|Hi Master Gardener,
For the first time ever, I planted tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets, using Schultz garden & vegetable dirt with 2″ mulch on top of dirt. They get 7-8 hours of sunshine, I water every day if no rain. The plants are 4-6 feet tall, healthy with the usual leaf production ( I pruned the suckers as the plants matured.) I planted seedling sprouts on May 1st. It is now 116 days later and the tomatoes are VERY VERY slow to redden ( ripen) There is a good quantity of fruit, but ripening seems to be extremely slow. Where am I wrong or is this common? Thank you Please email respond as I am anti telephone HA:)
Answer by Master Gardener Bruce:
Good morning Bill,
Thanks so much for the information. After answering a few questions, I feel you are doing everything right so I did some more research in solving your ripening problem. This is what I came up with. I looked for information on tomatoes ripening in a container vs ripening in the ground. I couldn’t find any information on the difference if there is any. Once the seedling is planted in the container it takes 2-3 months for tomatoes to be ready for harvest. Which is about the same for inground tomatoes. I did run across a study done at the University of Maryland with tomato ripening this year. Enough potassium is required for the tomato to produce lycopene. Lycopene is the agent that gives tomatoes there color. With the massive rains received this year, they believe that the excess water may have inhibited the plants ability to absorb the potassium. Their study shows the soil was rich in potassium but when they checked the plants, there was a low level of potassium found. They don’t know why. Since your tomatoes are container grown, maybe the excess rain washed all the nutrients out of your container causing a potassium deficiency. You might try adding some potassium to your container and see if that corrects the problem.
Good luck and stay in touch!.
Thank you very much. I was beginning to think buckets may be the reason and now I see that they are not.
Next season I will find a way to add some potassium ( if we get heavy rains again)