Monday, August 29, 2011

What's Up with the Tomatoes?

This, sadly, is not a recent picture.

Rather, this is a picture of a partial week's garden harvest back in 2009.  This was the week that I brought in 75 pounds worth of tomatoes in one week alone, to say nothing of the rest of the season.  I figure that I brought in over 300 pounds of tomatoes that year.

The week of 75 pounds was a great week.  We ate tomatoes until we could eat no more, and then Friday night we came home from a dance, and I put a pot of tomato sauce on the stove to simmer and can until the wee hours.  Mr. FC&G, God love him, had just come home from a business trip, but he refused to go to bed until I did.  He slept on the couch until I woke him at about 4 in the morning, and his groggy first words were, "How many quarts?"  Fifty pounds of tomatoes had gone in to the stock pot and seven quarts of sauce came out of the canner, easily my largest canning haul ever.

Last year and this year have not been that good.  I wrote last year off as a bad tomato year.  This year started promising, with the vines heavy with fruit, and indeed I started by harvesting about a half dozen tomatoes a day for a couple of weeks.  But now all I have out there is a bunch of green tomatoes and very few blossoms that would indicate I will get much more, even assuming the inevitable frost holds off.

FYI:  I am in zone 5b, and I am growing Amish Paste, Big Rainbow, Brandywine, Black Krim, and a bunch of volunteers.

Possible culprits:
  • Wet spring/May hail storm
  • Hot, above 90 temps in July stopping the vines from setting fruit
  • Low producing heirloom varieties (my best producers are the volunteers)
  • Not enough/too much compost in the tomato section of the garden
  • Not enough manure (we didn't use any this year)
  • "No till" gardening using the broadfork in lieu of a mechanical tiller
Things I thought I did right:
  • Started my seedlings early
  • Planted them as soon as we got reliably warm days
  • Back filled each planting hole with compost
  • Better tomato trellises keeping vines off the ground
  • Making room for the high-producing volunteers
So, let me turn this sustainable living blog over to you.  What is going on with my tomatoes this year?  Am I ever going to have a 75 pound week again?  Leave me your thoughts in the comments!  How has your tomato year been?
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  1. Hi Jennifer...I've read your blog on and off since you joined the Survival Mom blogring...I only just figured out that we live 25 minutes apart. Go figure.

    This has been a VERY tough year for gardening. I think the heat, drought, wet spring just wreaked havoc on all our gardens. My tomato year has been sort of 'meh'...tons of green tomatoes that just wouldn't ripen...and then tons of ripe tomatoes rotting on the vine from the excessive heat. My Amish paste produced a total of about 12 tomatoes. Very disappointing. Had it not been for my cousin and his farm market and access to his fields, I wouldn't have been able to can much of anything in the way of tomatoes.

    Hang in there.

  2. Great to "meet" you Andrea! Nice to have confirmation that I'm not just losing my ability to grow tomatoes.