It’s officially been the worst tomato growing season we have ever had. I’m pretty sure I speak for most people when I say that. The combination of the unusually cool summer days, even cooler summer nights and the early rain last week have wreaked havoc on our tomato plants and other warm weather lovers. So when do you throw in the towel?
In previous years the tomato plants were producing so abundantly that by this time of year we didn’t feel bad about just tearing out the plants and putting in some nice cool weather crops. But we didn’t even get our first ripe tomato until the first week of September this year and it breaks my heart to let any of the fruit left on the vine go to waste.
There are a few things you can do to save your existing fruit and prolong your tomato harvest just a little bit longer.
1) Remove any excess foliage from the plant especially damaged leaves, leaves with mildew or yellow spotting and any broken stems. This gives the remaining fruit some new fresh air and sunlight.
2)Forget it, the blossoms that are appearing now are not going to go anywhere. Blossoms or stems with blossoms should be removed. They are just sucking energy from the plant that could be better used on the fruit that will ripen before the last bit of warm weather passes us.
3) Remove any cracked or splitting fruit. The heavy rains last week gave your tomato plants way more water than it is used to or needs. All that water gets absorbed quickly into the fruits and splits those babies right open. Those open cracks or splits are just waiting for nasty bacteria and mold to come on in and set up shop. Get rid of them to give your other fruit a chance to ripen. This goes for things like pumpkins or squash too.
4) If you know a rain is coming, pick any fruit that is even close to ripe. Put that fruit in a paper bag with an apple and seal it up for a few days. Those tomatoes will be just as good and ripe as if you left them on the plant and you have prevented them from getting waterlogged.
But maybe you are just ready to throw in the towel? Maybe the plants you have are just too far gone. Go ahead, cut your losses and just tear them out. You probably only have limited growing space that could be better used for some delicious broccoli, spinach or kale.
And think about what a rough growing season you had this summer when you are at the farmer’s market this week. Imagine if you were trying to make your living with these kind of un-forseen challenges. Help those farmers out by buying up their softer more blemished tomatoes and make yourself some home made pasta sauce. It will be just as good as if the fruits are nice and pretty.