Tomato Troubles Don't Bother Most Gardeners - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Tomato Troubles Don’t Bother Most Gardeners

Despite the endless list of potential problems, tomatoes continue to be the most popular plant in Midwestern vegetable gardens. Many tomato problems are related to environmental factors such as temperature and moisture, rather than insects or disease. The good news is that these environmental problems are not infectious, meaning they don’t spread to other fruits and plants.

The most common tomato affliction is known as blossom-end rot, so named for the black, leathery scar that occurs on the blossom end, rather than the stem end, of the fruit. Blossom-end rot tends to occur most frequently when there are extremes in soil moisture. The uneven levels of moisture lead to a calcium deficiency in the developing fruit. Most soils in the Midwest have plenty of calcium, with the exception of very sandy or highly organic soils. Maintaining an even level of moisture with irrigation and mulching will help prevent blossom-end rot.

Another common problem is blossom drop. Tomatoes are fairly picky about air temperature when it comes to setting fruit. Tomato pollen becomes ineffective when temperatures are below 55 F or above 90 F. Most early-season cultivars are tolerant of cool temperatures, but may have problems with hot weather. If tomato flowers are not pollinated, they will drop off the plant.

Tomatoes may crack open when excessive growth is brought on by rainy periods following a dry spell. To reduce the incidence of fruit cracking, water during drought and apply mulch to conserve soil moisture.

“Catfacing” is a term applied to deformed, misshapen fruit. It occurs when days are cool and cloudy during fruit set. The blossom sticks to the side of the developing fruit, resulting in puckering.

Sunscald is most common on immature, green fruit exposed to excessive sunlight, particularly during hot weather. It appears as a yellow or white patch on the side of the fruit facing the sun. Often, the tissue blisters and may eventually form a shrunken, grayish-white spot with a papery surface. Sunscald is often a problem on tomatoes that do not have good foliage cover. This can be caused by insect or disease damage or by plants that sprawl unsupported and open from the weight of the fruit. Supporting tomatoes in a cage helps keep the fruit covered.


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