally you make sure the dirt lines up with the soil in the pot, not so with tomatoes – planting deep forces it to grow more roots up the stem which means it can take up more nutrients while fruiting.
    2) Plant basil as a companion plant. Basil responds more quickly to the environment and acts a bellwether for the conditions that tomato will experience. If the basil does well, the tomato will too; if the basil wilts, the tomato will too (and so on). By responding to the conditions for the basil, you will help the tomato. Plus – the two are perfect complements for each other in any Italian dish!

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    • I like the idea of pairing up the tomatoes with basil. I think that’s a good idea, and will save space in the herb section. I’m doing so much planning right now for the garden, I think the plan is to put the tomatoes in the front yard, there’s ample sun. I get them in the ground around Memorial Day, the plants are about 5-6 inches, how deep do I plant at that point?

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