Cannot grow tomatoes
by Norma Harvey
Q. I have planted tomatoes for the last four years but they bear little fruit and what they do produce does not ripen. This year, I had the soil removed and replaced it with new soil and soil amendment. Still no luck. I put in fourteen plants thinking I had solved the problem. They were planted in full sun. HELP!
A. There are a couple of reasons your plants may not be producing.
- Water. In your location (southern CA) -- or any location, for that matter -- it's especially important that tomato plants receive adequate water. Water moves nutrients into tomato plants. When tomatoes emerge and are about the size of a quarter, resume your routine of watering tomatoes 1-to-3 inches a week. Once fruit is set it’s very important to keep your watering pattern consistent. Monitor how much rain your tomatoes get with a rain gauge. Check soil moisture with a soil moisture meter.
- Timing. Are you planting your tomatoes at the right time for your region? Be sure to allow enough time for fruit to ripen before the weather gets too hot. (Find out if it's too hot for tomatoes.) In southern California, many gardeners plant two seasons of tomatoes -- one in early spring, the other so that fruit ripens in the fall.
- Nutrients. Even with new topsoil and soil amendments, keep in mind that tomatoes are very heavy feeders. Apply tomato fertilizer once fruit has formed. Some gardeners look for their first tomatoes to be golf ball size as a signal to begin the season’s systematic feeding program. Make sure to use a balanced fertilizer that has the nutrient content that tomatoes need - one specified for tomatoes like Espoma Tomato Tone or Miracle Gro Tomatoes. Fertilize tomatoes about every 3-4 weeks until frost.
- Variety. Check with local nurseries and even your regional extension office to find out which tomato varieties flourish in your area. Try those types.
Good luck and happy gardening!Your friends at Tomato Dirt