Archive | August 2014

Tomato and Pepper Blossom Drop


“All of my tomato and pepper seeds I ordered Baker Creek grew fine. Only no fruit. Tomatos would bloom, flowers would fall off. Peppers would bloom, flowers would fall off. Next year I’ll buy my plants from Home Depot. Thanks for recommending a crappy company.

Michael”

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Hi Michael,

Thank you for the email regarding your peppers and tomatoes.  It’s sounds like the plants were not the problem, but the environment that they were grown in, as your plants suffer from blossom drop.

Blossom drop is a common tomato and pepper growing problem that can be extremely frustrating to the home gardener. Otherwise healthy looking tomato and pepper plants set flower blossoms, only to have them dry up and fall off the plant before a fruit is formed.

Blossom drop can be attributed to several causes, most often related to either temperature and / or stress.
–Temperature Too High or Too Low
–Lack of Pollination
–Nitrogen – Too Much or Too Little
–Humidity Too High or Low Humidity.
–Lack of water
–Stress from insect damage or disease
–Too Heavy Fruit Set

The best way to combat the problem is to grow varieties suited to your climate.  Often times, hybrids are able to grow anywhere but still need ‘optimum’ conditions.  Gardeners that experience this problem often decide to grow heirloom varieties that are native to their region along with the hybrids so they are always assured of having a crop from one or the other or both.

The most frequent cause of tomato and pepper blossom drop is temperature:
–High daytime temperatures (above 85 F / 29 C)
–High Nighttime Temperatures (Below 70 / 21 C)
–Low Nighttime Temperatures (Below 55 / 13 C)

Tomatoes and peppers grow best if daytime temperatures range between 70 F / 21 C and 85 F / 29 C. While tomatoand pepper plants can tolerate more extreme temperatures for short periods, several days or nights with temps outside the ideal range will cause the plant to abort fruit set and focus on survival. According to the University of Wisconsin, temperatures over 104 F / 40 C for only four hours can cause the flowers to abort immediately.

Gardeners in cooler climates should not rush to get their tomatoes and pepper planted in the spring. Wait until nighttime temperatures are reliably above 55 F /13 C or protect them with a cover at night. You won’t gain any advantage by setting them out too early. Choose early maturing tomato and pepper varieties for spring growing in cooler climates. (Early Girl, Legend, Matina, Oregon Spring, Polar Baby, Silvery Fir Tree Tomatoes; Chablis, Jupiter, King Arthur, Mini Belle Blend, North Star, Banana Bill, Boris, Gypsy, Chichimeca, Early Jalapeno, and Stoked Peppers)

Select heat a heat-tolerant (“heat set”) tomato and pepper varieties for areas with long periods of hot or humid weather. High nighttime temps are even worse than high daytime temperatures because the tomato or pepper plant never gets to rest. (Florasette, Heat Wave, Solar Set, Sunchaser, Sunmaster, Sunpride, Surfire Tomatoes; Chinese Giant, Canary Belle, Mini Bell Chocolate, Mini Bell Yellow, Napolean Sweet, Atris, Felicity, Pimiento L, Balada, Burning Bush, Caribbean Red, Habaneros, Fish, Fatali, Minero, Orange Thai, Serrano Chili, and Zavory Peppers)

Tomatoes and Peppers need some help to pollinate. Either insects, wind or hand shaking of the flowers is necessary to carry the pollen from the anthers to the stigma. During weather extremes, there are often no insect pollinators in the garden.
It sometimes help attract more bees if you plant nectar rich flowers in your vegetable garden.

Don’t automatically feed your tomato and pepper plants every week. Make sure your soil is healthy, with adequate organic matter. Apply a balanced fertilizer at planting and again when fruit forms. Too much nitrogen encourages the plant to grow more foliage, not more fruit.

