Growing Tomatoes

Michelle RobertsGardening


Tomato Plants without Tomatoes? Tomatoes that are not ripening? Small tomatoes?

It’s August and time to start harvesting tomatoes. A big frustration for many gardeners is big beautiful tomato plants with very few blossoms and no tomatoes or tomatoes that are still green and the winter season is coming, but the tomatoes won’t ripen. An abundance of small tomatoes is also a frustration for some.  Why is this happening and what can you do to overcome the problem in time to harvest?

Most of the problems with a lack of tomato set is an over abundance of growth energy in the soil and a lack of reproductive energy. Jon Frank of International Ag labs explains it this way:

“The basic principle of growth vs. fruiting energy in soil is that both need to be closely matched but slightly skewed one way or the other depending on the crop being raised. Think of a teeter totter. If you want more growth energy this side should be up. If you want reproductive energy then the other side should be up. A teeter totter works when both sides weigh nearly the same. If one side has 100 lbs. and the other side 300 lbs. it doesn’t work well. If one side has 30 lbs. and the other side 300 lbs. it doesn’t work at all.”

If we are growing leafy greens like lettuce, chard, or spinach, we want lots of growth energy. We don’t want reproductive energy because we don’t want the leafy greens to bolt and go to seed. In a tomato plant, we want both, but toward the middle of the season we want to make sure the energy in the soil and the plant is changed to more reproductive energy.

A soil lower in calcium is generally going to have reproductive energy. A soil high in calcium and low in phosphorus is going to have more growth energy. In order to make a change from growth energy to reproductive energy we need to add certain elements to the soil and to the plant. You can change the energy in the soil by adding ammonium sulfate, fertilizer with a high phosphorus number ( 11 – 52 – 0 ) to the soil. You can apply a reproductive spray like a combination of Bloomit and WayAhead 7X to the plant to change the energy of the plant. There are other granular fertilizers that you can mix with water then drench the plant and the soil around it.  Look for high middle numbers.

Why apply ammonium sulfate?

Jon Frank explains:
“Broadcast some ammonium sulfate, 11-52-0 or urea, then spray the plants with a dilute reproductive spray made from household ammonia, phosphoric acid, vinegar etc. The broadcast switches the soil while the foliar spray switches the plants. Nitrogen can be growth energy or reproductive energy depending on molecular configuration. When nitrogen is in the nitrate form it creates growth energy in plants and soil. Reproductive energy comes in the form of ammoniacal, urea, or organic nitrogen. This dual form of energy for nitrogen makes it the most confusing element to consider when looking at energy. A basic principle to always remember is that plant growth is all about energy.”

Green tomatoesIf your tomatoes are not ripening, you need to stress the plant.  Backing off on the water or actually breaking down the branches will cause the tomato plant to go into a sort of survival mode which causes it to ripen all of its fruit.

Small tomatoes are caused by lack of nutrients and water or by numerous tomato sets and leaves.  Prune almost 1/2  of the leaves allowing more air circulation and light to reach the center of the plant.  By taking off the leaves, the plant energy can focus on growing tomatoes instead of leaf growth.  Also, by pinching back some of the last tomatoes to set on each vine,  the tomatoes left will grow larger.