Monday, February 9, 2009

Life of the Tomato Plant

The tomato could be described as a short-lived perennial, but its span of life is somewhat variable. Under favorable conditions it will develop from starting seed to first ripe fruit in from 85 to 120 days of full sunshine with a constant day temperature of from 75 to 90° F., and with one from 15 to 20° F. lower at night. The plants will ordinarily continue in full fruit for about 50 to 60 days, after which they generally become so exhausted by excessive production of fruit and the effects of diseases to which they are usually subject that their root action and sap circulation become weaker and weaker until they die from starvation. From Philadelphia southward gardeners expect that spring set plants will thus exhaust themselves and die by late summer, and they sow seed in late spring or early summer for plants on which they depend for late summer and fall crops.

Under some conditions, particularly in the Gulf states and in California, tomato plants will not only grow to a much greater size than normal, but will continue to thrive and bear fruit for a longer time. Such a plant grown in Pasadena, Cal., was said to have been in constant bearing for over 10 months. Again, sometimes plants that have produced a full crop of fruits will start new sets of roots and leaves and produce a second and even a third crop, each, however, being produced on new branches and as a result of a fresh set of roots, those which produced the preceding crop having died and disappeared. The period of development, 85 to 120 days of full sunshine at a temperature above 75° F., has been given. The full sunshine and high temperature are essential to such rapid development, and in so far as there is a lack of sunshine from clouds or shade, or the day temperature falls below 75° F. the period will be lengthened, so that in the greater part of the United States the elapsed time between starting seed to ripened fruit is usually as much as from 120 to 150 days and often even longer.

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