PROBLEMS: PLANTING TOMATOES IN THE SUMMERTIME
Here on the Coastal Bend of Texas, the summer temperatures run in the 90s with the humidity usually over 80%, especially with the high water table we have had for the past ten months. Yes, my ditch running through my front yard still has stale water in it and there is tall grass I can’t mow.
The only plants other than weeds and grasses growing in my garden are okra and the wilting pepper plants that either can’t take up enough water from the drip system or have too many root knot nematodes. I could plant more okra and purple hull peas. In the past I have planted cucumbers and squash in the summer, but they never produce very well.
In early May, we got 4.9” of rain. The 9 beautiful loaded tomato plants became diseased overnight. The tomatoes finished ripening, but the plants limbs started dying from the bottom going up. I gave my son from Houston some of the large ripe tomatoes and told him it would be difficult to find tomato plants before September. On the next trip down to go fishing in June, he brought 2 Celebrity and 1 Solar Fire tomato plants in 4” pots that he had bought in Houston. I replanted them in 9” pots and kept them watered with them sitting on the potting bench in damp mats.
Before Hurricane Harvey in August, 2017, the potting bench on the East side of workshop shed had dappled sunshine in the morning with shade in the afternoon. My garden also had dappled sunshine with large Live Oak trees on the East, North, and West sides giving it about 6 hours of direct sunlight. The hurricane took out many trees around the shed and garden and left other trees with missing limbs. There is no dappled sunshine on either the potting bench or the garden.
To my dismay, when I went out to the potting bench the next day to water the plants, I found the 2 Celebrity tomato plants with brown curled up leaves. The plywood bench surface was too hot to leave my hand on it. I quickly moved all three plants to the ground with some shade. I knew better! I have used shade cloth on tender plants in the garden in the past. Maybe it was too hot to think or could it be memory loss at 78? Ha!
Would you believe that the Solar Fire tomato plant was a bright green and looked healthy? Solar Fire is a tomato plant with genes designed to both withstand the hot sun and to set fruit in the heat. It is a determinate plant producing 2 plus inch fruit that can be sweet and flavorful. The information on it says it can be set out in mid-season. I will let it grow more roots to avoid the root knot nematodes as long as possible before planting it. I hope it will live through the summer. In the past I had grown Solar Fire in the cold fall or spring weather of El Paso, Texas. They also set fruit at the lower temperatures.
I don’t think the Celebrity plants will recover. I’m still learning.