Hardiness Zone: 7a
Josie from Tulsa, Oklahoma
Most tomatoes take anywhere from 30-60 days to mature from seed, and several environmental factors can affect their ability to set fruit. Heat is one those factors. Once daytime temperatures reach into the 90's and nighttime temperatures hover near the mid 70's, tomato plants have trouble setting fruit because high temperatures render the pollen sterile.
There are a couple of strategies to combat this problem. The first is to grow varieties that mature earlier, before the Oklahoma summer heat sets in. Smaller tomato varieties (e.g. cherry) usually need less time to mature, while larger tomato varieties take longer. The smaller varieties are also more likely to set fruit better in hot weather. You could also buy established seedlings or start yours indoors several weeks before transplanting in order to give them a jump on the season.
If your plants still haven't set fruit by the time the intense heat sets in, try to keep your plants healthy and consistently watered and once the temperatures drop, they should resume setting fruit. Other factors that prevent tomatoes from setting fruit include low temperatures (below 50ºF), a lack of sunlight (less than 8-10 hours), inconsistent watering, damage from pests (e.g. thrips), or too much nitrogen fertilizer.
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If you only planted them from seed in May, you are too early to expect ripe tomatoes. Give them a little more time. I planted my seeds on St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) and nurtured them indoors until the first week of May. I think I will harvest my first cherry tomato tomorrow or the next day. The large tomatoes are still hard and green. I live in the high desert part of New Mexico.
As far as the comment about tomatoes not setting the first year, the second responder is correct, they are annuals and bear the first and only year. The second responder might be watering too much. If you do that you get a lot of plant and not many tomatoes. Cut back on the watering some and expect a better harvest. (08/01/2006)
By Katie A.
I have had this problem before. I was told to knock the tops of the tomatoes out. This puts them into shock and then they set on fruit. They are annuals, so they grow, fruit and die all in one year's time. There is no second year for them.
From a KSU Master Gardener (08/02/2006)
I live within an hour of you. I always either buy established plants or start mine indoors earlier so I can set plants out by the beginning of May. The plants must have enough time to mature, bud and set fruit before the heat of our summer sets in. It gets extremely hot here in the summer, and tomatoes will flower, but not set fruit in the heat of our summers. My tomatoes are usually finished by the end of July or the first of August. If your plants survive our summer, about half of mine routinely die even though I set mine out early, water, and mulch them, they will flower and set tomatoes later in the season after it cools. These tomatoes won't quite be ready before our first freeze, but you can pick them green and allow them to ripen on their own. (08/03/2006)
Well, I actually caught a bird eating the new growth off much of my plant one day. That explains why there are no more blooms. I remember that "Blossom Set" worked well years ago. My plants are actually in a sort of "hole" downhill from the Apple tree about 4 feet away, so I may have foolishly
planted my whole tiny new garden patch just too close to the 8 yr. old Apple tree. I'll keep trying different places.
The plant actually grew out some new green growth after I added egg shells to the soil around it. I have had no other pests, because I also remembered to plant Basil about 6 in. from the plant. Companion planting works really well for us, but it still produced poorly because of the stress of
the heat. I can water deeply in the early morning, the plant really perks up, but by 3 pm and hot sun, the leaves are wilting.
I might consider transplanting it into the shade this week to try to salvage and extend it's growing season by planting it deeper still. Hope I don't kill it, then again it wouldn't be a great loss under the circumstances. One of the best gardens I ever saw was under a huge old tree, protecting it from the hottest hours, but the soil had to have been enriched and required extra water and fertilizer. (08/03/2006)
I had a year where my tomato plants were beautiful, very large and healthy looking but no fruit. I was told to water them with apple juice. It worked. I had loads of tomatoes by the end of the month. (06/26/2008)
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