GARDENING: My tomatoes are horrible!

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Tomato season is not happening at my house this year, unfortunately. My tomatoes are awful. And they should be given that I haven’t paid much attention to them, and the weather hasn’t cooperated.

Even though I have more than 20 plants, I barely get any fresh tomatoes from my plants. And the plants are puny with very few branches.

Tomatoes are tropical plants, native to Central and South America. They prefer warm temperatures, which is one of the reasons that we wait until after a frost to plant them. They also prefer warm soil, not cold and damp.

Tomatoes don’t like cool night temperatures or extremely hot days. Night temperatures below 55 degrees lead to blossom drop as do day temperatures above 90 degrees.

Think about the ups and downs that we have had this past season. We had a cool spring, then a warm spell in June, and a cool spell again. We have not had good, consistent tomato-growing weather this season.

Tomatoes like to have plenty of nutrients, and I haven’t fertilized my plants all season (just haven’t had the time this year!). I fertilized this past week to see if I could pull a few more from the vines.

Unfortunately, we are entering a time when cooler nights start to prevail. I will be lucky to make one batch of salsa.

Peppers on the other hand have done pretty well for me this year. Peppers aren’t as sensitive to temperatures, and they require plenty of water. The water in terms of rainfall has been just about perfect for growing peppers.

I love the variety Big Bertha and pulled one off the plant the other day that was six inches in length with a nice thick wall. My jalapeños are also quite nice. Frequent watering is needed to get the thick walls on peppers.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Other problems with tomatoes this year include common leaf diseases. Bacterial spot and speck, Septoria leaf spot, and early blight are all leaf diseases that are encouraged by either high humidity and temperatures, or moisture on the leaf surface and cool nights.

Once the symptoms begin to show (spots, yellowing, etc.) it’s too late to spray the foliage. You can spray a fungicide at this time, however, to protect the new growth. The only problem for me this year (other than lack of time) is that I have had consistent rainfall and I would have had to spray regularly. Rainfall washes off the fungicide.

When I get the chance, I pick off the diseased leaves to reduce the number of pathogens. In addition, I will clean out the garden this year and try to get as much of the debris removed as possible.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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