Growing Green - Blossom drop impacts tomatoes, peppers, other plants
It's back to school time for our summer interns. You met the horticulture intern, Janelle Lanoue, through her informative news columns during June, July and August. She was a great help to me and many local residents with her informative news columns and her assistance in identifying and solving the many garden issues that have plagued us in this unusual summer. Janelle will be greatly missed, and I wish her great success as she pursues her master's degree in agriculture education.
Our Douglas County Fair week brought lots of questions from gardeners noticing unusual happenings in their vegetable gardens. From beans blooming but not producing, to potatoes not blooming, to very late tomatoes, vegetable gardeners around the area are dealing with many problems they have not had to face in previous years. The culprit? The early, hot, dry summer that has created a problem called blossom drop.
Blossom drop is a condition suffered by tomatoes, peppers, snap beans and some other fruiting vegetables where the plant blooms but fails to set fruit, the blooms die and fall off. Extreme daytime temperatures (above 85o F) cause flower pollen to become tacky and nonviable. Since pollination cannot occur, the bloom dies and falls off. If the temperature remains above 104o F for longer than four hours, flowers can abort.
Remember July? Ideal humidity for many plants is between 40-70 percent. If humidity remains too high or too low, it can also interfere with pollination, creating fruitless plants.
The good news is that our weather has become cooler and drier, so plants that couldn't produce in July are now fruiting spectacularly, hence the plants laden with large, green tomatoes. Hopefully, Old Man Winter will hold off for another month so we may harvest this bounty.
This summer's abnormally dry conditions have also created issues with production in our gardens. Although most of Minnesota has received adequate rain this summer, west central and southwest Minnesotans are suffering from abnormally dry conditions - severe drought conditions. Farmers are seeing a decrease in bushels/acre of corn and soybeans, and gardeners are finding smaller and fewer fruits/vegetables to pick and eat.
Remember that your flowers, fruits and vegetables need 1" of water/week throughout the season. If nature doesn't fulfill this requirement, try to give your plants the water they need in one application. Deep watering is important to healthy root growth. Several shorter, shallower applications throughout the week encourage shallow root growth and weaken the plant's structure.
Remember to water your perennials, shrubs and trees until the ground freezes solid. This will ensure that your plants enter the dormant winter months with adequate hydration. This is particularly important for evergreens to protect against the browning of winter burn.
Here's hoping your gardens are fruitful, your blossoms are beautiful and your lawns are lush.
Until next time, happy gardening.