Got this email and couldn’t resist putting it here.
My green tomatoes, by the way, are as happy and healthy as can be. My concern now is that I will have a ton of tomatoes all turning ripe at the same time!
Thanks to Daryl for this letter:
Are you aware your gardening site doesn’t have any readily available information or tips on how to grow tomatoes? Big, small, red, yellow, fried green, etc. Nothing there. I’ve been trying to consistently–and that’s the operative word–grow tomatoes for years, on and off. Mostly, off. Here in Oregon, we get some strange spring and early summer weather–we’ve only had a half-dozen, if that, days over 80 this year–and that makes transplanting a hazardous undertaking.
Several years I’ve had flowers, lots of flowers, but few tomatoes. Of course, bees are fewer and fewer, but my neighbor has bee hives. So, you’d think I’d be first in line. Not so.
Last year I went to the Oregon State University (our traditional agricultural college) web site to explore what the academicians knew about tomatoes that I didn’t. As it turned out, plenty! But the funniest thing, which they presented very seriously, was about the sex life of the typical tomato plant, right up there with “the birds and the bees.”
The key nugget I took away was that the smallish tomato blossoms, hanging upside down, make it difficult for bugs to help with the pollination. And bees don’t particularly give them first preference, for some reason. However, I did discover that if you take an electric tooth brush and use it to shake or vibrate the blossom, particularly around the mid-mornings hours, you will help in a huge way with the fertilization process. Who would’a thunk it?
Now one can flick the stems or tops of the flowers with their fingers or a stick, but the vibration of the toothbrush more closely mimics the vibrations–sonic vibrations-of the bees wings as they often continue to flutter as the little bugs climb around the blossoms.
The season was past its prime last summer as I learned this gardening tip. I tried it and, shortly, found that I had many more tiny green tomatoes than in the earlier weeks. I had so many green tomatoes in late September, when tomatoes quit growing here, that I pulled them up by the roots and hung them upside down in my basement for “Thanksgiving tomatoes.” This worked 20 years ago and I hadn’t tried it since, but I thought I’d give it a shot.
I forgot about the plants until I was in that particular corner of the basement around Christmas! Guess what? I had a ton of red tomatoes!! But,…they were well past their prime. Fortunately, none of the gushy ones fell on the carpeting. But, they were all a beautiful, bright red!
The notion of helping tomatoes with their “social” life might make a good blog story for you. Be careful–it could cost you some followers (as well as gain you some you might not want). And you may not have much in the way of tomato-growing issues in N.C.
I still have a dozen or so relatives around Reidsville (e.g., Hall Pump Service, Monroeton) and they never seem to lack for great vegetble gardens, even in that red clay. Why do you suppose that is? I’ll have to get back there and steal a few soil samples for OSU to analize for me.
Thanks for your blog and fun information. Feel free to talk about tomatoes and their social life in N.C.
Fascinating. I’m not sure I’m game to help with the whole pollination thing, but if I get an abundant crop, I may consider hanging some of the green ones upside down in my root cellar.
Now I just have to figure when the planting season is in Sydney. In the past I’ve relied on seeds from my compost to propogate at will. The crops have been too small to worry about battling the possums for them, but if I can mimic your abundance (and Darryl’s) it will be a fight worth waging.
I live in Chattanooga Tenn. my question is when is the best time to start growing Tomato’s in the ground in a pot or hang them upside down
Don’t put tomato plants in the ground until after the last frost. If you plant and get a crazy late frost, be sure to cover the plant/s because frost will kill tomatoes. These plants also want warmer soil.
No frost, in this part of the country, typically means not before the end of April.
Feel free, however, to start your seedlings sooner indoors if you have a window that gets a lot of sun.
Thanks for asking!