Hensley258
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I just give up on Tomatos

What am I doing wrong? (2nd year failure with Tomatoes)
This year I planted 6 tomato plants. I have extracted all clay from the soil and planted them with nice dark soil and mixed some granulated organic fertilizer in that soil.

I have a nice wire cone over each plant for support. I keep the soil slightly moist. They get plenty of sun and the plants grow nice and tall and healthy looking, but don't produce fruit. I get a few flowers but that's all.

The rest of my veggies are growing like gang busters, but the tomatoes just sit there doing nothing. Yesterday they were attacked by dozens of the huge green catipillers the size of your finger, but they had been in the ground so long they weren't going to fruit anyway.

I just can't grow tomatoes. Is it my soil? It's a nice nutrient rich soil. I'm so discouraged. My 2nd year trying tomatos and still nothing. My neighbor has a ton and he just stuck his in the ground with no care at all.

I need help. I must be missing something. :(
"The Tomato Gods hate me."

731greener101
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Don't give up.When you achieve even a modest amount of fruit you will keep growing wanting to do as well or better than you have ever grown.Do you test your soil regularly?Is your soil too fertile?We all make mistakes even though we do our best.I have been growing tomatoes since preteen age and three years ago switched to organic gardening.Even with research I made the mistake of applying too much carbon to one of my gardens and ended up with it out of balance.Small swings Rod(remember small swings).With experience you gain knowledge and knowlege demands data to know where you've been and where you need to go.Greener

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lorax
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This may sound impossible, but your soil is too rich. When tomatoes grow like you've described without flowering much or setting any fruit, there's too much Nitrogen available to them, and not enough Potassium or Phosphorus. I generally grow my tomatoes in the most marginal-soil area of the garden each year, following a crop that I know to be a heavy feeder, and fertilize with seaweed, which is lower N and higher PK.

Next year, maybe try turning some peat and less rich soil (maybe break up some of the clay and add a bit of it in too), and treat with seaweed to bring the pH down a bit (tomatoes like it acid) and the PK rating up. A simple soil-testing kit, which is available in most garden centers, will help you immensely in correcting the soils. However, you won't want to grow them in the same spot next year - rotate them to a different spot in the garden. If you grow corn or beans, that's the ideal place to put the tomatoes next year - both plants consume massive amounts of N from the soil, but less PK, and you'll end up with pretty much perfect soils for the tomatoes. Rotation also helps keep the soil pest-free and reduces the incidence of blight.

Too bad about the Tomato Hornworms :( but that's a hazard of growing tomatoes. If you see them again next year, just pick 'em off and squish'em.

TZ -OH6
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Yup, soil is too good, too many nutrients. Also, tomatoes are one of the few things that thrive in clayey soil as long as it doesn't block them from getting down to water.

Timing is critical in the South because of the heat. Heirloom guru Craig Lehoullier is having one of his worst seasons ever in North Carolina because of this year's temps.

Hensley258
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Location: Memphis, TN

That would explain why my neighbor just put his in the clay soil that's already in the ground and got good tomatoes.

I never thought a soil could be to nutrient rich. Next time I will just till up that soil with the clay and get it tested. Anyway to keep these giant worms off of the plants?
"The Tomato Gods hate me."

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lorax
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For the Hornworms, you can try planting a trap crop, like Tobacco or Datura, or otherwise just keep pickin' them off the bushes and squishing them. If your neighbourhood allows, try keeping a couple or three hens - they love to eat hornworms. Barring that, make it a game with your kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews - 25 cents a worm. There are chemical controls, but they're pretty nasty and they affect the good bugs, too.

731greener101
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Lorax made good suggestions.You can also plant dill nearby. The hornworms like it better and are easier to see.Greener

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Zapatay
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I don’t know about that clay soil – I have clay soil and I couldn’t grow them too well the first two years.
Last fall I came across some manure and laid it on top of my growing area w/ some straw/hay and leaves.
Spring I tilled it in and I’m blessed to say things are looking good.


Worms
This year: get a couple birdhouses, bird bath, bird seed and put it around the garden. Attract some birds :)
Next year: plant some sunflowers and other bird loving plants in addition to houses and bird bath

tedln
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Don't use the results from this years garden to give up on growing tomatoes. It has been a bad year for most folks due to the early onset of high heat. Some people have done well, but most haven't. I'm leaving my plants in the ground waiting for some cooler weather. If the plants live through the heat, it isn't uncommon to have a good fall crop of tomatoes when the spring crop was a total failure. You may have to prune your plants back a little to remove the upper growth and allow new growth lower on the plants to produce the fall crop. Most of my spring planted plants are sending new growth out from the bottom of the plants. It usually sprouts from the old growth eight or ten inches above the ground. After it is well developed and growing, trim back the old top growth and allow the lower growth to bloom and produce. You don't need to prune all the top growth off. Just prune enough to cause the plants to send their nutrients to the new growth instead of the old growth.

I use a product named "thuricide" with good results. It is a biological control. The product contains a bacteria which the caterpillar ingests when it eats part of a plant. The caterpillar has to eat it or it won't do anything. I had two or three caterpillar attacks this year. In each case I found the infestation while they were small, sprayed the thuricide, and they were dead and gone in a few hours.

Ted
I simply enjoy gardening!

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farmerlon
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Re: I just give up on Tomatos

Hensley258 wrote:... I have extracted all clay from the soil and planted them with nice dark soil and mixed some granulated organic fertilizer in that soil. ...
(
Yes, I think your soil is either too fertile (too much Nitrogen), or your pH might be way off. Have a soil test done at your local county extension.

