Release date: June 28, 2013

Contact: A. Lynette Parsons, 409-550-3065

 

What happened to my tomatoes?  Where are the blooms?  Should I just pull them up?  These are the questions gardeners ask when June and July roll around each year.  And the answers involve timing, temperature, and tomato varieties.

 

Tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant are all from the same family (Solanaceae), but their growth times and patterns vary over the season.  Potatoes like the cooler weather early in spring, and their flowers show up late, just about the time the potatoes are ready for pulling out of the ground.  Eggplant likes it hot, and will sulk in the dirt until the temperature is suitable for this plant to bear; it does no good to get it in the ground in the early spring, but it will bear fruit during the hotter months.  Tomatoes sit in the middle of the family; you want to plant them as soon as the soil warms up from the winter chill, but you have to get them in early enough for them to bloom before the temperatures rise.  When day temperatures exceed 85°F and night temperatures exceed 72°F, tomato flowers will abort. So there’s your answer for why the tomatoes aren’t blooming right now; and if you still have a few small tomatoes sweating it out, consider yourself lucky. They were the last to bloom and get fertilized before the heat hit.

 

So should you give up and pull the plants?  You have a couple of other options, actually.  If you want to try to nurse the plants through the summer, they will eventually bloom again when the weather cools.  You can try to make baby plants from branches of the existing plant. (Don’t cut the branches off, though; you layer dirt over them and water well for a couple of weeks to get some roots started.  You can then cut them from the mother plant and toss it away.) These babies will be growing through the heat, but will be in fine shape for flowering when the temperatures cool.  Another option for the future is to plant heat-resistant varieties of tomatoes.  “Heatmaster,” “Phoenix,” “Creole,” and “Summer Set” are just a few of the ones available, and local gardeners with these varieties are reporting that though small, they are still getting tomatoes.  Cherry tomatoes also do better in our heat than larger varieties.

 

It’s bug season, and your ornamentals as well as your fruit trees may need some attention. Aphids, bagworms, whiteflies, citrus leafminer, and scale are all critters that thrive right now. A healthy plant can resist most of these without much damage, but the insects aren’t attractive, and can cause other cosmetic problems, like sooty mold.  So keep your shadow in the garden to inspect the plants, and use insecticidal soaps or a trusty hose with a stream of water to keep these summer pests under control.  And give your plants a drink; with our current lack of rain, they need that water to survive. And if they are setting fruit, more water means fuller pecans and juicier citrus.

 

And finally, how goes your lawn? If you are seeing funny circular patches in your St. Augustine, you might want to know about Take-All-Patch.  This is the time of year that Take-All, Greasy Spot, and various fungal issues occur.  They tend to be environmental problems, and show up especially in well-manicured and well-watered St. Augustine lawns.  You can learn more about them on the Internet or in books at the local library.  Or of course, you can contact the Agri-Life Extension Service for Chambers County, conveniently located at White’s Park.  Happy mowing!

 

– Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.