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I have a bunch of tomatoes I planted (black krim, cherokee purple, some beefsteak) which are now pretty huge (at least 10 feet tall).

They have tons of flowers which appear to set: the flower portion dries up and falls off leaving a small baby tomato inside. Normally if the pollination is poor I notice that these will just fall off. But, mine are staying on the plant ... but not growing. It has been over a month now that this has been happening: no tomatoes are growing larger.

All the while the plant grows bigger and bigger. The temperature is pretty severe: 100+ weather almost every day for the last month (we live in Austin). The tomato plants are not wilting at all and seem to be pretty robust.

I think this might have to do with the heat; although I can't find any other anecdotal or reference to this particular problem, and was hoping to rule out some nutrient issues. I check them pretty frequently and there are always pollinators about.

example1

example2

As you can see in the pictures, all of the tomatoes are doing this. Anyone seen this before?

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Stormy is making some good points here but using g too many "man made" techniques could also be the problem.

I find that imitating nature has by far been the best option when gardening.

This is called permaculture which is basically getting plants to work together in harmony for common benefits.

Tomatoes best ally is Basil. In fact, organic tomato farms in Europe plant 1 tomato and 1 basil next to each other. The basil acts as root mulch and feeds your tomato. It also keeps bugs and weeds away. Any type will do.

I also see another problem with your plants: you have too many stems on your tomatoes, which drains the energy away from fruits formation. You have to cut the bottom stems off and basically prune them like a tree.

The more leaves and stems you have the more energy you need to maintain them but less fruit will form. You must reroute that energy to fruit formation.

Good luck!

  • man I already feel like a butcher with how much healthy tomato plant I have removed. I did not know about the basil, that is a great tip. I will try that for next season for sure (I use a lot of basil anyway). – jbord39 Jul 30 '17 at 15:07
  • Just to clarify, the stems are pretty trimmed up to about 5 feet. Past 5 feet I have a rope net which they kind of sprawl onto and I kind of let it go, only taking off foliage when they are either diseased or if there is too much in one area (blocking air flow and giving spider mites a good place to gather). And of course lashing growing parts of the plant to the support structure. – jbord39 Jul 30 '17 at 15:13
  • Could you add a picture of the whole plant? It is also possible you have too many flowers. Less is more. It's better to have a fewer tomatoes with great taste rather than lots with little flavour. I live in England and my tomatoes are usually no more than 2-3 feet tall but clustered with fruits...a. It like cherries. – user33232 Jul 30 '17 at 15:21
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There are two things I can see that might be your problem; first is the temperature. When the temperature gets to 90 degrees F, plant processes shut down. Your tomatoes are causing enough shade to be able to continue minimal photosynthesis and uptake of water and transpiration. They look very healthy and that brings up the second possible problem...

You mentioned 'nutrients' which I call chemicals or fertilizer as plants make their own nutrients via photosynthesis but without balanced chemicals photosynthesis can not happen. Your plants look TOO good, grins. I am guessing you've used a high Nitrogen fertilizer meaning the Nitrogen is higher in proportion to the Phosphorus and Potassium. Great for lawns and leafy vegetables but not when you want reproductive growth.

Higher Nitrogen promotes vegetative growth and inhibits reproductive growth. You've said you've had lots of flowers then no fruit. Are your plants still producing lots of flowers? When did you see lots of flowers? What have you used for fertilizer and how long ago. How long has the temperature been in the triple digits?

If you used a high nitrogen fertilizer, 7-5-2 for instance or 16-10-10 where the number for Nitrogen is higher than the second two numbers, this would be the problem. The high heat in combination would only exacerbate the problem.

If you used 10-10-10 with all numbers even or better, 9-10-10 then it is probably the heat. Luckily for you, Austin, Texas has a lovely long season and we can turn this around. I've got family in this area and they've had problems growing tomatoes in the heat. I had them erect a 'shade' for their garden plot using shade cloth. 30%. It comes in differing percentages for blocking the sun. I also had them turn a fan on their plants as long as it wasn't raining. This helps move the O2 that is a by product of photosynthesis away from the leaves so CO2 is made more available to the leaves to do photosynthesis. That is one of the problems when the temperature rises. The photosynthesis increases with temperature but there is so much O2 made and hanging around the leaves that CO2 uptake is inhibited. Neat, huh?

