Thursday, November 19, 2009

The First Fruit Sets

So my routine is pretty well set by now ... I take care of the morning house stuff, drop the kids off at school, then come home and water and tend to the tomatoes. I've been watering every day, and the daily tending is pretty low impact. I'm snipping off suckers, tying up vines, trimming back errant shoots, and feeding weekly with Espoma Tomato-Tone organic fertilizer. I suppose successful tomatoes are as much about discipline and routine as anything else.

And look! The first fruit has already begun to set, so there are tiny tomatoes all over my plants. Pretty nice, huh? (Incidentally, the tomato pictured at left is an Azoychka. This is a yellow early-season tomato. I expect to start harvesting these right around Christmas. The other varieties are not this far along.)

The fungal problem is under control. After I found the leaf spot (see below), I removed all the affected leaves, bagged them up and disposed of them, then I treated with an organic copper fungicide spray weekly for a few weeks. It worked, and the plants are thriving and mostly free from any blemishes. So far, I haven't had caterpillars, but I'm just waiting ... I know they're out there.

I have, however, experienced a rather significant degree of blossom drop so far this season. There are a few reasons tomatoes drop blossoms early in the season: lack of sun, too cold, too hot, improper watering, and sometimes, just because they feel like it. For the most part, I'm not that worried about it. Let's face it, the beginning of this season stunk in South Florida—it was just too hot for tomatoes, so I'm not surprised to be losing my early blossom sets. But the season is long, and now that the weather is cool, I'm gratified to see fruit emerging. I don't expect to be wanting for tomatoes later on.

However, if you're experiencing severe blossom drop, and it's really freaking you out, you can use a product called Tomato & Pepper Set, by Fertilome. This product is a plant hormone that stimulates the plant to set fruit, even in adverse conditions. I've used it successfully in the past, when it stopped rampant blossom drop and hastened my tomato sets.

Lastly, I've been kind of keeping a secret for the past few weeks. I keep meaning to write about it, but my blog time is precious. So I'll give you a hint: in addition to the tomatoes I've been writing about, I started another experimental group, this time using pretty standard Better Boy tomatoes. But the grow set-up is unique and strange and unlike anything I've done before. Next time, I promise.

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