distressed tomatoes in barrels

What To Do with Tomatoes That Have Stopped Producing?

I don't know about the rest of you, but in the Midwest in the middle of August,  tomato plants are beginning to look dry old and wilted, yet they are still hanging on producing a little from what's left.  I thought I would share thoughts on what to do when your plants look like this....

Tomato plants are a popular choice for many home gardeners. They provide delicious fruits throughout the growing season, but there may come a time when your tomato plants stop producing. This can be disheartening, especially if you have invested time and effort into caring for them. However, there are several steps you can take to understand why your tomato plants have stopped producing and how to revive them or make the most of their remaining growth. In this article, we will explore some tips and ideas on what to do with tomato plants that have quit producing.

Identify the Possible Causes

The first step in addressing the issue of tomato plants not producing is to identify the possible causes. There are several factors that could contribute to the decline in fruit production. Some common reasons include inadequate sunlight, nutrient deficiency, lack of pollination, lack of tomato fertilizer, improper watering, diseases, or pests. By pinpointing the cause, you can better address the issue and take appropriate actions.  Having your soil tested is a great way to improve your chances.  You can buy simple soil tests online, mail or deliver a soil test to the local county extension office.  Having soil with the correct PH level, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and introducing live microbes will certainly go a long way towards success.

 Evaluate the Growing Conditions

Take a close look at the growing conditions of your tomato plants. Ensure they receive at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. If they are shaded by nearby trees or structures, consider relocating them to a sunnier spot. Check the soil pH level and nutrient content, and amend it if necessary. Providing a balanced fertilizer or compost can help replenish the nutrients needed for healthy fruit production.

tomato plants without fruit

Encourage Pollination

Poor pollination may be another reason behind the decline in fruit production. Bees and other pollinators play a crucial role in transferring pollen from the male to the female flowers of tomato plants. To attract more pollinators, you can plant flowers that are known to attract them nearby, such as marigolds or lavender. Alternatively, gently shake the plant or use a small brush to simulate the vibrations that bees create, aiding in pollination.

Pruning and Maintenance

Pruning can help promote airflow and sunlight penetration, which are essential for healthy plant growth. Remove any yellowing or diseased leaves to prevent the spread of diseases. Additionally, excessive foliage can divert energy away from fruit production. Prune away unnecessary branches, focusing on the main stems and allowing better air circulation around the remaining foliage.

Harvest Any Remaining Fruit

If your tomato plants have ceased production entirely, it's time to harvest any remaining fruit. Even if the fruits are small or slightly green, you can allow them to ripen indoors. Place them in a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple, as these fruits release ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening process. Enjoy the harvested tomatoes fresh or use them in various recipes like sauces, soups, or salads.

basket of ripe tomatoes

Consider Replanting or Using the Space

After harvesting the remaining tomatoes, you can evaluate whether it's worth replanting new tomato seedlings or consider using the space for other crops. Crop rotation is essential to minimize soil-borne diseases and maintain soil nutrient balance. Consider planting different vegetables or herbs in the spot where your tomato plants were growing.

While it can be disappointing when tomato plants stop producing, there are several steps you can take to address the issue and make the most of your gardening efforts. By identifying the possible causes, evaluating growing conditions, encouraging pollination, pruning and maintaining the plants, harvesting remaining fruit, and considering replanting or using the space for other crops, you can maximize your gardening experience and ensure future success with tomato plants. Remember, gardening is a continuous learning process, and each season presents new opportunities for growth and improvement.

large row of tomato plants