You have to tell me what you've used for fertilizer as well as what if any compost you might have added. And how long ago. You will have to wait until your plants need more fertilizer and then we'll turn this around by using a lower Nitrogen fertilizer. No more compost! Great stuff but it does add Nitrogen. It is critical stuff to improve soil tilth, holds moisture but should never be used for fertilizer. It needs to be added to the equation for fertilizer but compost is not a balanced fertilizer. Pretty much just Nitrogen. Let me know if you have added compost and whether is was decomposed or fresh!

You have healthy healthy tomato plants that need to be kept in stasis until we can give them the signal to make seed/fruit. You have time. In fact, as the daylight hours are reduced going into fall that signal will help to tell the plants to make tomatoes as well. No more fertilizer until you send what you've used up till now, okay?

You'll have to watch for powdery mildew but the fan should help with that. If you get powdery mildew (white coating on leaves), let us know, easy to take care of. In fact you should start spraying this oh so innocuous mixture in another month. It is 9:1 ratio of water:milk. I put a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid per gallon of milk water for a spreader sticker. This works so very well I was amazed. But just for powdery mildew no other fungus. Thank you, Bamboo!! One of my cohorts on this site!

I should send pictures of this purple tomato I am trying this year. Not cherokee purple...the tomatoes are 1/2 dark black purple the other half bright green. Too weird. I think the purple develops in the light...get back to us with answers, hope this helps!

  • Thanks for the detailed response. I had read about adding too much nitrogen but since it is still flowering profusely (there are 100's of tomatos like the picture, more all the time, hardly any flowers drop) I thought that may not be the problem. I use Jobes Tomato fertilizer every ~10 days for the past month and just sprinkle it around the base of the plants + water it in a little. Otherwise I use seaweed spray every now and then. The last compost was about a month ago, ~1-2 inches thick around the base of the plants. Out of necessity, insecticidal soap/neem for spider mites. – jbord39 Jul 29 '17 at 23:53
  • What is the formulation of Jobes Tomato fertilizer out of curiosity? What state was the compost you used, what kind? Seaweed spray should have a ingredient formula, too. Please let me know...this is a real conundrum! I have a feeling there is too much nitrogen. No more fertilizer for awhile. If we can turn this around you are going to be very busy canning and making salsa and dehydrating!! 100's of THOSE plants? Oh my goodness! Have dehydrated tomatoes before? Sundried tomatoes cost an arm and leg these days!! – stormy Jul 30 '17 at 17:49
  • Are these plants out doors? Are they in pots or the ground? We need to also consider late blight which would be a complete disaster. Pruning I do for aeration because mine are in a green house. Pruning for fruit production kind of doesn't work because the plant dictates whether the energy is going into reproductive growth or vegetative growth. To get more reproductive growth you cut off reproductive growth for better and larger fruit production. Cutting leaves off to a certain point helps with aeration but could also open up the canopy that shades your fruit. Sun could cook your fruit. – stormy Jul 30 '17 at 18:01
  • What crops have you grown in that soil if these plants are in the garden soil? Any of the tomato family within the last two years? If so we can guide you through how to prevent Late Blight! That would be a disaster...I went through losing a major tomato crop in virgin soil spores can blow in too and all it takes is one spore. Blight infects the entire plant and even the tomatoes will blacken. TEN feet high? Think about getting a cover of some kind that can easily be moved... – stormy Jul 30 '17 at 18:08
  • Mine went the same way this year because we had a very hot dry spell, and I'm still waiting for mine to fruit- although they are bit deformed and having difficulty turning. Often in this case the plants go blind but what I did is just let one of the side shoots take over at the top and they soon romped away up to six foot- outside of course and stopped at 4 trusses, not very healthy plants anyway- should at least get something this year- had blight about 7 years ago and decided to stop everything tomatoey until now- if anyone has got a cure for blight please put it on here! – olantigh Jul 31 '17 at 15:18

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