Blooms falling off at stems in hanging tomatoes

by Becky Thompson
(Augusta, GA, USA)

Q. I had tomato plants in my back yard this year growing in Topsy-Turvy planters. I started them from seeds in the house. After planting them in the planters, one plant died, leaving me only one plant. It produced one tomato which got eaten by something before I could get it. The plant never produced anything but blooms which fell off at the stem.


Can you tell me what to do about this for next year? It's just my husband and I at home, and he doesn't eat tomatoes. That's why I only planted two plants. In fact, the plant is still growing and producing blooms and they are still falling off. Any help from anyone would be greatly appreciated.

A. You have two issues here: 1. the challenge of growing tomatoes in hanging pots and 2. blossom drop.

Let's take #2 first. Tomatoes drop blossoms when they're stressed. (Read more about reasons tomatoes drop blossoms.) Most often, blossoms drop because of heat. Daytime temperatures consistently over 90 degrees F create conditions in which plants abandon efforts to produce fruit and simply try to survive. Poor pollination, excess nitrogen in the fertilizer, and other kinds of stress can also contribute to blossom drop. One of the best ways to prevent blossom drop is to plant tomatoes early enough (or plant varieties that mature more quickly) for your region so that fruit can set before days are consistently too hot.

Now to issue #1 -- the challenges of growing tomatoes in hanging pots. What variety did you plant? (Determinate tomatoes do best.) Did you have a consistent watering and feeding schedule? (Those pots dry out quickly and nutrients leach out regularly.) Was the container in the direct sun for a long time each day or exposed to elements like wind? (Those conditions add enormous stress to tomato plants.)

Read about all the advantages and disadvantages of hanging tomatoes so you can decide for yourself if you'd like to take this same route next year.

One alternative would be to growing tomatoes in pots next year -- that is, pots or containers that are not hanging. The key of success with container tomatoes is to use a large container. You could grow a few containers to give yourself a small number of tomatoes, as you wish to have, but you would also eliminate many of the variables associated with hanging tomatoes, provided that you choose and use a large container (5 gallons or more.)

One other thing to consider: you live in Georgia, in the southern U.S. Your growing season is considerable longer than many other areas. If you look around your local nurseries and garden centers, you may be able to find one or two short-season tomato plants available right now (August) in which to plant in pots. This would allow you to grow a few fresh tomatoes as a second season crop this year.

Good luck and happy gardening!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt

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Nov 25, 2012
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Is my sun light different from yours?
by: Santiago

I live in South Africa (Johannesburg area). My question is: The sun that shines over my tomatoes plants is the same than your sun in the Northern hemisphere. Will I be affected differently than you? When you talk about "full sun" I shiver in horror because my plants will die within two days of the "full South African sun". I keep my plants under a 20% shade net. Am I correct or I live in a different planet?

Tomato Dirt responds
Great question. You are right: we share one in the same sun and it is wise of you to proceed with caution! Nevertheless, tomatoes love heat. The main point here is to plant tomatoes according to what your climate will tolerate. Tomatoes need 50-80 days (depending on the variety) from the point you place them in the garden until maturity. In warmer climates, gardeners plant tomatoes to mature before the hottest part of the summer. In fact, in hotter or subtropical climates (in the U.S., for instance, in Florida or Arizona), many gardeners plant two seasons of tomatoes (spring and fall) and avoid the summer garden season altogether.

Using the shade net is a terrific solution. Sounds like you are on the right track! Keep us posted. By now you should be getting ready to harvest your fruit!

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