Well my tomatoes are finally getting close to full swing, and with that I begin questioning why it is that I grow heirloom varieties.

Sure, the colors are neat, the flavors are amazing and there are just so many different varieties out there. But have I told you that they also tend to crack at the first threat of a raindrop? Any excessive moisture on most heirlooms when they are near ripe is enough to cause them to think a flood may ensue and splits them open.

Once split they are still usable if you get to them early enough. If you’re a day late, chances are that either insect or animal has made it to that ripe split tomato before you.

It doesn’t help matters when you think about how much less of a yield heirlooms have compared to the hybrid varieties. Yet, year after year, I am still drawn to them. My easiest fix that I have came across is going out prior to a rain event and picking anything that has already begun changing colors and has some softness to the touch.

Another issue is when you experience a tomato where the top 3/4 of the tomato looks great, only for you to pick it and realize  the bottom has completely rotted away. This would result most likely from Blossom End Rot, which is caused by a calcium deficiency. The easiest fix or preventative is to add some eggshells while initially planting your tomato plants. Once planted, you can water using fish emulsion and that can help prevent Blossom End Rot as well.

Many folks will call or email me to say that their leaves on the bottom of their tomato plants are yellowing and dying. This happens as a result of your plants putting so much energy into the production of producing tomatoes that it sacrifices feeding the lower portion of itself to make sure it has enough energy to produce tomatoes for you. If it really is creating an eyesore or throwing you into some sort of anxiety, you can use pruners to remove all the yellowing or dried branches and place them into your compost. If you were to leave them on your plant, it really will not cause you any problems.

Something you should really look out for is late blight. I know all too many farmers that have lost full fields of tomato crops from late blight starting on one plant and taking over a field in no time. Signs of late blight are your stems and branches turning black and taking over the entire plant. If this happens, pull the affected plants and place them in those big black garbage bags to be sent to the landfill. Most types of blight are prevented by using a spray that includes copper in the ingredients and repeating it on a biweekly or at least monthly preventative schedule.

While heirlooms tend to bring out plenty of drama and stress within me, all I need is to go out and pick a single tomato that doesn’t have an issue and slice it up for a snack and I believe that moment is the closest I will get to heaven on earth.

Keep an eye on your tomato plants and try to prevent the issues that you may be prone to when possible. If you plant heirlooms get ready for some amazing mouth watering flavor as they begin to come into season.


Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at sachabrittburns@yahoo.com.

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