HEIRLOOM TOMATOES – FROM FEAST TO FAILURE

HELL YES


 

The growing season in the Bay Area has been erratic this year. We haven’t had any measurable rain for 6 months, and counting. This summer we seemed to have a lot of fluctuating temperatures and persistent heatwaves. Plants that usually flourish in the garden struggled, and failed.

A significant number of days the thermometer under the eaves of the front porch registered 100F and above (usually 10+ degrees hotter than recorded temps because of location). One of the days was 104.2F! The back garden is sheltered by the house and fence, creating several microclimates. Plants were drooping. People were drooping!

WILDFIRES

By the end of June it seemed that half of California, Nevada, and Oregon were on fire, and prevailing winds swept smoke into the Bay Area. There were a lot of days where smoke haze made the days muggy, and sun eerily cloaked. None of this was particularly good for the garden.

EVERYTHING IS HEALTHY

healthy-tomato-in-the-garden
Healthy, green tomato plant spreading happily in the garden.

The raised bed garden area is approximately 64sq feet. This year I planted a butternut squash, lemon cucumber, roma tomato, and an unknown heirloom tomato that is orange when fully ripe. In planters there is eggplant, basil, parsley, chives, avocado, catnip, mint, and blueberry.

Most plants made a valiant effort to produce EXCEPT the heirloom tomato. Early on it grew like crazy, green, healthy, spreading… beautiful specimen. It flowered excessively… And.then.nothing.

NOTHING IS HAPPENING

Not a single fruit. Not a one. So I started combing Pinterest and You Tube. Helpful, but not encouraging. One of my favorite Homesteaders, Jessica at Roots and Refuge, has a great video specifically focused on growing tomatoes. A pictorial post on Pinterest by youshouldgrow also gave me a place to start (see resources below).

I joined a local gardening Facebook Group (East Bay Gardening), which has been a great resource for information, inspiration, and commiseration. A lot of people have had odd growth patterns in the East Bay this year. A lot of plants have been really late in producing fruit and/or flowers. Bees also seem to be sadly lacking this year. Mother Nature does her own thing.

SAD, SAD, HEIRLOOM

heirloom-tomato-plant-dying
Heirloom tomato plant going brown and dying in the garden.

Deducing that the weather was too hot for the heirloom to produce fruit, and once the evening temperatures came down all would be well. After the nights got cooler the heirloom tomato I so lovingly planted started producing fruit. I was relieved.

Then it began to droop, and go brown. And look sad. I was horrified. The garden plot is on a self-timer attached to a soaker hose. Maybe the plant wasn’t getting enough water or fertilizer. I supplemented watering. I feed it whey left over from cheese and yogurt making. I fed the foliage and the roots. I researched more. Nada.

FINAL THOUGHTS FOR NEXT YEAR

pinterest pin heirloom failure postThe fruit that this heirloom produced is mostly on the small side. It did produce a handful of big slicers, which are just to die for. Sweet, flavorful, juicy, and pretty colored… A lot of the fruit were deformed. Some are still ripening on the plant in the middle of October. I had such high hopes for this heirloom tomato.

My diagnosis? Blight? Incorrect watering? Incorrect fertilizer? Too hot? Leaf curl? I have NO clue what the actual problem was. I know I contributed to the problem, and that once the plant was weakened, it was open season on issues. I think my watering schedule was incorrect. Too often and not long enough. Next year, I will look for a disease hardy heirloom and see if I can get better results.

I really want a plentiful harvest of delicious, colorful, tasteful, fresh heirloom tomatoes. (Stomping my feet).

Powdery mildew is a big problem in my garden, here is a simple organic method to  prevent and treat powdery mildew in your garden.

What issues did you have in the garden this year? Comment below and let me know.

RESOURCES:

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