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Tomatoes In My Garden

June 14, 2022

Early Girl tomatoes ready to pick

What would we do without the advice of friends, especially Master Gardener friends.

Beverly, who volunteers in the vegetable garden at Raincatcher’s, gets the credit for my bumper crop of tomatoes this year. She talks about tomato problems as in her last blog and this one, but also gives promising advice.

After viewing the webinar Epic Tomatoes with Joe Lamp’l and Craig LeHoullier, Beverly sent these notes:

Pick tomatoes at full size and 35% of color. This has a cool name – “breaker stage”.  It will help prevent splitting due to rain and will also help protect from all kinds of creatures.

Ripen indoors, don’t use sunny area.

Do not pinch suckers off dwarf or determinate plants.

Don’t take off all suckers on indeterminates.

Suckers are new plants. On big plants they may extend fruiting periods. They also provide shade.

Use suckers, especially on hybrids like Sun Gold, to start new plants (clone). Let root in water.


More good advice from TAMU : Why are my tomato leaves turning yellow? Nutrition, disease, physical disorders may be the culprit.

And thanks to my eldest son and grandson for watering my garden during the crucial early stages when I was out of town with a brand new grandson. Your diligence made my tomato hopes a juicy reality.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

Are Tomatoes The Jerkiest/ Most Obnoxious Plant There Is?

June 12, 2022

 I have given up thinking about tomatoes in terms of their life cycle. Instead I look at it this way;  each stage is an ongoing disaster until we shut down the whole operation in July because they will no longer set fruit. 

The life of a tomato is a progression through fungal disease, wilt, blight, and infestations of mites and hornworms.  We anticipate these events and do our best to prevent them but around June you can easily find yourself, as I did, staring at hornworms the size of my index finger.  Owing to their coloring, hornworms are perfectly camouflaged until they have defoliated their habitat, i.e. our tomato plants. (We sentenced the hornworms to community service at our host organization’s preschool so the children could observe their transformation into sphinx moths.)

Don’t forget that while you are dealing with disease and pests, you must also be aware of your tomato’s changing fertilizer and watering needs.  Decrease the nitrogen when they start to bloom. Keep your tomatoes watered consistently and while doing so consult your crystal ball for the next unexpected rain that will cause them to split. 

Are tomatoes the jerkiest plant – making us work much harder than any plant should expect? Or, are they good for us in the sense that taking care of something other than ourselves is good therapy? 


The tomatoes harvested so far this year have redeemed themselves by joining the peppers in family packs donated to North Dallas Shared Ministries.

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Tomatoes Will Break Your Heart

I will listen to anything anyone has to say about about growing tomatoes. I have a tomato app on my phone. I’ve taken meticulous notes at many a tomato class. And what I have learned through experience is that tomatoes will break your heart in a new way every year. So select your varieties carefully- heirlooms for flavor, hybrids for disease resistance – and don’t even try the gigantic beefsteak ones you remember from your youth. Too much will go wrong before they are ready. Okay, try a big flavorful heirloom but hedge your bet with Sun Golds and Early Girls.

This year in the north garden we are going to try the Florida weave trellising technique to get the vines off the ground and improve the air circulation. The tomatoes in the how-to diagrams look very well behaved. I’m anticipating an amorphous blob of vines unless we prune daily, which will become a test of faith by the middle of April.

My best tip for obtaining delicious tomatoes for your BLTs is to make friends with someone’s uncle who has been growing tomatoes for a hundred years. Then one day your friend will say her uncle died and you will say you are so sorry to hear that while thinking, “I hope it wasn’t the one who grew tomatoes.”

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018


You will manage to get some tomatoes at least this far. If your tomatoes tend to vanish in the night, harvest at the first hint of pink and ripen indoors.

Hornworms are not uncommon and will defoliate your tomatoes. If you let them live they will develop into beautiful sphinx moths. Thank you, tomatoes, for this dilemma.
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