Help me with my tomatoes

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Amy Bowman, Jul 13, 2004.

  1. Amy Bowman

    Amy Bowman New Member

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    I am quite amateur to any kind of gardening really but I decided to start some Brandywine tomato seeds this spring. our soil isn't great but we have periodically added rabbit poop and hay fertilizer as well as my own compost. It has been several months and the plants are not doing well. We had about twelve and all but maybe three died. The ones that remain are the ones that get the most sun throughout the day. Anyway, they haven't bloomed yet although the package said they would in about 90 days and most of the leaves are looking rather yellow. I try to give them a full watering every couple of days if it doesn't rain but the heat here in FL is brutal so I think they may need more than that. I am trying to grow things organically so I don't want to use anything that contains chemicals. I've already heard enough people say that is my problem but I know plenty of people grow tomatoes organically so there must be an alternative. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    It's my experience tomatoes will grow in pretty much any soil. I have tomatoes (heirloom) growing in my wonderful raised bed with perfectly lovely soil :) ... but also out in the rocks and boulders with a bit of soil tossed between :rolleyes: AND in the middle of a perfectly lovely fern sitting in full shade beneath a large oak tree. :confused:

    The one thing I know for sure is they really like heat. but they like heat in combination with water. Don't know how hot it gets where you are, but you might try watering more frequently --- once it gets over 90 here, I water daily --- a deep watering every couple of days and a fair watering every day.

    I'm trying for organic, as well, and so far so good.

    If it were me, I'd try more water. Good luck! :)
     

  3. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Sounds like they need more nitrogen. Do you have them mulched? It is quite likely that too much nitrogen has leached out especially if the soil is sandy. Before you water wriggle your fingers down into the soil and see if it is damp. If so, hold off on the water. Won't hurt to make some manure tea and use that to water them till they perk up.

    If you still have some seeds go ahead and plant them right in the garden, in a sunny spot. There is more than enough time to get a good crop in your part of the country. Don't give up! Sometimes you just have to keep trying.
     
  4. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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  5. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Amy, just because you live in Florida does not mean that you can grow tomatoes all year around. In fact, spring planting of almost any vegetables is usually a waste of time and effort in your area. The time for starting tomatoes from seed would no doubt be September-October with the plants going into the ground in November. When your hot summer weather sets in, tomatoes are going to totally stall. Best that you can hope for is to keep those Brandywines alive until fall. Call up your County Extension Agent, look under Government in your phone book. He/she will tell you the best time to plant tomatoes in your area.

    Martin
     
  6. Actually, tomatoes do quite well in the heat if they have water. I grew up in a part of the country where the summers are hot and tomatoes are grown for processing. July and August are two of the processors busiest months.
    Also, I have started tomatoes in the spring and summer and they have done quite well. I had to water them daily though. I also use manure tea on my tomatoes it works great. Also mulching will help keep the moisture in the ground. A mulch of straw will also help cool the ground.
    Hang in there and try not to get discouraged.
     
  7. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    That's my experience here. Once we hit 95+, the plants go wild. The grass stops growing somewhere around 100 :D , but the tomatoes and basil and echinacea are loving it! But you have to water, water, water!!

    I have two plants in full sun, five in partial shade and one (the one growing out of the Boston fern :rolleyes: ) in full shade. All are doing well. But the minute it went over 90 here, I began watering every day.
     
  8. Rita

    Rita Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If your tomato plants wilt excessively even when you have been watering them well, you might have a bad infestation of nematodes. They destroy the roots and the ability of the plant to take up adequate water. When one of the plants is so far gone there is no hope, pull it up and if the roots look all thick, gnarly and knotted you have nematodes. When we lived in FL you could buy some potent stuff to fumigate the ground but I don't believe you can buy that and the only other way is to use solar sterilization with clear plastic and the hot FL sun! I found the plants didn't set fruit when the temps where very high. Hope this helps. Rita
     
  9. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    I will repeat! This is NOT the time to be growing tomatoes outside in Southern Florida, especially the fussy Brandywines. (Nor Southern Texas or much of the Gulf Coast either!) Tomatoes will NOT set fruit in day temperatures above 90F. The blossoms are unable to pollinate themselves above that temperature. Nor will they set fruit if night temperatures do not drop below 75F. Homestead 24 is the closest variety which can withstand those high temperatures and that one was developed in Florida just for that purpose.

    Creole is another which can compete with Homestead 24 for heat-tolerance and that was developed by in Louisiana to handle their hot summers. My son just returned from a visit to Barranquilla, Colombia which one would think should be a garden paradise. In the entire city, he never saw a single tomato plant. And in the gardening stores, there was but a single variety of tomato seed available and that was a product of USA. It was Creole, one of just a handful of tomatoes which can handle continuous nighttime temperatures above 75F!

