Tomato Postmortem or Better Luck Next Year

Autumn weather is a few weeks away, but our tomato crop is throwing in the towel. We’re facing a brutal heatwave with triple-digit, record-breaking temperatures this weekend. Unfortunately, it seems to be the world’s trend this summer, either brutal heat or devastating floods.

Pair of VegTrugs: succulents on the left, tomatoes on the right.

San Jose had the driest January on record, followed by an equally-dry February. We average 14.9 inches of rainfall annually, with 6 inches falling in the first two months of the year. It’s disheartening.

Given these drought conditions, we can no longer justify a large vegetable garden. So instead, we limited our planting to three tomato varieties and watered them exclusively with captured rainwater. Unfortunately, I mistook some watering advice and let them dry out for too long between watering. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our small harvest in salads and supplemented from a local farm stand.

Tessa finds the warm soil in the raised bed irresistible, so I wrapped the front of the box with tulle to keep her out. As you can see, she simply figured out a way to gain access from the back of the box.

Tessa flouting the rules

Our Bushman tanks hold 130 gallons each, and we have three. Unfortunately, the tanks are nearly depleted and are unlikely to fill again for several months.

We’re ending the season reflecting on our meager crop and a serving of humble pie. Better luck next year.

Got rain? Please send some our way.

18 thoughts on “Tomato Postmortem or Better Luck Next Year

  1. It is terrible. I feel your pain. I am sorry. The Holler is under an unprecedented heat wave. We have over 7 acres. Lots of plants are dying in front of my eyes. The drought seems never ending….. It rained today. I stood in the rain for as long as it lasted, 10 minutes. It was 100F.


    • Oh Cindy! 100F and wet…it sounds like a surreal day in the tropics. It’s really hard watching plants die and knowing you can’t do much about it. We’ve bailed some dishpan water for a few trees, but some plants simply can’t cope with the heat. My husband, Mike, is in love with a pair of Rhododendrens, but they’re just not suited for San Jose heat.


  2. No rain here either! Or rather, we have had some drizzle overnight but it doesn’t touch the surface.

    Anyway, I think tomatoes can be tricky to grow in any kind of container. As autumn is still a few weeks away, could you keep the plants going for a while longer? I’ve got a self-seeded plant which is just coming into flower. If I can get something from it, you should get more ๐Ÿ˜Š


    • Helen, I’m sorry to hear that your dry conditions continue. It’s seems so out of character for the British Aisles to be hot and dry. It’s been sink or swim for our garden this summer. Everything gets by on less. That said, as we’ve gradually gone native and drought tolerant, we have few plants that require a lot of water. As far as late-season fruit, I’ve found in the past that the tomatoes aren’t as sweet. I think they thrive on summer weather, and even the warm days don’t fool them. Please let me know if your tomato plant does well.


      • Good plan to go native! We can’t go native as we already have that, so there is talk of no longer growing tradition plants. Where I live typical rainfall is about 25 inches, which isn’t wet, but the plants on the eastern side of the country are adapted for that. Half the rain and double the heat is a recipe for disaster, though.

        Certainly, the best tomatoes are in the summer. Even though we can grow tomatoes outdoors till towards the end of October and they redden indoors, the taste is not as good. On the other hand, it does mean we can have British-grown without the carbon footprint of a heated greenhouse till Christmas.


  3. Aw, that Tessa, who could scold that face? ๐Ÿ˜‰
    No rain here either and that is unusual for New England, which ‘used to’ get 42″ of moisture a year. Welcome to the new normal, I guess. Take care in that brutal heat, Alys. โค


    • Tessa keeps us in stitches a lot of the time. She maneuvers into a variety of hiding places, then sits in silence while we look for her. This week she slept under the fern, beneath the bogainvillea and of course napped with the tomatoes. I don’t mind her sleeping there, truth be told, but cat “fertilizer” is not good for the vegies. Wow…42 inches of rain. My latest travel idea is Raincations. We thought we would get some of that when we traveled to Seattle, but it turns out that it rains frequently but not a lot. We had one downpour that ended in 15 minutes. Thanks for your well wishes, Eliza.


  4. I’m SO sorry, Alys! We have been “tomatoing” regularly since you helped us with your patio pickers advice many years ago, but have gravitated to raised beds here in Ohio. Good years and bad years, but this one started early and finished early…just about done, now! Both my freezer and tummy are full, but if there was a way to send you some all the way from Ohio, I gladly would. Never surrender! As least dear Tessa is enjoying the bed? Nancy


  5. The whole west coast has suffered the heat and dryness this year. I had never know the Portland area to be so hot and dry as it’s been lately. You have really been hit to get so little from your garden. Tessa just blends in there. She’s such a stinker hiding like that. We usually got buckets of rain during monsoon season. I was surprised at how little rain there was here this year but we did get some. LOTS of lightening! Luckily, no major fires from it. I’m ready for autumn but we need to be able to grow food. Frustrating.


  6. My condolences… I have to grow tomatoes in late winter, just as it’s starting to get a bit warmer. If I leave it till the summer the Wet season pretty much guarantees they’ll burst and split or get blossom end rot despite all efforts. There are a couple of ‘tropicalised’ varieties that withstand the worst of our climate, but they’re also not the tastiest. Sometimes, you have to roll with Nature, and I’m trying to concentrate more on strictly winter-safe (ie, northern hemisphere spring) vegies in winter, and tropical vegies in the Wet season (squashes, luffa, okra, Ceylon spinach, snake beans, etc). Trouble is, I LOVE cold climate vegies best…


  7. Well, capital ‘E’ for your Effort. We tried tomatoes last year with dismal outcomes. Honestly, It’s cheaper to buy them once a week at the market ๐Ÿ˜ Still, sorry for your disappointment. I tend to like tomato’s very firm, while Jim likes them juicy and ripe, so it’s a conundrum at the best of times. We haven’t had any significant rain since early July and it feels weird. So, I can’t even image 8 or 9 months without rain. If I had some, I’d share ๐Ÿ’—๐ŸŒธ๐Ÿ˜


  8. Nothing deters that clever kitty!! How I wish I I could send you some of our rain. We’ve had so much my fingers are puckered and the sides of the houses are moldy. Ick. The low water table around the west breaks my heart. Glad you got a few tomatoes. My son’s plant is 10ft tall and covered with hundreds of the yummiest little tomatoes. I too am hoping you get a lot more rain in the coming year and the mountains get loads of snow that melts and fills up those lakes and rivers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! A ten-foot tall tomato is extraordinary. I’m so impressed. Amazingly, we had a summer storm on Sunday. We got between half an inch and in inch. Everything is so fresh, Amy. We’re back to heat and dry, but this was a welcome respite.

      Liked by 1 person

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