Gardening Q & A – Tomatoes

Q: Hi Emma,
My tomatoes produced very poorly this season. Out of four plants we didn’t get more than thirty fruit. I live in Northwest Indiana. Our summer was kind of dry, but I watered at least twice a week. The soil is poor so I mix bagged manure in with potting soil at a ration of 1:4. Any clues what’s wrong? The onions were bad too as they didn’t grow beyond walnut size.

A: Thanks for the question, Sloane. Lots of home gardeners are disappointed about their tomato crops the last couple of years. Blight is the usual culprit, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened to you. Your clue when you are struck by the evil blight is one day your tomato plant is healthy, the next it is dying, and the poor plant is totally gone by the end of the week. Water or fertilizers do not help. There are several kinds of blight and I do not profess to be an expert on the subject. (Early, middle and late blight.)

For home gardeners there’s not much you can do except to avoid planting in the same spot the next year and carefully clean up and destroy any remaining infected debris. I always think it best to leave the serious pesticides to the commercial growers who are licensed and provide our nation’s food crops.

Here I plan to divulge a secret, hopefully not so secret now, supplier who has studied these problems. We have had the very best luck with their products. You will readily notice they concern themselves with the environment and most products are organic. Perfect for the home gardener! The website is Even if you don’t order from their catalog, it’s a fun adventure to read about all the products they offer. They have two fertilizers I regularly afford: “Tomatoes Alive!” and “Flowers Alive for Perennials!” (and Annuals). I see on page 19, they advertise “Soap-Shield Flowable Liquid Copper Fungicide” which controls a wide range of diseases including tough fungal diseases, I haven’t used it but I do trust their products. I see on page 38 there is “Root Crops Alive! Fertilizer.” Perhaps that will boost your onion crop. I am not paid to advertise Gardens Alive. They don’t know that I’m alive, but I do recommend their products to all my customers at the shop and I’ve learned so much just reading their catalogs. Have fun and happy next season gardening.


8 thoughts on “Gardening Q & A – Tomatoes

  1. Cheers for a splendid post on tomatoes, Emma! Great question, Sloane. We’ve tried the ‘topsy-turvy’ growing method where you hang the tomatoes upside-down. One year it worked brilliantly, the other not-so-much. Sometimes the weather plays a huge part in what yields the best harvests.

  2. Around here, the favorites are “Early Girl” and “Better Boy” table tomatoes, but not the very large. They produce their fruit early since this is Western NY> I wanted to note to everyone that any claim to expertise I have is mostly in Flowers. <s I do garden with vegetables, but not so much.

  3. This is really interesting. Reading this post I’m wondering if I haven’t gotten some kind of fungus or “blight” in my flower beds around the house. The bushes and flowers did well there for several years after we bought the house but over the last 3 years everything I put there has died.

  4. Go to the website for “Gardens Alive” Marci. Your answers will be there, I think.
    We love a variety called “Juliet” a very reliable small tomato bigger than cherry. I eat them straight from the vine like apples. So good!
    There are so many factors that combine to produce a successful garden. Zone, amt of rain, sunshine, fertilizer, etc. You need to study all those things.
    Good luck! 🙂

  5. I was thinking of a trying tomatoes for the first time next year. So far, I’ve had decent results with zucchini and hideous results with cantaloupe. Is there a beginner tomato plant I should do? Are the cherry tomatoes easier to grow?

  6. My cherry tomatoes did fine, but the larger (Mr. Stripey) ones all split before turning. I tried to water every other day. Was that not enough? Too much? I’m so not a gardener, but I just keep trying. Tomatoes are usually the only thing that does well for me, so this was disappointing.

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