    Martin
     
  10. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    I just went out & looked at my tomatoes, & even though some of them have some kind of mysterious disease, I have every size from the size of a bb to a baseball. I have Roma, Mortgage Lifter, & one that I don't have a clue what it is. We haven't had a day that didn't get above 90 in at least 3 weeks. I have read that tomatoes wouldn't set fruit at high temperatures, but I haven't found it to be true. In fact, it seems like the hotter it is, the better they like it.
     
  11. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    OD, I'm in NE Oklahoma and that's my experience, as well. HOWEVER ... I have family who lives south of Corpus Christi, Texas --- when they come to visit (even during our 100+ with 9,000,000,000% humidity days), they comment how cool and pleasant it is here.

    :confused:

    I'm going to venture a guess temperature isn't the only factor involved in why tomatoes where I am seem to love the hot temps and those in S Florida and the Gulf don't. Although what it is, i don't know -- humidity or surrounding waters holding temps high? I don't know. :confused:
     
  12. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    Nobody ever says it's pleasant & cool it is here--no matter where they come from! :haha:
    I always wondered why I always have tomatoes when I'm not "supposed" to. It could be the cooler nights. I don't know. :rolleyes:
     
  13. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Let's take care of NE Texas first! June 2004 was a lovely growing month. Only 4 days of 90 or more. They were on the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 18th. Perfect nights for forming tomatoes with the lows from mid-60s to low 70s. Wish that we'd have had that up here!

    July must seem like this heat wave has lasted forever after yesterday and today! This would be the 9th day of 90 or above but with the high having only been 91 until yesterday's 95 and matched today. But there's those nights when it bottoms out in the low 70s. In fact, July may have arrived in NE Texas in the upper 60s. Next 10 days aren't going to be all that kind to tomatoes during the day but I don't think that anyone in that area is going to complain about the nighttime temps in the low to mid-70s. Bottom line there is that the temperatures in NE Texas have been within tomato tolerance until the past two days!

    Now lets float down the Sabine, see if we can commandeer a shrimp boat in Port Arthur, sail across the Gulf and through the Keys and up to Daytona Beach. Should be quiet there as NASCAR ran there the weekend before last. Average mean temperature there is only a degree or so higher than NE Texas. That's about halfway between the Georgia state line and the Keys and thus right between North and South Florida. Gets a lot warmer or cooler from there depending upon which direction the ship sails. Gardeners up in the Carolinas already reporting that some of their tomatoes have packed it up for the year. Friends in Mobile and New Orleans winding down their harvest right now. I can imagine what it's like for any poor tomato trying to make a go of it in Georgia in mid-July! I do have a friend harvesting Wisconsin 55 in Orlando, FL right now but they have never seen a minute of direct sun. Always in a greenhouse from day one.

    You Okies and NE Texans should be at the prime of harvest right now. And you know that most of your tomato plants will pretty well be done within a month or so. Happens every year so you already know that from experience. Slip closer to the Gulf, say around Houston, you'll look hard to find a tomato plant in any garden as they are done. In fact, they are thinking about what to start in a few months for picking in March and April. You're up in Zones 6 and 7. Miserable enough trying to grow tomatoes in Zone 8. Then there's Coastal Texas in doubly miserable Zone 9 which also takes in a good chunk of Florida. Finally, there just has to be a Zone 10 to round things out.

    Ain't this fun? It all boils down to location, location, location. What applies in one zone does not always apply to the next zone or even within the same state. In Northern Florida, the time for planting tomatoes outside is early February. In Southern Florida, it's early November. Lots of commercial tomato farms in Florida. Look around to see when they are planting their fields. Their livelihood depends on getting the plants into the ground for maximum production. They don't plant them whenever they feel like it!

    Now, Amy, I want you to look up the number for your County Extension Agent and call it. Ask when you should plant tomatoes in your area. The answer should not be a generic one according to USDA zones but should be specific to your county. When you find that out, please let all of us know what he or she says. Then everyone will know that it's a totally different world below the 30th Parallel.

    Martin


    PS, no offense to anyone with my remarks. Those who know me are laughing. Half who don't are probably happy that they don't know me! Those remaining are still trying to locate the Sabine River!
     