Tomatoes will do fine in a clay soil, as long as it's not total "hardpan". A good "organic garden" clay soil that has ample organic matter (compost) added is great for tomatoes.

msgenie516
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Marlingardener wrote:Hensley,
You have received some great advice here--don't overfeed your tomatoes, keep them moist and mulched, and I find that the cheap metal tongs from the kitchen area of dollar stores are made for hornworm pickin'!
Next year (season) plant your tomato transplants deeply, up to the first set of leaves, put a crushed eggshell or two in the hole before planting, fertilize when the plants start to show new growth, and then leave them alone except for watering and mulching. You will have tomatoes. It isn't you--it's the method, and we all have to learn it.
Too funny! Metal tongs (I already had them in the utensil drawer) were the first thing I reached for when I found hornworms (amazingly, only two) on my tomato plants. One I left alone anyway, as it was covered with wasp larvae, and now I see that I can't find that one anymore.

I am new to this forum but I have a feeling that most folks here are more into organic gardening and would prefer not to use my fertilizing methods. But, in case you're interested, I use Miracle-Gro for tomatoes and it does work well. I cannot make a compost pile (really no place to put it and I know hubby would object if I made a place) or turn over the garden soil (just not that muscular and my husband isn't interested in my gardening "habit") so it's Miracle-Gro or nothing for me. I do the Miracle-Gro a little different from most folks as I add a level teaspoon to a 2 gallon watering can EVERY day to fertilize my tomato plants. I am happy to report that no matter how bad the growing season weather turns out to be, I get LOTS of large tomatoes every year.

Good luck with your tomatoes! :D Genie

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rainbowgardener
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Every one has to find their own way of gardening.

But you could do composting if you wanted to. Here were your reasons not to:

I cannot make a compost pile (really no place to put it and I know hubby would object if I made a place) or turn over the garden soil (just not that muscular and my husband isn't interested in my gardening "habit") so it's Miracle-Gro or nothing for me.

Space:

A compost bin takes up very little space. This one for e.g. has a footprint 2' square:

https://www.gardeners.com/Eco-Stack-Composter/20706,38-536,default,cp.html

Who doesn't have 2' in their garden somewhere?

Turn over the garden soil:

What does that have to do with composting? Once you make your compost you can just put it on top of the soil, called top dressing, or you can make compost tea or compost extract with it (for the extract, put some compost in a bucket of water, add a little molasses to get the soil biologies started, stir it around for a little while, pour on the ground or strain and spray on your plants for foliar feeding). Or put some in your planting hole or row (you do plant don't you) Or put some in your watering can every day like you do with the MG...

What would hubby be objecting to if it isn't the space? Smell? there is NO smell if you are doing it right. If there's a smell, it indicates a problem come back and ask us about it. Cost? Remember that bin is going to last many years. If you spend $100 on something that (conservatively) lasts ten years, that's $10 a year. But if you don't want to spend it, there's lots of home made composter for very cheap or even free with found materials. Check out this thread:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=137097&highlight=homemade+compost+bins#137097

Now come back and tell us why you aren't composting! :)

What do you do with all the stuff that would go in the compost pile? Pulled weeds, grass clippings, trimmings and deadheaded flowers, fall leaves etc? Yard waste bags that go to land fill? Kitchen scraps down the garbage disposal? Did you know that some cities have started to ban garbage disposals because all the ground up scraps get coated in oil and then make so much problem for the water system? "There is no such place as away" :)
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

msgenie516
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Hi Rainbowgardener,

Please realize that I'm not trying to convince anyone to do as I do. I only mentioned my methods as the OP sounded very discouraged and I just thought I would pass on what works for me. I did suggest that the OP might not be interested. I am aware, that on these type of forums, my methods aren't popular.

By the way, I stay away from all other chemicals, including fungicides and insectides. This did me in a bit this year, as two of my plants seem to be suffering from some kind of blight. I did buy a fungicide (a Daconil type) but after reading the label, I never got the courage to use it. When two of my plants have problems, it's a big deal for me, as I usually only plant three. Luckily, this year, I planted five.

You mentioned the matter of the small space a compost bin takes up. Unfortunately, I don't even have a "real" garden. I invaded a flower bed to plant my first three tomato plants (as I'm sure you know, you can't crowd tomato plants) and I actually took over a portion of a second flower bed to plant the extra two. So the compost bin would have to go into a flower bed, which would reduce my planting area even more.

I consider myself lucky that my husband puts up with my chickens, which are housed in a more shaded area that wouldn't be good for gardening, anyway. At this point, I am not willing to sacrifice the chickens for a compost bin. I get too many good, fresh eggs! My husband does take the chicken manure and feed the shrubs with it, but I'm always afraid he's going to burn them (hasn't happened yet, though). I hesitate to use it (even after it's aged) because, simply, I don't know what I'm doing and don't know how to control the strength. That is basically my fear with any kind of compost.

BTW, I don't have a garbage disposal, so that's not an issue.

On top of everything else, I take care of my 88 year old mother (who can't walk). This is a major job and I guess I'm may just be looking for the easiest way out with the tomatoes, as I'm not willing to give them up, either.

FYI, I planted Brandy Boy (hybrid) and Brandywine (Heirloom) tomatoes this year. Surprisingly, the Brandywines are faring much better as far as disease is concerned. They may be all I plant next year.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your garden! :D Genie

tedln
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Genie,

I don't think most people on this forum consider themselves "organic" gardeners. Most simply do what makes sense in their environment and conditions.

Many people are very reluctant to ever go to doctor. That is until they get really, really, really sick. That is how I am in the garden. I avoid pesticides until I recognize nothing else is working. I avoid commercial fertilizers until I recognize some plants are going to die if they don't get some nitrogen fast.

I believe natural is best, but unnatural will work fine in an emergency.

Ted
I simply enjoy gardening!

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