The ideal humidity range is between 40 – 70%. If humidity is either too high or too low, it interferes with the release of pollen and with the pollen’s ability to stick to the stigma. So pollination will not occur.  If humidity is too low, hose the foliage during the day. This will both cool the plant and raise the humidity. This is not recommended in areas with high humidity or when fungus diseases are present. Gardeners in high humidity areas should look for tomato varieties that aren’t bothered by humidity. (Eva Purple Ball, Flora-Dade, Grosse Lisse, Jubilee, Moneymaker, Sun Gold, Taxi, Yellow Pear Toamtoes, any pepper variety)

Water deeply, once a week, during dry weather. Tomatoes have very deep roots, sometimes going down into the soil up to 5 feet. Peppers can go to 2 feet deep.  Shallow watering will stress and weaken the plants.

Keep your plants healthy. Use good cultural practices and treat for disease as soon as symptoms appear.

Nothing will guarantee fruit set. Things like temperature and humidity are out of the gardener’s control. Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for conditions to correct themselves. If the weather seems fine and other gardeners in your area are not having fruit set problems, you should consider the cultural causes of tomato and pepper blossom drop. Choosing a suitable variety and keeping your plants healthy will give you an edge.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Early Blight on King Arthur Peppers


“Mertie,   Could You please look at the photos and tell Me what this is and what I can do to fix it or save some of them I have about 800 Plants not all of them are as bad as others. Please hurry with a answer.

Thanks Duane”

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Hi Duane,

Thank you for the email and photos regarding the problems you have been having with your peppers.  Based on the photos, it looks like you have a pretty severe infestation of early blight.

Early blight(Alternaria solani) is a fungal pathogen that most commonly affects tomato and potato but it will also attack eggplant, pepper, horse nettle, black nightshade, wild cabbage, cucumber, petunia, and zinnia.  It produces a wide range of symptoms at all growth stages which include damping-off, collar rot, stem cankers, leaf blight, and fruit/tuber rot.

Seedlings grown from infested seeds damp off within 48 hours after emergence because large lesions develop at the ground line on stems of transplants or seedlings. Collar rot occurs when the young stem becomes girdled with dark lesions at the soil level.

For plants that grow to full size and/or are producing fruit/tubers, the infection occurs by inoculant in the soil that is splashed onto the leaf or stem by precipitation events.  The infected leaf has circular lesions of about 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) in diameter. Dark, concentric circles (circles with a common center) are found within these lesions. Infection usually begins on the lower, older leaves and progresses up the plant. Infected leaves eventually wilt, die, and fall off. Early blight lesions show a generally dry “bulls-eye” angular pattern that do not usually spread very far and rarely affect petiole tissue, as the progress of the fungus is stopped by the veins of the leaf.

An infected stem has small, dark, slightly sunken areas that enlarge to form circular or elongated spots with lighter-colored centers. Concentric markings, similar to those on leaves, often develop on stem lesions.

Infestation during the flowering stage of tomato causes the blossoms to drop. The fruit stems are spotted with lesions that lead to loss of the young fruits.

An infested pepper fruit will have dark, leathery sunken spots, usually at the point of the stem attachment or towards the bud scar. These spots may enlarge to involve the entire upper portion of the fruit, often showing concentric markings like those on leaves. Affected areas may be covered with velvety black masses of spores. Fruits can also be infected during the green or ripe stage through growth cracks and other wounds. Infected fruits often drop before reaching maturity.

Conditions that favor development:

1.    Infested plants nearby (tomatoes, potatoes, etc.)

2.    Unhealthy plants

3.    Plenty of weeds

4.    Over crowded plants that cause the poor flow of air among the plants

5.    Too much moisture during cool and warm weather

Prevention and control

1.    Proper selection of seeds for sowing/planting. Make sure that these are disease-free and not taken from plants that were previously infested by the early blight disease. (We make sure our seed is disease free)

2.    Plow under all the crop residues after harvest to physically remove the spore source from the topsoil.

3.    Practice crop rotation.  Fields/gardens should not be planted with tomato, potato, pepper, or eggplant for at least 2 cropping seasons so that these hosts are not present for the spores to thrive on.

4.    Remove weeds as these may serve as the alternate hosts.

5.    Practice the recommended plant spacing to promote good air circulation.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.