The Q&A Archives: Tomatoes and Peppers Do Not Ripen

Question: I have a terrible time getting tomatoes and peppers to ripen. Planting earlier varieties doesn't seem to help. I have very heavy black clay gumbo soil so root crops don't do well, however I have good success growing vine crops (squash, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins). Is this a soil deficiency? Plants appear healthy, and blossom and fruit early, but have been set for over a month with no indication of ripening. This happens every year and I am sick of throwing out 100's of pounds of green tomatoes every year. Please help, I am tired of all my neighbors getting tomatoes, peppers and corn weeks before me.

Answer: I think you'll have better luck with your heat-loving tomato, pepper and corn if you grow them in raised beds and add compost or other organic material to the soil. This lightens the soil, allows the soil to warm more quickly in spring, giving plants more of a jump on the season. Black or red plastic mulch over the beds warms soil further. Tomatoes require nightime temperatures of 55+ to ripen, so cover plants with fabric row covers to warm them up during the day and keep them warm at night (do the same for your peppers). It's a good practice for your corn, too, until it gets too tall! It wouldn't hurt to have your soil tested, but since your vine crops are maturing well, I doubt nutrient availability is the problem. Also, check with your county extension service (ph# 218/643-5481) to find out which varieties are proven winners for your region. Best of luck!

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