The Q&A Archives: Tomatoes seem acidic

Question: For the past two years my Sweet Million tomatoes (a variety I've grown for years) have been more acidic than usual. I haven't changed my fertilizing practices or anything else that I am aware of. How can I get my sweet tomatoes back? Bettie Goosman Livermore, CA

Answer: Your tomatoes aren't getting more acidic, but they may be getting less sweet, says Tim Hartz, vegetable crops specialist at the University of California, Davis. As sugars decrease in the fruits, the acids become more noticeable. A less vigorous plant growing under stressful conditions will produce a more acidic tasting fruit than the same variety growing under ideal conditions will, he explains. The stress factors affecting your plants are probably your climate or insect and disease damage, Hartz says. It's tough growing ideal tomatoes in the Livermore area because of the cool, wet springs and the sometimes cloudy summers. You can try reducing the weather related stress by warming the air and soil around the plants to increase their growth rate: Grow the tomatoes in black plastic mulch and under row covers. Also check regularly for any insect and disease damage that may be stressing your plants. Applying fertilizer will help sweeten fruits only if the plants are lacking in nutrients, says Hartz. Do a soil test to check the fertility of your soil.

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