A Bad Year For Tomatoes?

Not that I'm happy that everyone else is suffering, but it's nice to know it's not just something I've done wrong. Not that I was really convinced that I had. The complete lack of tomatoes at the farmer's market for the past few weeks let me know that something bad was up, and this excerpt from Gwen Mellinger's column today in the LJWorld confirms it.

When I look at the condition of my tomato plants and make note of the date, I have no reason to complain. By the end of July, the wear and tear of summer in the garden is discernible in the texture and color of the leaves. Even healthy plants have a leathery look and feel to them. Certainly, the unrelenting highs above 100 degrees last week did my plants no favors. But even if that were not the case, by this point in the summer Kansas tomato plants have seen better days. If mine could be reincarnated as rock stars, they’d all come back as Keith Richards.

What’s different this year is that the tomatoes are ripening later than normal. While I have loads of fruit on the plants, the tomatoes seem slow to ripen. I speculate that it’s a combination of the late planting and protracted periods of excessive heat and drought. It’s hard to remember that in May we had a couple of weeks of rain accompanied by low temperatures that kept the soil in many area gardens too damp to work. As a result, many area gardeners did not get their hot-weather crops planted until late May, which was two to four weeks later than normal. Had we received sufficient rainfall in June, this would not have mattered, as tomato plants can quickly make up lost time in early summer. However, hot and dry conditions handicapped tomato plants' early growth. By now we should be carting vine-ripened tomatoes into the house by the bushel instead of just now easing into the harvest.

The dilemma here is that we need to keep our haggard plants going to support the fruit that’s still growing on them. By this time in the summer, I’m often done with watering. That may not be an option this year.

My Grandpa died before I really took an interest in gardening, but my Grandma is fond of quoting, "You're Grandpa always said it was a good year when you had the first crop of tomatoes by the 4th of July."

If that's the case, this year is screwed.

To be fair, the yellow pear plant has been pushing on stalwartly, producing it's first tomato on the first day of summer, and a handful about every week since. However, we don't even have one orange tomato yet, and the (5) tomatoes that have come off of the other full size tomato plants have been split and cracked so badly that I've had to pick them early to save them from the bugs. And my little midget that was so prolific last year is shriveling to nothing in this heat.

It is indeed a bad year for tomatoes....