Tomatoe problem!!!

Smiles Jr.

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Hi everybody. I know, I know, it's been a long time. Life always gets in the way ;).
I have been a gardener for many years and luckily this is the first time for this issue for me. I started my heirloom seeds at the end of February in my greenhouse. I am an heirloom seed saver for as many garden plants as possible. This year my tomatoes seeds were a little bit slow germinating and a bit slow growing while in the starter trays. I put them out in the garden the first week of May (zone 6B). 10 Brandywines, 10 Mortgage Lifters, 10 Amish Paste. Only 5 out of the 30 have any tiny tomatoes and 7 have any blooms. Some of the plants are small and weaklings. Any ideas about what's going on and what to do? Thanks
 

digitS'

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Hi Smiles :frow !

If I had to guess, I would guess a soil problem.

Now, the slow going in the greenhouse for me in 2022 was the lack of sunlight. Really, there are lots of factors that can slow small seedlings down.

You didn't mention the age of the seed. My casual tomato seed-saving techniques limits performance to just a few years. At about 5 years, germination may still be close to 100% but the delay in emergence is maybe 3 times later than younger seed and seriously mess up the starting schedule for the group.

I've worked backwards in time ;). Let's return to the current moment. What are your thoughts about plant nutrients? Have you done anything different this year; let things slide regarding the maintaining of soil fertility and tilth?

How are You doing? Staying healthy?

Steve
 

flowerbug

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i consider tomatoes a heavy feeder and give them plenty of worm compost/worms when i'm planting them. i also plant them deeper so they can develop more roots and have a better chance of beating the hot summer climate we have here.

as for watering, right now we're on an every other day schedule due to lack of rain and our heavy mostly clay soil. they're doing well, some have flowers and a few have some fruits already, but we have a long ways to go yet.

if it has been really hot when the flowers have been coming out it might be a challenge to get fruits to set. while it may encourage disease issues, i'd rather have fruits than not so i will spray the plants down to cool them off and that also rattles the flowers and may give them a chance to pollinate.

you don't describe your conditions, soils, methods so i'm just rattling off what i do here since it seems to work even if the plants look pretty ragged by the end of the season.
 

Smiles Jr.

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Hi Steve and flowerbug, it's good to hear from you folks.
I have been diligent in harvesting new heirloom seeds every year and throwing away the previous year's collection. I guess I've inherited that from my dad, Smiles. I also rotate my crops every year. As far as soil condition it's the same half acre that we have taken very good care of for the past 20 years. Lots of organic material - ground up leaves, lots of compost (but there's never enough) and general broadcast of 5-5-5 fertilizer in early spring and spot organic 3-4-4 fertilizer every 4 weeks. Watering is done as needed from our pond. My makeshift irrigation system applies the water on the soil not the foliage.
One thing different this season is application of lawn grass clippings as mulch. Our next door neighbor down the road mows 3 acres of grass every week with his new mower that collects the clippings and he brings it to our little farm for our compost. I made it very clear to him that I do NOT want any weed killer, insect killer, nor fertilizer in the grass. We're very rural out here and nobody has manicured lawns. We mow whatever grows. This year I put about 6" of clippings around all of the tomato plants and in between the rows of other veggies and fruits.
 

flowerbug

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did you apply those grass clippings when the soil was still pretty cool? or perhaps too thickly all at once? those are issues that come to mind from your description of what you've done there.
 

ducks4you

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Too cold. EDIT:
Next time use heat mats inside.

We, west of You, have had a rotten Spring. The ONLY good thing was we Didn't have a cold snap when my fruit trees blossomed. I have the happy problem of needing to tie up and support my youngish pear tree bc it is loaded with pears.
Bad Spring start, BUT I think it's now good tomato weather.
@digitS' , I was able to sprout 35yo tomato seeds. I didn't pay attention to them and found them one inch tall and dried out. :hit
Tomato seeds, IF kept dry and in the dark, will keep for years before you try to plant them.
Tomatoes are beach bum snakes that live in the Florida Keys and shudder without the hot sun.
I always get late volunteers in various beds that aren't good for anything but saving seeds.
 
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heirloomgal

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Hi everybody. I know, I know, it's been a long time. Life always gets in the way ;).
I have been a gardener for many years and luckily this is the first time for this issue for me. I started my heirloom seeds at the end of February in my greenhouse. I am an heirloom seed saver for as many garden plants as possible. This year my tomatoes seeds were a little bit slow germinating and a bit slow growing while in the starter trays. I put them out in the garden the first week of May (zone 6B). 10 Brandywines, 10 Mortgage Lifters, 10 Amish Paste. Only 5 out of the 30 have any tiny tomatoes and 7 have any blooms. Some of the plants are small and weaklings. Any ideas about what's going on and what to do? Thanks
Hi @Smiles Jr. :frow

I'm an heirloom seed saver too! It's an interesting situation you present here. 🤔
IMHO I don't think it's likely to be a problem with your tomato seed, especially if you are using the fermentation method which rogues out the bad seed. I tend to suspect a possible soil or water issue somewhere along the way. I've had MANY batches of tainted starter mix, as unlikely as that seems. And with myriad products; one Pro-Mix bail I had was contaminated with what I believe was iron of some kind. The possibility is there, and it happens more often than we think. But if they are in the garden now and still not doing well that's a bit more of a puzzle. I have seen tomatoes that simply produce runt offspring - genetically inferior plants that never fulfil their variety makeup, but that has been rare. I can count on one hand how many times I've seen that in the last 14 years. So I doubt it's that either given how many you are seeing this in.

The blooming is a 50-50 sort of thing in that tomato transplants that are really stressed will bloom under pressure, so that some of them are not blooming is not necessarily a bad sign though never achieving flowering would of course be bad, or taking way too long as well.

I would check your soil and water for contaminants - if your transplant containers were fairly large and had bad mix that could conceivably continue to affect your tomatoes growth even though they are now in garden soil, given that the small, possibly stunted, roots would still be right in the mix. You might want to try adding some alfalfa meal or kelp meal to give it a boost and see if that can push them toward a more vigorous form of growth, and expand the root system to garner more strength for the plants.

eta: The mulch is not likely to be a cause either since you mention they were slow even in the starter trays pre-mulch.
 
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Smiles Jr.

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did you apply those grass clippings when the soil was still pretty cool? or perhaps too thickly all at once? those are issues that come to mind from your description of what you've done there.
I really don't remember if the soil was cold or warm. My guess is that it was 60* or above.
 

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