End of Summer Hail Mary

Yesterday I pulled out three more tomato plants that had not set any fruit – both Pineapple plants (I guess I know why I didn’t remember how this seed worked out in the past) and the Big Zak, which was still a very little Zak. Everything else at least has… something, even if it’s just two or three fruits.

The roots on all three plants I pulled were very small and poorly developed based on how they usually look when I pull out the plants in September. I’m interested to find out if this will be unique to these three, or if all my plants will have bad roots this year. I tried to troubleshoot and discovered that this could be due to over OR under watering. Seeing as I’ve been unsure if my plants have been over or under watered this summer, this information does not help my diagnostics much.

Rather than wallow in these disappointments, it was time this morning to do some damage control and salvage what’s left. This week is going to be possibly the hottest of the entire summer, which likely won’t be good for ripening but may be a final growth push for some of the undersized fruits, of which every plant still has several.

I brought in the Big Guns (Miracle Gro Tomato), fertilized all the plants, and busted out the clippers.

If your plants are in a similar boat, End-of-Summer Hail Mary pruning involves removing all of the buds and too-tiny fruits from your plants. There’s no time for them to develop properly, so they need to be sacrificed for the greater good. Don’t let the plant waste energy trying to make new babies! I generally also prune off any new growth (“suckers” – i.e. the tiny new branches forming in the armpit of the larger branches, for lack of better phrasing) and larger branches that don’t have fruit on them. This should force the plant to put its energy into developing the remaining fruits.

Even though this week is going to be insanely hot, the late August nights are quite cool, so I’m also going to greenhouse up my plants with red plastic covers to hopefully keep some heat in so they can grow a bit overnight.

If your green tomatoes are full sized and you simply want to hasten ripening, the above described pruning still applies. Another trick I heard last year is to tug on the plant a bit to disturb the roots – apparently this root disturbance should trigger the plant to stop growing and start ripening. I don’t know if it actually works, but doesn’t hurt to try.

Why don’t you just pick the green tomatoes off and let them ripen indoors? you ask. Because indoor ripened tomatoes are gross and only good for cooking with and I WILL fight anyone who does not agree with this statement. Outdoor ripening on live plants or bust!

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