Ask a Question forum: Tomato flower drop--blame it on El Nino?

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South Florida (Zone 10a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers
Jan 15, 2016 10:43 AM CST
It's been a frustrating winter garden season in my South Florida garden. So far all flowers are dropping prematurely on Better Boy, Pheonix, and BHN 975.
My guess is no pollination due to either high humidity (El Nino?) and/or low levels of pollinators (haven't seen a bee in weeks).

Anyone else having this trouble?
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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Jan 15, 2016 3:55 PM CST
Welcome to ATP!

I don't know about your tomatoes: I couldn't live much farther away from you without leaving the contiguous 48 states!

Most tomatoes will pollinate themselves if you shake, tap or vibrate the branches. You might try that to rule out "lack of pollinating insects" as the problem. But if humidity or heat is killing the pollen, shaking the blooms won't help.

That's why most tomato varieties will be 80-98% self-pollinated even if you grow them side-by-side with other varieties. (Having lots of aggressive insect pollinators would increase the rate of cross-pollination).

Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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Jan 19, 2016 9:33 AM CST
I do have tomatoes with fruit that were planted in September. I'm still picking fruit and do have blooms but they're not setting any new fruit right now. You're right, the blossoms just drop.

At this time of year, I usually blame the weather - tomatoes set fruit in a range of night temperatures, and if it's above or below those, you get bloom drop. We've had it pretty warm, (and you're warmer) even at night but it wasn't too warm for them to set fruit. It might be the abrupt temperature drops we saw during the holidays, and again this last week or so. I've been covering my plants in hopes they wouldn't go dormant, but I think they have. Going to take a stabilizing of the temperatures to get them going again.

I wouldn't ditch the plants just yet, unless there's evidence of other maladies like browning leaves or something (indicative of a blight or fungal thing going on). They will start blooming and setting fruit again in a month or so.

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Jan 21, 2016 11:36 AM CST
If the bees can't fly, they won't be doing their job so may need some assistance. Flick the open blossoms with your finger nail a couple times or brush your finger across the open blossom and see if that helps.

If the problem continues after your weather issues are resolved and the bees are visiting your tomatoes, look at the amount of fertilzer they are getting (heavy feeders) or water (lack of). Too much water would cause the entire plant to show signs of stress.


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