By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
Well, successful tomato crops are few and far between this year. Normally I have my island covered with my tomato harvests and have made jars of salsa for my family. So far I have gotten about 5 tomatoes. YouTube sites I follow are saying that it is not just a Texas problem but is happening all over the country.
All that is surprising given that tomatoes are true American natives that originated in Central and South America.
If this is your first year to garden not getting a bumper crop of tomatoes could be disheartening. But remember, as gardeners we don’t give up! You can and should fall garden. I think fall gardening is easier than spring and summer. Plus you can go outside when it is cooler. Here’s how.
Our first fall frost date is November 6. A light frost is 28 to 32 degrees. A freeze is below 28 degrees.
Most gardeners have a few plants left in their garden that may look great but are not producing fruit. Tomato plants get white nubs along the stem throughout the summer whether they have actually grown fruit or not. Those are the plant’s attempt at rooting. If the stem actually touched the ground for a long enough period of time there will be roots growing there. As you pull the stems up you will see small hair like roots.
Simply cut the stems off that have the white nubs or actual roots and plant them in the ground. They will root and give you another plant without having to wait on a seed to sprout.
After you have cut off the stems you want to use, you may want to try cutting the remaining plant down to about 18”. Yes, the whole plant. If there is no disease on your plant add it to your compost bin. I have had luck with this method for growing fall tomatoes. What do you have to lose, right? This is a good time to side dress with compost or a light fertilizer.
Since the forecast looks like it will be hot for a while it is a good idea to cover your tomatoes with shade cloth. Daily watering is a must in this heat.
Tomatoes are self-pollinating. Since we are short on pollinators, you can shake the plant or the tomato cage to pollinate.
Happy Fall Gardening!
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.
Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.