Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Do Your Tomatoes Need Help

There they are, big and beautiful.  Your mouth waters just looking at them.  You know they are going to be sweet and juicy.  But why aren't those tomatoes getting ripe?  Are you just being impatient, or do you have a situation going on you should be concerned about?  Maybe, but probably not.  The tomato is one of the hardest working crops in your garden.

You must remember that tomatoes will take anywhere from 60 to 80 days to ripen (depending on the climate) after it's first tiny appearance.  The conditions must be right for the crops to produce carotene and lycopene pigments, the main ingredients in that perfect color we all love.  While doing this they must also continue to produce even more vegetation and maintain a solid root system.  In addition they work hard to cultivate additional foliage, a key component in capturing the right nutrition to ripen.

Tomatoes are surprisingly resilient.  They adapt to changing climates quite easily.  From early spring to late fall you can continue to enjoy growth from these sturdy crops.  If your seedlings are transplanted outdoors in early spring as soon after the last freeze as possible you should begin to reap your first rewards of patience late June or early July.  Yes, the leaves and roots will react to the rising heat.  Don't let the seemingly destroyed foliage discourage you.  If harvested in the right spot and you continue to tend to the plants they will gladly thank you with a second round of fruit in the fall.

If you still feel that your tomato is not moving along quickly enough there are a few simple tips to help.  First of all make sure your plant is in an area where it will get some nice morning sun and plenty of afternoon shade.  Second, remove any "unsavory" leaves that drain necessary nutrients from the fruit.  Add a thick layer of mulch and compost around the base of the plant and reduce the amount of water your plant is receiving.  The mulch will hold the moisture in the root system where it is needed most.  The compost will give it a last minute boost. Check your crops daily and pick those that are ready.  If left on the vine they will continue to deplete the plants energy.

Any way you look at it there is nothing quite like a fresh, ripe home grown tomato.  With the right amount of patience you will never be disappointed with your efforts for months to come.


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