I planted tomatoes from seeds in May. The plants have lots of blossoms, but there is only one green tomato on only one of the 7 plants. Is there something that I should do to stimulate the plants?
Hardiness Zone: 7a
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.
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.
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 fruit. They are annuals, so they grow, fruit and die all in one year's time. There is no second year for them.
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.
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.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.
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