Our poor tomatoes!
First, it was beastly cold when we planted in June. By time the weather warmed up enough for them to start setting fruit, they weren’t ready to flower. And by the time they were ready to set fruit, our temperatures headed for the 90s and higher, which meant it was too hot to set fruit.
Don’t put the canners away too quickly, though. With cooler weather, we might have a good harvest by the end of the month, barring an early frost.
The extended heat has been causing other problems for tomatoes that are ripening. Blossom end rot is poking its head up. This disease develops as a brown leathery spot at the end of the fruit. This is a physiological disease caused by a calcium deficiency brought on by irregular or insufficient watering. The best treatment is to make sure the soil stays evenly moist by putting a sprinkler on a hose-end timer to take the guess work out of how much water was applied. The tomatoes are still good to eat once the end of the fruit has been cut off.
A reader contacted me on another problem he’s observing in his tomatoes. He has cherry tomatoes and nearly all of them are mottled from red to orange and yellow and they feel like they have lumps. I checked on my tomatoes and sure enough, the few full-size tomatoes I have also showed light mottling.
Turns out this condition is caused by a potassium deficiency brought on by several factors, including a dense canopy on the plant, temperatures above 90 degrees when the fruit is ripening and watering issues. The mottling can be large or small splotches of yellow on the skin, yellow shoulders on the fruit or thin, gray patches. Trimming some of the leaves off the plants might help, as does consistent watering.
Now on to some ideas for late-summer projects for the fall and to prepare for winter and next spring.
I have several weedy patches of bugle weed and bishop’s weed that are encroaching on beds and lawns where I don’t want them. Both are persistent spreaders that can defy easy solutions. Their root systems are hard to dig out and herbicides only knock them back for a while.
My plan is to clear out as much as I can and then cover the areas with pine needle and garden waste mulch about 3 or 4 inches deep. If I score a load of wood chips, those will be added to the piles. These will be left through next year and then replanted with either grass or plants. I hope this will knock them back under control.
To further get ready for the spring, I will do one more good weeding and start applying mulch to areas where plants begin to die back. Eventually, the beds will be completely covered.
Next spring, the mulch will prevent most of the early weeds from coming up, cutting down on my workload.