Tomato Watch 2009

My last big update on my towering tomatoes gave a progress report on the plants' growth from purchase/germination to what was then current. The the more recent survival story from three weeks ago left us with Ace at 9 or 10 inches tall and Cherokee at 42 inches.

Wanna know what they're at right now? Do you? Ace is 31.5 inches tall, and the only reason Cherokee is 78 inches is because that's the height from the soil to the ceiling--I trim Cherokee pretty frequently so he isn't bent over all the time and to encourage flower/fruit production instead of more leafy growth. I have been keeping the cuttings in water so they'll root and I can grow more Cherokees (in different container sizes to see how they'll do--Cherokee is indeterminate and clearly a big shot, so I don't think it's generally amenable to growing in any reasonably sized container indoors, but that won't stop me from trying).

I also have a Better Boy tomato (on the off-chance that Ace wouldn't do well) that is about 16 inches tall; a tomato seedling from Bull Run, my CSA, that is 9.5 inches tall; and I have cherry tomato seedlings that I started a month ago that range from 3.5 to 5.5 inches tall.

But you know how I've been lamenting the budding but lack of flowering? Huh. I don't seem to have complained on here. Maybe I was waiting to do this post to complain about it. Anyway, I have dozens and dozens of flowerbuds on Cherokee, but none of them have opened in the past few weeks. Some dried up and fell off. It made me sad. After doing copious reading on agriculture websites, indoor gardening books, blogs, message boards, and elsewhere, I'm almost certain it has nothing to do with light or temperature or water--I think I overfertilized with nitrogen. The plant is just like "pshht, I don't need to reproduce for next year, I'm livin' high and comfy!" So the flowers never mature and eventually just go away. But I stopped watering as much (the moisture probe has been a dream!), and I added phosphorous to the tomato plants' water (not that it's really easy to individually water in that giant container).

So... Does this flower on Cherokee look like it's opening? I pried the sepals apart a bit the other day, because it's the largest flowerbud so I figured that might mean something, but now I think the petals are opening a tiny bit on their own!

I think tomorrow I'll mist with a fine spray of water (one of the suggested methods for pollinating tomato flowers indoors) because I don't have a fine paintbrush to pollinate with.

27 June Update: That was indeed a flower on the verge of opening! Zed oh my gods! It is now open and hopefully the misting technique will work, because I don't know when I'm going to find a fine paintbrush (I'm more faithful in that method than the spray-fertilization technique).

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3 Responses to Tomato Watch 2009

  1. omg @ the tomato

    I'm impressed with the string support structure holding him up, but I think he wants to go to the light

    Kinda reminds me of a dog on a leash trying to lunge for a squirrel. No, Cherokee! Bad boy! Get back here!

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  2. I think you might want to get a cheap little paintbrush. It's hard for me to imagine that misting will get enough pollen transferring around. But maybe! I don't have experience with indoor tomato growing.

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  3. LoL, Erin, Cherokee has been a bit more like an awkward, rebellious teenager to me, but a dog going for a squirrel is not dissimilar. :-D

    Dave's Garden lists Cherokee as growing up to eight feet tall, so I don't think my tall plant is highly unusual--maybe a little taller than it would be outside, because the top, uh, three and a half feet of the plant don't get much supplemental light from the bulbs or fluorescents, but it seems to be doing well.

    Amelia, the misting method involves, basically, misting every morning and evening, not just once, until the flower is a fruit. I don't know the best time after flower-opening to do it, but I know not to during the hottest part of the day, because the pollen's sperm tube won't form properly at high temperatures.

    I'll just hope for the best. I stopped by the hardware store today, knowing I had a reason, but not remembering until this second that I was going to look for paintbrushes. Ah well!

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