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What’s The Matter With Yer ‘maters’

Anne Jaeger

What’s The Matter With ‘maters’

“Whasamadderwidyertamayters?”  Garden translation; “What is the matter with your tomatoes?”  Not ripe yet?  Brown leathery spots on the bottom?  Water soaked dark brown circles on the leaves, fruit and stems?  I understand.  You’ve spent the summer tending those babies and now nothing is turning out as you planned.  Don’t despair, you are not alone.  I can help you with these problems or “challenges” as we say in today’s politically correct vernacular.   First of all, let’s talk about those “brown leathery spots” on the tomatoes bottom. (We’ll get to making tomatoes red in a moment.) Right now it sounds like you’ve got a bad case of blossom end rot.  Hate that when that happens.  This problem indicates a lack of calcium in your soil.  There’s not much you can do at this point for the leathery tomatoes.  Next year just remember to add a couple tablespoons of fast acting lime and a quarter cup of bone meal to the planting hole.  This will soothe your blossom end rot, quick.   And about those “water soaked dark brown circles”?  Your tomato has probably come down with a case of “Late Blight”.  Of which there is no cure.   Next year, you should consider planting in a new spot. Try to water evenly and consistently every 7 days with a drip system or soaker hose because overhead watering spreads the problem.

Now to the moment we’ve all been waiting for; a slice of juicy red tomato. Not so fast. Tomatoes are a full three weeks late this year.  Blame it on the cold wet spring weather.   You’ve heard it before, tomatoes don’t like wet feet.  They lust for heat.  So, the most successful growers do it in raised beds.  Those tomato growers are already gloating over their conquests.  We’re not in that group.  We’ve got tomato envy.  Whatta WE do?  Wait.  It WILL happen.  We will make it happen if it gets to the point when frost is threatened.  We’ve got a back up plan.  We will take drastic action.  You see, tomatoes will ripen if you stress the heck out of them.  (Kinda like your bosses face when you tell him it’s very inconvenient for you to work today and need some shopping therapy instead.)  So what are the corrective steps for non-ripening tomatoes?

*Stop watering. Yep, go cold turkey. The tomato will freak out and start telling itself to hurry up and make seeds.  It can’t make mature seeds without ripening its fruit.  Get it?  Got it? Good.

*Cut the roots.  Get a shovel and slice into the root ball about six inches from the stem.  As you can imagine, the plant thinks you are trying to kill it and puts all its energy into finishing its job— making seeds.

*Top your plants.  Cut or pinch off all the growing tips.  Removing the top of the plant allows the vine to get busy finishing its fruit instead of making new blossoms.

*Pull up plants.  If all else fails (and the first frost threatens) this is your only hope of averting disaster.  Pull up the whole plant, roots and all.

Lay the plants on some newspaper on the garage floor.  They will ripen there. Warning: Do not drive over your tomatoes.

There.  Now don’t you feel better knowing you have a plan of action?

See, you just need to think like a tomato and then “you grow girl/guy”!  Whatever.