The Q&A Archives: Tomatoes Without Fruit

Question: I have always grown great looking tomato plants but I never have a lot of fruit. The plants are always big, green and beautiful but very little fruit. I have always used a balanced fertilizer like 12-12-12 and manure on my garden, is this my problem. All my root crops grow really well but no tomatoes or green pepers.

Answer: Sounds like too much nitrogen. The 12-12-12 you have been using is great on the last 2 numbers, phosphorus and potassium, but too high on the nitrogen (first number). Too much nitrogen results in a lot of lush, green vegetative growth but poor fruit productions. Let's talk about a plan of action. Tomatoes are referred to as "heavy feeders"; they require quite a large food supply over the season. It is a good idea to add some fertilizer to the soil at planting time. A mix such as 5-10-10 is preferable. You want to concentrate on the potassium and phosphorous for tomatoes. Tomatoes also require a "side dressing" of fertilizer a few times throughout the growing season. Generally, this side dressing is applied when the first tomatoes have just formed and every three weeks after that. When side dressing apply the fertilizer by making a circular furrow approximately 5-6" away from the main stem of the tomato. Work the fertilizer into the top 1-2" of the soil. The next rain or watering will carry the fertilizer to the root zone of the tomatoes. The amount you apply will be dependent upon the type, size, number, etc. of tomatoes you are growing. Check your fertilizer label for exact amounts. Too much nitrogen can also cause poorpepper production. There may be other factors at work with the peppers as well. I can think of two probable culprits. Peppers can be very temperamental, they are especially sensitive to extreme temperatures -- a cool spell or heat wave during flowering can cause the flowers or small fruits to drop. This of course, results in poor fruit production. I would stick to the 5-10-10 for the peppers as well. Apply at planting time, and every two weeks thereafter. Consider also working some organic matter into the soil of the peppers AND the tomatoes. Compost, leaf mould, or composted cow manure is great. Peppers aren't particularly picky (that was hard to type) about rich soil, (tomatoes really like it though) but organic material has a lot of nutrients that any plant appreciates. Magnesium is also very important to peppers, consider applying a fine layer of Epsom salts to the soil and gently working it in at planting time. Also, have you had a soil test recently? If your pH is very low or very high,it can interfere with nutrient uptake. You can contact your Cooperative Extension office for details about a soil test. One other thing, you mention using manure on your garden, are you using fresh or composted? Fresh manure really shouldn't be used on your plants, it is very "hot" (high in nitrogen) and can burn your plants. In addition, you really don't need more nitrogen on your tomatoes and peppers.<br><br>You might also try another variety, just to see if that could be a factor. Interestingly, pepper plants are particularly bothered by wind. Try planting them where they'll have some protection from strong winds.

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