In the Garden: They might look odd but they’re still tasty –


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By Special to Waterloo Region RecordSun., Aug. 22, 2021timer3 min. readEveryone grows tomatoes because they’re so easy, but they can have their problems. It’s so disappointing when that plant you’ve nurtured since the May 24 weekend isn’t full of rich, red globes of delight as illustrated in the seed catalogue or on the plant tag. They should come with a warning: Results may vary.Even though you’ve protected your plants from frost, mulched and fertilized, watered when required, the fruit they’ve produced is wrinkled, blotchy, splitting, still green, or the bottom is rotting out like the wreck of a car that’s seen too many winters.Don’t feel bad. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) lists 17 diseases and 11 disorders that can potentially affect your crop. Among them are early and late blights, other fungal diseases, viruses and bacteria, and they’re all out to get your tomatoes. Identifying the specific problem can be a challenge as symptoms are often similar, especially with the diseases, but the OMAFRA website has images, good descriptions of the ailments, and advice on how to deal with them. that result in odd-looking fruit, however, are not always something to worry about. The tomatoes may not be the perfect ones you hoped for, but that doesn’t mean they don’t taste good. Among the common ailments are splitting, zippering, cat facing and other unusual symptoms. These can be caused by issues at the time of pollination or by weather conditions during fruit development. Splitting is common and is due to an erratic water supply. When there’s heavy rain after a dry spell, the fruit swells rapidly and the skin splits.Cat facing appears as wrinkles and scars, as though a cat has faced off with the tomato. It’s a disorder that hasn’t been fully researched. It could be related to a nutrient deficiency, weather again, or damage during pollination and fruit set. These can also result in zippering, which appears as zipper-like scars. Sometimes the tomatoes are puffy or deformed, but again, it doesn’t affect the flavour. Coming now to a garden near you will be blossom end rot. It’s understood to be caused by a calcium deficiency, but not in the soil where it’s rarely lacking, especially in this area. Rather, it’s in the inability of the plant to take up calcium, a micronutrient, and transport it to the fruit where it’s needed. However, any mention of a calcium deficiency, especially online, has led to many promoting the idea that adding more to the soil in the form of lime, eggshells, even Tums or Rolaids will resolve the problem. It won’t. The best advice is to ensure consistent moisture in the soil, however, that isn’t always possible if the garden is dependent on rainfall. Fortunately, BER isn’t a disease. It won’t spread to other fruit or plants and often resolves later in the season.Another concern is fruit that is discoloured or isn’t ripening. Yellow blotches can be simply due to harsh sunlight, excessively high temperatures or a specific nutrient deficiency. Adding fertilizer can be helpful but be aware that overdoing it can do more harm than good. To avoid many of these tomato problems, select disease-resistant varieties, plant them in good, free-draining soil enriched with some organic matter, add mulch, and monitor the watering.As for those tomatoes that are still green — patience, grasshopper. We’ve been short on sunshine this summer and there’s plenty of time for them to turn red. A word of caution. Tomato plants need lots of sun, but the fruit won’t ripen faster by removing leaves that are providing shade, so leave them be as they’re needed to feed the fruit. Tomatoes will ripen just fine without the sun on them.Now, who’s for a rich, red globe of delight?
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