Pascual Hernandez
Pascual Hernandez

Now that we’re deep into June, most of us that planted gardens are hopefully gathering up vegetables regularly. However, as we get into the warm weather, it can bring about problems for vegetable, especially for our favorite- tomatoes. Let’s do a Q&A on three common problems.

Q. How often should I fertilize my tomatoes?

A. It is necessary to fertilize the garden before planting tomatoes, and again when fruit first sets. From that point on, fertilization is recommended every 7 to 10 days. A general sidedress fertilizer recommendation is one to two tablespoons of a complete fertilizer scattered around the plant and worked into the soil. If using a fertilizer high in nitrogen such as ammonium nitrate or sulfate, reduce the rate to one tablespoon per plant.

Q. My tomato plants are green, vigorous and look healthy, so why are the flowers are not forming any fruit?

A. Several conditions can cause tomatoes to not set fruit. Too much nitrogen fertilizer, nighttime temperatures over 70 degrees F., irregular watering, insects such as thrips or planting the wrong variety may result in poor fruit set. Any of these conditions can cause poor fruit set, but combinations can cause failures. If recommended varieties are used , the main reason tomato plants do not set fruit is because they are not planted where they can receive 8-10 hours of direct sunlight daily. Any less direct sunlight will result in a spindly growing, nonproductive plant with healthy foliage.

Q. What causes a tomato to crack, and what I can do to prevent it?

A. Cracking is a physiological disorder caused by soil moisture fluctuations. When the tomato reaches the mature green stage and the water supply to the plant is reduced or cut off, the tomato will begin to ripen. At this time a cellophane-like wrapper around the outer surface of the tomato becomes thicker and more rigid to protect the tomato during and after harvest. If the water supply is restored after ripening begins, the plant will resume translocation of nutrients and moisture into the fruit. This will cause the fruit to enlarge; which in turn splits the wrapper around the fruit and results in cracking.

The single best control for cracking is a constant and regular water supply. Apply a layer of organic mulch to the base of the plant. This serves as a buffer and prevents soil moisture fluctuation. Water plants thoroughly every week. This is especially important when the fruits are maturing. Some varieties are resistant to cracking, but their skin is tougher.

For additional information, contact the Sutton County Extension Office at 387-3101.