  14. GRHE

    GRHE Mountain Ogre

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    I normally would think too much sun as well and would suggest shade cloth, except you stated that the plants getting to most sun were doing best. Yellowing typically will indicate either dehydration or nutrient deficiency. If you are up for it you may want to check with a local extension agent for a soil test, but from my recollection of Florida soil, my guesses would be in order: Low iron, Low nitrogen, or high salt. Depending on were you are you may have highly sandy soil which is largely sterile and will easily leach out your nutrients when combined with the heavy watering that your heat will demand. Iron can be added, and you have already worked on the nitrogen, keep going on it but it may take a few years to really get a good loam if you are starting with Florida sand. To get around this my grand dad went a step further than raised beds, he went fully contained (he used a free standing pedestal batch tub).

    I would strongly encourage night-time drip irrigation. The slower watering will reduce leaching of nutrients. You want to avoid wet leaves in that type of intense daytime heat. The leaf pores will open up and the internal fluids will evaporate out wilting the plant. Most tomatoes are very temperature dependant. Many will grow great in the heat, but will refuse to set fruit at temperatures over about 85 unless you have cool nights to compensate. Night watering can also sometimes help with this by lowering the temperature at night for the plant. Even if you cannot get them to set fruit in the heat, if you keep them going they will likely kick into gear once the temperatures drop. In most cases I would try to start earlier in Florida so that the plants will already be mature when the heat comes, and in most of the area you probably can get good tomatoes all winter
     
  15. Amy Bowman

    Amy Bowman New Member

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    Thanks for all the advice. I had no idea I would get quite a response. I tend to think that the tomatoes do prefer full sun since the ones who aren't getting it have died. I have tried watering more but even that isn't helping much. I mean, they are alive, but they look so sad.

    It certainly makes sense that the hotter it is they won't bloom cause it has been over 90 degrees for quite some time now and they sure as heck don't want to bloom.

    This manure tea sounds a bit daunting. How exactly do you make it?
     
  16. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Ok, let me tell about my experience in mississppi. I bought some land outside of Jackson. Didn't have any water because I couldn't afford it. So I was camping on the land. My neighbors let me have water from their tap, which I carried in gallon jugs. I didn't feel comfortable taking enough to water a garden. I had just read John Jeavon's book on double digging, so I dug some beds and worked a lot of dry leaves, what little manure I could find and some grass clippings in. I bought some tomato plants and set them out right after Easter. Watereed them by carrying jugs of water. Planted my cukes and beans. Mulched everything with grass clippings and went out of state on a job for a week or so. That was a dry hot year. My neighbors planted a conventional garden using a tiller. Watered daily and weeded. I didn't have time to weed, I stomped down weeds and put grass clippings on them. My neighbors took out the usual amt of produce and about July their garden pretty well gave up. This was what they expected with their experience gardening. My cukes continued to produce heavily for a good month after theirs gave up and I finally ripped out the vines because I had more cukes than I knew what to do with. My beans and tomatoes continued to produce heavily until frost around thanksgiving. I canned all I could and gave away tons of produce. I never watered after the first couple of days. The only insect damage was to some petunias that I had put in late in the summer.
     
  17. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Amy, we still have not determined the best time for you to set out tomato plants in your area. There has been mention of harvesting tomatoes during really hot times during the summer. Heat is not a problem for harvesting, only setting fruit. Once a plant has set fruit, it can be 90 every day and it will not affect that fruit.

    Anyway, all of us in the temperate portion of the country are dying to know just exactly what the County Extension Agent has to say about planting time in the "tropics". Every county in the state of Florida has one and they and their staff are trained to answer just about every possible gardening question. Some may be better than others but it's your taxes which are paying their wages. More than likely, it's just a local call as most are located in the county seat. Here's the site for the Florida offices. You will note that there are 5 distinct growing areas in your state, separate from the USDA zone boundaries. Double-click on your county to obtain the phone number and location of the office.

    http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/cesmap.htm

    Martin
     
  18. oz in SC

    oz in SC Well-Known Member

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    mrs oz here :)

    Well, I think I'll call my extension service and see what they say about our area because my tomato plants are sure pretty much done for. It has been EXTREMELY hot here, daytime highs have been mid to upper 90's. I think I'll give a call, maybe I can get another round of planting done.
     
  19. JulieNC

    JulieNC Well-Known Member

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    Martin is 100% correct. Once the fruit has set, the temperature isn't a big factor. However, BEFORE the fruit sets, they need the daytime temperatures below 90 degrees--above that, and they won't set fruit. Period.

    I'm guessing those who are arguing the point already have the fruit set. Once the fruit sets, it will continue to grow and ripen regardless of the heat.
     
  20. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    I also think our temps are more variable that we think, esp. nighttime temps.

    We're having an extremely pleasant summer here this year :D having only neared 100 one time (which is rare for July). During a typical summer, however, the blistering heat is usually during the afternoon --- but subsides overnight --- and mornings are pleasant.