You may be an “old hand” at raising tomatoes or an “eager beaver” who has set out his first plants this year.
In either case, however, you will likely discover the bane of all tomato-growers— “blossom-drop.”
Usually, the delicate tomato cluster cannot stand a night temperature under 58° degrees Fahrenheit, and it needs warm, sunny days to “set” its fruit.
Late spring and early summer nights are often cold, and days cool and cloudy.
If conditions are not suitable, those first promising blossoms will drop off your vines, and your tomato crop will have to come from a second blooming.
This may delay fruit ripening until late August or early September since 45 to 50 days are required from blossom-set to full maturity.
An early frost could leave you with baskets of green tomatoes on your hands.
Spray As The Tomato Clusters Open
Again modern science has come to the rescue of farmers and gardeners with a hormone spray, which, if applied to tomato clusters just as they open, releases natural hormones in the ovary and sets the fruit.
Tomatoes from these first blossoms ripen plenty of time to avoid frost damage.
Tests have shown that the hormone strengthens the attachment of the blossom to the stem and that sprayed plants set as much as 90% percent fruit from their blossoms as compared with 50% percent from unsprayed plants.
The hormone in the spray, which is marketed under several trade names, is one of the large family of growth-regulator hormones which have revolutionized horticulture in the last 50 years.
Early experiments with these hormones were made several decades ago in Holland and England, but the first American tests were started around 1930 by the Boyce-Thompson Institute for Plant Research.
Growing Tomato Fruits Without Seeds
In 1944, Eugene Olshansky, a young research chemist with General Electric Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, startled the horticultural world by using a hormone spray to produce tomatoes without seeds!
He demonstrated that if the tomato blossom is sprayed before pollination by wind, birds, or bees takes place, the hormone pollinates it artificially, and the tomato is seedless.
Although seedless tomatoes have some advantages, especially for people with dental plates or stomach disorders, Olshansky realized that the greatest value of the hormone spray lay in its quality of producing better fruit earlier by setting the first blossoms.
Tomatoes from blossoms sprayed with the hormone are heavier, have fewer cracks, and are less subject to black rot.
Increase In Tomato Quantities
The tomato hormone spray has been tested in government and university laboratories and the field in such widely-separated areas as New Jersey and Texas and under such divergent weather conditions as in Florida and Colorado.
Everywhere yield increases ranged from 30% to 50% percent after using the spray.
Fifty to 75 tomatoes per plant was an average yield, but one western grower sprayed a plant five times and got 200 tomatoes!
Such concentrated spraying is undoubtedly not recommended for the small gardener or big operator.
Experience has shown that a single application will produce good results, and one or two more at weekly intervals even better.
The spray’s cost is so small that it is practical for both “backyard” and professional growers.
One pint will treat 100 plants, and the spray can be used for around one dollar an acre on a large-scale basis.
All the home gardener needs in the way of equipment is an ordinary garden spray gun.
Proper Spray For A Fine Crop
There are so many growth-regulator hormones on the market today that experts warn the gardener to make sure he is buying the right preparation for the job he wants to do.
Do not buy a spray for strawberries and expect it to produce wonderful tomatoes!
The proper spray, used according to directions on the bottle, should give you a fine crop and provide ample insurance against “blossom-drop.”