The Q&A Archives: Tomato Plant Problems

Question: I've got a dozen tomato plants that have been doing very well despite the fact that I got them in late--at the end of June. We've got lots of green tomatoes that we're just waiting to have ripen up--but suddenly the vines are turning yellow and the new buds are starting to drop off. We've had a very dry summer, but I've been religious about watering. The plants are in a brand-new raised bed along with about twenty basil plants and are well-mulched with shredded cedar bark. I fed them twice, early-on, with Miracle Gro. Any advice? This is my first time with tomatoes!

Answer: Tomatoes are warm-weather crops and the plants stop producing when the nighttime temperatures begin to fall. (Blossoms won't set fruit if the weather is wet, or if the temperature isn't above 50F degrees at night.) Sounds as though your plants have experienced enough cool weather to send them into a state of decline. You can harvest the still-green tomatoes and if they've reached a certain stage of maturity, they'll turn red after harvest. Look for fruit that has dark green shoulders (sometimes looks like a star shape from the stem down to about one-third of the fruit). These will have the best chance of turning red after picking. Next year choose earlier-ripening varieties, or get them in the ground a few weeks earlier, and you're sure to have lots of red, ripe tomatoes before the weather turns cool.

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