Bea Westerberg column: Real tomatoes can have real problems


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Update on some facts and observations;

• As of July 7, 2018, the corn in the field across the road from me was 7 and ½ feet high. Is it safe to say it was knee high on the Fourth of July?

• By the time you read this, it will be on the outer edge of the middle June to middle July section of 2018. Safe to say we are heading into the second half of the year by anyone's calculation.

• It's now OK for me to take the cleats off my shoes for outdoor dog walking. Found them on a day when all the other shoes went missing but I have not put the cleats away. One can hope that the "black hole" will not get them come winter time when I will really need them.

• The things that are lovely but growing in the wrong places (weeds) are doing very, very fine. Best year ever for some of them!

Last week we talked about planning and what is available in the world of tomatoes. or those of you who have the tomatoes planted and are waiting for the first tomato here is a bit of information in case you are running into problems.

Those of you who planted "60 day" tomatoes are probably just about ready to enjoy them. They will be small but they will be REAL.

In Minnesota the only other way for getting garden tomatoes early is to start and grow them in a greenhouse setting. The Vangs at the Hastings Farm Market have a super large greenhouse where they grow the tomatoes in ground but are in a greenhouse setting that they probably started in the dead of winter. Their "80 to 90 day" tomatoes have been ready for almost a month now and are available at the market.

The "day number" is very important to know what to expect from your tomatoes. That will determine if they are early, medium or late tomatoes. You pay the price in size for early tomatoes and they get bigger the longer it takes for them to mature. That is why the big juicy beefsteaks are almost the last to come because they are "late" and usually "80 to 90 day" varieties.

The bad

A lot of bad things can happen to those gems you loving planted, staked and watered. First of all, hopefully you have planted them after the soil was warmed up to 55 degrees and put the roots deep in slightly acidic soil. They also need a lot of space for air circulation and should be well staked and mulched.

If you have had a cutworm problem the damage would be done by now. Next year put a ring of newspaper at least one inch into the soil and one inch above the soil. It will degrade but by that time the stem will be big enough to fend off that bad boy cutworm.

A large number of tomato problems come from the fungi that can live for years in the soil and is activated by water and/or heat. Changing planting sites does help some but is not a sure thing. Mulch well so that your watering and rain water do not splash up on the plants. Deep water every few days rather than a bit of water every day. Skip the sprinklers for tomatoes and water early morning so the leaves can dry off before it gets hot and burns the leaves. Direct the water at the base of the tomato plants to keep water off the leaves.

If you see any nasty things and/or dying leaves, remove and put in trash that goes away. NO COMPOSTING OF ANYTHING TOMATO!

One of the big problems we have in this area is "blossom end rot. That is the nasty stuff you see when you turn over a truly beautiful tomato and fall into total disappointment. That is generally attributed to lack of calcium in the soil and also heavy rain and overwatering. Many words to say about this so Google and get information on to deal with it.

Maybe you are saying, "I have got the very best and biggest tomato plants I have ever grown but have no fruit!" That means you have over fertilized with nitrogen and have produced wonderful plants that have no intention of ever fruiting. You can try cutting them back a lot, but it may not help much but it is worth a try for this year. You now know what to "not do" next year.

For those of you going outside the box and trying a new tomato be sure you know what color it is supposed to be when ripe. I can't tell you how many times I have had to tell people that their tomato was ripe when it was purple or light green or dark brown. Its next stage is rot.