I think I have a break in the case of the non-producing tomato plants. Actually, more like a promising lead. The mystery is not solved, but I may be a little closer to understanding why I am not getting the crop I hoped for.
(Back story: The 20+ tomato seeds I sowed indoors in February grew into 20 hearty plants. I offered a few to family and friends, but people were slow to claim them (or maybe didn’t want them!), and all of a sudden I had my very own tomato orchard. The majority went into a 3 x 4′ planter, and the rest are in 5 gallon pots.)
The tomatoes in pots are the same mix of varieties as those growing in the planters. They are also in the same soil and are watered on the same schedule. I wonder, though, if having less space to develop long roots has encouraged the plants in the pots to put more energy into fruit-making. This, of course, is pure speculation…but it’s the only reason I can think of that could account for the difference.
As for the plants in the planters, I intend to fertilize them this weekend, and I might also prune them a bit, and maybe soon they’ll be as fruitful as their potted cousins.
Side note (while I’m on the topic of tomatoes): Mark Bittman has a really interesting and eye-opening column in this week’s NYT about industrial tomato farming. It’s actually a follow-up to a piece he wrote last month on the book Tomatoland, by Barry Estabrook, which chronicles the rise of the tomato in the modern world and the deleterious effects that the mass production of this fruit has had on the environment, our food supply, and – most notably – tomato workers.
While I knew that most of the tomatoes sold in stores today are picked green and then gassed with ethylene to promote the ripening process, the image above really drove home the wastefulness of this system. After the green fruit is harvested, the plants are killed to make room for the next crop, and any tomatoes that ripened naturally on the vine are “left to rot,” writes Bittman.
It just seems like big price to pay for a product that we don’t really need all year round. I’d rather have no tomatoes at all than the tasteless, mealy lumps available at most grocery stores.