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tomato question

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by hollers on July 08, 2005 11:44 PM
Hi, everyone. I posted some last year, but am back now being that it's tomato season again!

I have four tomato plants (3 Celebrity and 1 Better Boy). Two of the Celebrities are in an Earth Box and they are thriving. The other two are in large pots. The Better Boy is ok...the other Celebrity has NO fruit! I have a good many blossoms, but zero tomatoes. Also, the blossoms seem to break off easily, right above the bend. I saw a similar post, so I don't mean to be redundant...but I think some of the leaves on this plant also are kind of purplish. I've shaken the cage (I read here or somewhere else that helps in pollenating), but I'm looking for some additional help if anyone can offer it.

I planted in MiracleGro potting soil the weekend before Memorial Day (and the plants were already started..I didn't plant from a seed)and have fertilized once with MiracleGro tomato fertilizer. I water almost daily, since we have had a very dry summer so far here in the Pittsburgh area. It's also been pretty hot.

I'd appreciate any advice.
Thanks so much!
by Sorellina on July 12, 2005 12:01 AM
Ciao hollers,

Purple leaves could mean that it's time to fertilize again. You mentioned that you fertilized once, but not when. If it's been over a month, I'd do it again..tomatoes in containers need to be fed more often than if they're in the ground.

Blossom drop can happen if/when temps reach >85F or 30C. Pollination is thwarted at those temps as well, especially in humid conditions and I believe PA suffers from that as much as we do here in Ontario.

Shaking the cage can help, so can manually "flicking" the blossoms with your fingers, which causes the pollen to fall out of the blossoms. Putting potted bee-attractive flowers near your plants may or may not help as well.

I'd start with a very basic "blue stuff" fertilizer like 10-10-10 and flick the flowers..see if that makes a difference for you. Give it a few weeks and try to be patient. Usually the blossom drop thing doesn't persist. If you get in over-anxious parent mode (not that I've personally had any experience with that myself *eye roll*), you could also vibrate the blossoms with an electric toothbrush and put a fan on the plants. Hey, people do this. Not people with busy lives, mind you, but people do this, LOL.

Buona fortuna,
Julianna

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by hollers on July 12, 2005 12:21 AM
Hi, Julianna.

Thank you so much for your reply!! I was beginning to think no one was going to respond to my question!

It has been a few weeks since I last fertilized, so I'll definitely do it again! I have been shaking and flicking...so we'll see if that helps. I think I'll refrain, at least for the time being, from using the electric toothbrush and the fan! You're right...it has been very hot here this summer without much rain at all. Most days it's been fairly humid, too.

Thanks again for your reply. I'm glad there are others out there who feel like their tomato plants are their children! My husband makes fun of me every summer!

Take care!
Holly
by Sorellina on July 12, 2005 01:07 AM
Holly,

Take solace in the fact that there will always be people more neurotic than you. Some folks, believe it or not, put lawn chairs where they can watch their plants grow. It takes the place of the telly until the NHL can decide whether it wants a season or when the snow flies and you can make your own rink where the plants used to be, LOL. Sorry, Canuckian humour.

Buona fortuna,
Julianna

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by hollers on July 12, 2005 02:29 AM
Julianna,

I appreciate your Canuckian humor!! [Embarrassed] ) Thanks again for your advice. I fertilized with MiracleGro tomato plant food..I beleive it's 18-18-21? Hopefully that will revive my sick little plant!

Take care.
Holly
by Sorellina on July 12, 2005 03:42 AM
Holly,

Cute nickname btw...

Just a little FYI on the fertilizer thing..many people tend to overdo when it comes to fertilizers, which is why I recommended a dilute "benign" 10-10-10 fertilizer. To de-mystify the numbers, in case any of you reading this don't know and want to, the numbers stand for N-P-K, or Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium in chemistry-speak. When you're looking to boost your fruit production, look for a high Phosphorus number, the middle one. Phosphorus is needed at initial transplanting time as well, to help reduce transplanting shock and produce good root systems. That's why a lot of "transplant" fertilizers have a higher middle number. Nitrogen is involved with producing vegetation so this is what you want 2 weeks after transplanting. Finally, Potassium, the 3rd number, is more involved with fruit production and development of sugars. If you pick "ripe" fruit and it's puffy or soft or rots easily, it COULD be a Potassium deficiency, but weather plays its part as well.

The numbers on your miracle grow fertilizer may be a bit out of whack for your problem. I'd still go with the 10-10-10 initially, wait a few weeks, see if things don't improve. If your leaves are still purple and your blossoms are dropping, sounds like you need to boost your Phosphorus, so go with something that's high in the middle number.

Hope that helps,
Julianna

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by hollers on July 12, 2005 03:55 AM
Julianna,

Wow! You do have a lot of knowledge! Thanks for explaining the whole fertilizer number thing. That really helps a lot. I will put your sage advice to use and let you know how it goes!

Thanks again!
Holly
P.S. Just curious...I have two other Celebrity plants in an EarthBox and they are thriving and polluted with fruit! Are you familiar with Earth Box, and do you have any idea why they are doing so much better? Right now I'm planning to invest in a second EarthBox next tomato season and toss my own pots [Embarrassed] !
by Sorellina on July 12, 2005 04:33 AM
Holly,

I'd need to know the dimensions and volume of both the earthbox and the "large pots" to know more about why your plants in the former are doing better than the latter. My guess is that the earthboxes are larger and the plants can grow longer without becoming rootbound.

Tomatoes have 2 distinct "growth habits", meaning how big they get in all directions, rambling, compact, dinosaurish, etc:

Determinate: grows to a certain point and then stops..stops producing leaves, stops producing flowers, tends to be "smaller".

Indeterminate: grows until frost kills it or until the grower gets tired of picking fruit or disease gets the best of it.

Having said that, to grow indeterminate tomato plants (the majority of tomato varieties "out there") in containers, you need enough soil so you won't end up with severely rootbound plants. You'll get tomatoes even with rootbound plants, but not as many as you would if they had more room. Ok, so how much is enough? For a large indeterminate tomato, like, say, Brandywine..huge, big, dinosaur, will eat your house..you need 1 cu. ft. of soil or a 15 gallon pot. And a BIG stake..a big one..no, bigger..BIGGER, come on! That's right, 6-8 ft stake. If you live in an area that gets high winds, be prepared to fasten that stake to something that won't blow into Kansas during that wind/thunderstorm/tornado/hurricane.

If you give your plants that much space, you may or may not notice a difference between production of the exact same plant grown in the container vs in the ground, provided they were transplanted at the same time and are given the same amount of sunshine. Food and water will be different between those plants. They have to be. The one in the container has a fixed amount of growing medium and will need more food/water more often.

I hope that helps ;o)

Julianna

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by hollers on July 12, 2005 04:56 AM
Hi, Julianna.

My Earth Box is 2.5 feet long by 15 inches wide by 12 inches high. I think my other pots are 14-inch pots. I'm not sure waht the volume is of either container. I'm pretty sure the Celebrity is a determinate.

The Earth Box came with potting soil and fertilizer that you apply only once. It's really neat...plus you don't have to guess on watering. You can't over water because it stores water in a reservoir that the plants drink when they're thirsty...you just have to keep water in the reservoir. You can check them out on www.earthbox.com if you're curious.

Anyhow, thanks for your advice. Like I said...if my individual potted Celebrity doesn't yield any fruit this year (BTW this is my third year growing in pots and I never had this trouble before), I'm definitely investing in another EarthBox next year!!

Take care,
Holly

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