As a professional gardener you might think I have less disasters than a home gardener but let me tell you that’s just not true! I wouldn’t say I have more either but I have more opportunity for things to go wrong. I also, hopefully, have the experience and the knowledge to be able to fix things and this year the tomatoes have really challenged me! The trick with problems is to take each one as a learning experience. There are no mistakes, just learning experiences…. and this one has been an interesting year for us!
Way back in May we did everything we would normally do with our lovely toms, except we changed one minor detail, which was the compost. Everything was growing marvelously, I mean absolutely wonderfully, by early June we had our first trusses of fruit developing.
I even did a little video of how to tell the difference between a side shoot and a leader.
However very soon after these photos were taken things started to go wrong!
The leaves started curling, a sign that a few things might be going wrong, most importantly we started to lose the fruit!
This condition is called ‘Blossom end rot’, its caused by the plant being unable to access sufficient calcium. Now normally the cause of this would be lack of OR irregular watering but I know how Philippa waters, I know that she wouldn’t allow that to be the case and I also know we’ve never had that happen in the past.
So in my mind this left one possibility, and although not unknown is a rare occurrence, that the compost somehow was lacking in calcium?
With this in mind and having contacted the suppliers and I started an application of calcium supplement. This although it did help initially was not entirely successful and the plants continued to go backwards. By now they were exhibiting symptoms similar to weedkiller damage. I’m very sure it isn’t Aminopyralid damage but it does look very similar. However any nutrient deficiency/glut can have a similar effect.
As heartbreaking, and frankly expensive a disaster as this has been, we at least have been confident that the problem has not and does not lie with us! However I can only imagine how awful someone not experienced with growing veg would feel in these circumstances and would probably be tempted to never try again and that would be a real shame!
I did want to prove this to myself though and in order to do so, and hopefully recoup some losses I took some cuttings!
Within 2 weeks of being potted up into new, different (but also peat free) compost they had put on sufficient roots to replace the absolutely shocking worst examples in the glasshouse. Within another 2 weeks we had beautiful new trusses of fruits.
So, to put not too fine a point on it sometimes in gardening its NOT your fault!
If you find you’re having difficulties with something, change something, don’t just give up. There are many variables and you are only one. Go with your gut instinct and ok you might not get tomatoes this year but next year! The skies the limit!
Now this is a very apt time to introduce you to, if you haven’t already seen, the Patreon gardening club I’ve set up!
Every month you can sign up for a Newsletter about what’s been happening at Ulting Wick plus some jobs you can be doing in your own garden. A monthly Question and Answer session where you can ask me whatever you like about problems such as the tomato troubles we’ve been having as an example!
Most exciting is a monthly talk from an absolute giant in Horticulture, this months is Rosy Hardy of Hardys Cottage Garden Plants. Theres plenty of time to sign up for this months talk still.
Finally there’s a series of ‘How to’ videos I will be putting out exclusive to patreon subscribers.
If you’re a garden club who is struggling to be able to ensure safety for your members or you’d just like to offer speakers you yourself couldn’t afford under normal circumstances there is also a group subscription offer!
Check it out and if you have any questions please do ask!
3 Replies to “The trouble with tomatoes…”
I’ve had similar problems with tomatoes this year and irregular watering wasn’t the problem. I used the compost that was available rather than what I would usually use…
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You’re definitely not alone in this but oddly it seems to be a widespread issue and not just one brand. I have a feeling I’ve reached the bottom of why my tomatoes failed but can’t speak for other brands. It’s incredibly disappointing
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I’ve had the same problem this year. If you think yours were bad, have a look at this…www.pullingweeds.co.uk
Even with plants that look like aliens (and a watering regime that I promise you won’t be as good as yours), there’s no blossom end wilt, though the few fruits that have formed at the top of the plants are rather elongated. All in all this week I’ve been feeling rather desperate about the state of the environment in this country generally (see: https://www.monbiot.com/2020/08/14/watery-grave/)
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