For tomatoes, it has been mostly down. The plants get themselves all tall and proud, then when they've worked themselves into a frenzy of flower buds, just at the point of pollination, the flowers shrivel up and fall over. Darn. Each and every plant, whether in a pot or in the plot, is suffering from a bad case of Blossom Drop, BD. These are tomato plants that should be putting me in a glut of tomatoes so deep I wouldn't be able to swim my way through it, but no, so far I've harvested one tomato from my garden.
I have eight plants.
I have more tomatoes coming, my plants aren't completely barren; nevertheless, they're few and far between, and mostly still completely green. Statistics like this are a deep, deep blow to one's gardening ego, and not satisfied with the state of my beloved tomatoes that I've raised from seed, I've done quite a bit of research. Here are what I've found to be the major causes of blossom drop in tomatoes:
- High humidity. That is clearly not the case here in Southern California, so this can't be the culprit.
- Too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer. I fertilized my tomatoes once, soon after I planted them, with liquid seaweed to help them transition and build root mass in their new homes. However, liquid seaweed is not a high nitrogen fertilizer. On the other hand, the plants now grow where peas and fava beans grew during the winter, and those are both nitrogen-fixing crops. Could they have made the soil too rich with nitrogen? It doesn't seem possible, but I'd love your input.
- Evenings that are too cool, below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That is clearly not the case around here.
- Too little water. I've been thinking about this one a lot. I try not to overwater my tomatoes, for several reasons; first, too much water weakens the plants; second, we don't have water to waste in Southern California. While I was in Portugal, I had my friend water three times during that week, just to make sure that the plants had plenty of water, but usually I water once or twice a week depending on need, deeply. Tomatoes have deep roots, the plants don't look like they're suffering from lack of water (no wilting), and when I dig down a bit under the top layer, the soil is never dry. I don't think this is the problem.
- Evenings and days that are too hot (over 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day). Although we have had stretches of heat that were higher, lately it has been in the 60s at night and the upper 80s during the day. Last year, I had days that were just as hot and I still had fruit from at least one plant, but even my mighty Black Krim plant, the variety that I grew last year that took the heat, smiled, and set even more fruit, is dropping its flowers right and left this summer.
Someone, some dear, dear reader with deep wisdom regarding the mystery of tomatoes and their wily ways, please help me solve my tomato problem.
This evening, ECG and a buddy were out in the driveway, barbecuing a tri-tip on our kettle grill. As I sat inside, I could hear them laughing, telling jokes and being their silly, ridiculous selves. The majority of me really wanted to go downstairs and laugh along, but the gardener me was too much on edge. My tomato BD seemed insolvable. Researching the problem and finding no clear answers made me angry, and I sat, glaring at the computer monitor, with my molars clenched tight.
Finally, I stood up from the desk chair and marched into the kitchen, my feet fiercely slapping the linoleum. I planned on forcing myself away from the tomatoes and down to the grill, where I'd be sure to have fun. I opened the fridge, looked around in it and considered a beer, but reconsidered and closed the refrigerator. Scanning the counter, my eyes rested on a pile of donut peaches (small, flattened white peaches). A bruised fruit called out to me, and I picked it up, holding it to my nose.
A white peach does not smell like a yellow peach; instead, it is slightly floral, with maybe a touch of rose blossom. I consider a yellow peach as hitting a full range of flavors, from high, medium, to low, but a white peach hits only the upper notes and the lower notes: they're remarkably sweet but have an herbal, almost bitter edge. Put another way, a yellow peach is a nice, solid major triad chord, while a white peach is a more moody diminished triad. These flavors shouted at me to play with them, not to tone them down, but to emphasize their unique quality, and so I did. The following drink is the result.
White Peach G&T (Or, if your tomatoes have a bad case of BD, fix yourself a G&T)
You will need:
1/2 white peach (or one whole donut peach), peeled and cut into chunks
5 mint leaves
1 teaspoon simple syrup
2 ounces gin (Hendricks works well here, with its very clean, very herbal flavor)
Tonic water and ice to taste
To make the drink:
In your favorite highball glass, energetically muddle the peach with the mint and simple syrup. Add the gin and stir to combine flavors, letting the gin sink a bit into the peach before moving to the next step. After a minute or so, add ice and tonic water to taste, and stir to mix flavors.
Sip the drink, smile, and go downstairs to laugh with the boys.