Tip: Tomato Blossom Drop

Do you know what causes blossoms to drop from your tomato plants? Tomato blossom drop is usually caused by above 90F or below 50F temperatures. To protect plants against heat, provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. To protect against cold temperatures, cover plants with a floating row cover.

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Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!


Heirloom Tomatoes – How to know if your tomatoes are heirloom

Do you know what an heirloom tomato is? A particularly large number of heirloom tomato varieties are available today, mainly because tomatoes normally do not cross-pollinate. An heirloom tomato is a variety that has been around for 50 plus years.

Seed saved from heirloom fruits, non-hybrid varieties, produce plants fairly identical to the parent plant. Many of the odder colors and types that have resurfaced lately have their origins in these older, self-saved varieties. The plant type is usually large, sprawling and late compared to current commercial varieties.

Disease resistance may also be expected. If the gardener wants to try a few truly weird or tasty types of heirloom tomatoes, these usually mature some fruits almost anywhere except in the shortest-season areas in Northern states. Specialty seed houses and exchanges are a source of the widest variety of heirloom tomatoes imaginable. I also have seeds of many heirloom varieties mentioned below.

Heirloom varieties can include Green Zebra, Beefsteak, Mortgage Lifter, Arkansas Traveler, Brandywine, Bloody Butcher, Amish Paste, Stupice, Marglobes and Rutgers to name a few. These tomatoes made this list because they perform well under a wide range of conditions and delivering the flavor people want from homegrown tomatoes.

If you like them enough to start saving seeds, which is the first step toward cultivating varieties that are especially well-suited to your garden, you can save the seeds in a cool dry place for next year.

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Happy Gardening! – The Organic Home and Gardening Gal & Master Gardener

Harvesting Tomato Tips – Summer and Fall Harvesting

Do you know when to harvest tomatoes? Tomatoes should be firm and fully colored. They are of highest quality when they ripen on the vine and daily summer temperatures average about 75°F.

When the temperatures are high, at least 90°F, the softening process is accelerated and color development is retarded, reducing quality. For this reason, you should pick your tomatoes every day or two, harvest the fruits when color has started to develop and ripen them further indoors between 70 and 75°F.

On the day before a killing freeze is expected, harvest all green mature fruit that is desired for later use in the fall. If you wrap the tomatoes individually in newspaper and store at 60 to 65°F, they will continue to ripen slowly over the next several weeks. Whole plants can be uprooted and hung in sheltered locations, where fruit continues to ripen. Just don’t forget about your tomatoes sitting in a box in another room.

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Cutworms to be Bad this Year! Household items are a Solution!

Often, the best way to prevent cutworms is by applying cutworm collars to your tomato plants made from household items. These cutworm collars can be made by using stiff paper, toilet or paper towel rolls, 2×6″ newspaper collars, milk cartons, aluminum foil or even carefully cut tin cans. These are great organic ways to be rid of cutworms.

The newspaper can be left in your garden to decay so you don’t have to remove it when the season is over and it is good for your soil. Place the cutworm collars firmly in the soil around the base of the tomato plant and make sure the cutworm collars are at least 2 inches high.

This should help prevent cutworms from climbing tomato plants and causing damage to the tomato plants and other susceptible plants in the garden. If you are not sure what to look for, cutworms are mostly a dark gray with a white stip on either side.

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Happy Gardening from Master Gardener Girl!!

Common Tomato Diseases

Keep your tomato crop in top shape by avoiding some common diseases:

Early blight:

“Early blight affects the tomato foliage, the fruits and the stems. It is caused by the Alternaria solani fungus. Symptoms include dark spots that have concentric rings. A bulls-eye pattern may develop. The oldest leaves develop this first, and the leaves may fade to yellow. If the leaves die the tomatoes are left exposed and may be subject to sun scald.
Cure: The affected tomato plants must be removed and all debris must be disposed of. This fungus is soil borne, and will survive the winter. Therefore anything an affected tomato plant has touched should be removed as it is most likely contaminated. You should use a resistant tomato cultivar and rotate your crops.

Late blight:

Late blight is caused by the Phytophthora infestans fungus and affects both tomatoes and potatoes. It is especially dangerous if the weather is particularly cool and wet. Late blight was the fungus that caused the Irish Potato famine. The leaves will have lesions and will appear as irregular gray spots. If the weather is damp a white mold may appear around the spots. Once the tomato fruits become infected they will develop dark regions that will cover a large percentage of the tomato. The fungus may be spread tomato plant to tomato plant by wind or rain.
Cure: Make sure you allow adequate spacing between the tomato plants and avoid overhead watering especially in the afternoon or evening. Pull out and destroy any effected tomato plants. Make sure you don’t use any rotten potatoes in your compost as this is a carrier of the fungus.

Bacterial Wilt:

Bacterial wilt is caused by Ralstonia solanacearum, which enters the tomato plants roots through wounds made by insects, or natural wounds that occur where secondary roots begin to grow. The disease grows most easily in a warm and moist environment. Once inside the tomato plant the bacteria multiplies quickly and fills the plant with slime. This leads to the wilting of the plant, but the leaves remain green.
Cure: Bacterial wilt is very hard to control as the bacteria can survive in the soil for several seasons. Make sure you remove any infected tomato plants and the soil the tomatoes touched if possible. Crop rotation has been known to help, especially with plants that aren’t affected by the bacteria such as beans, cabbage, and corn.

Southern Blight:

Southern Blight is caused by the Sclerotium rolfsii fungus. Generally the first symptom is the drooping of the tomato leaves, which is common for other wilts. Next a brownish dry rot will develop on the tomato plant right near the soil line. Next a white fungus will begin to develop and lesions will develop on the stems. This will in turn cause the whole tomato plant to wilt and die.
Cure: Unfortunately the fungus can live for years in the soil, so if your crop develops this destroy the tomato plants and any soil the tomato plants touched. In addition crop rotation with plants that aren’t affected by the fungus could help, as you never know if you really removed all the contaminated soil.”