tomato flowers

Tomato flowers against brown fence

Growing Tomatoes Part 3

I have heard of gardeners who manage to harvest their first ripe tomato by the Fourth of July. All I can say is these folks must have optimal conditions and superb techniques to achieve this feat. Either that or they’re lying.

I’m happy if any of my plants have visible tomatoes by the beginning of July.

Tomato plants half grown in June

My plants spend most of June just growing to the maximum size their pots allow. I encourage this by making sure they never dry out. I also remove any unwanted side-shoots that appear in the leaf axils. This gets tricky once the plants are a foot or two in height, because the stems inevitably bend a bit. A couple of mine managed to do some sneaky branching.

At some point the plants start blooming.

Tomato flowers close-up

No one grows tomatoes for their flowers, but viewed closely, they are bright and cheery. Their purpose is to turn into tomatoes, however, so I hope they are visited by pollinators. The wait is agonizingly slow, especially if the weather is cool (not a problem this summer!) I’ve even been known to fluff around with a little paintbrush to help things along.

Tomato plants with flowers and small green fruits in July
Small green tomatoes on plants in July

This plant’s flowers have obviously been visited by bees or other insects. Those golf-ball sized tomatoes will expand over the next couple of months and eventually turn into luscious red globes (and salsa!)

Not yet, but eventually!

The only jobs for the gardener now are to keep watering, remove side shoots, and maybe apply some sort of fertilizer. Not a high nitrogen type, however; no need to encourage more leaf growth. I’ve heard that when it rains, it’s a good idea to cover the plants with a tarp or something of the sort to prevent blight. We haven’t had a drop of rain in nearly a month, and none in sight, so I guess I don’t have to worry about blight, either early or late.