I was hoping I was wrong, but alas, I was not. My tomato plants are keeling over. It was a complicated set of circumstances that ultimately boiled down to one thing… too much water.
Last week, we had our famous trademark Canadian “Holy Crap, It Really Gets That Hot?!” weather. I was absent for a large part of it, unfortunately in an equally hot place, but fortunately in a much drier climate, and my friends and neighbors helped me keep the planter and our new sod well while I was away. The day that they knew to expect me back was one of the hottest days: blistering, sun-scorching and cloudless. Well, I panicked when I got home at night and saw that the plants were drooping and the planter appeared bone dry.
The plants were actually better off than it looked; the planter had done it’s job well in the circumstances, but of course no box with subterranean water can completely outdo the sun. The soil had been scorching hot, surface evaporation was high, and so it steadily drained the reservoir. An evening sprinkle at the top level perked most of them back up.
The next day, I made a fatal mistake.
I’ve mentioned before that the planter takes an aeon to fill from empty. At 6am the next morning, I was diligently filling it up, and stood there patiently for about 5 or so minutes. Then I got impatient. And then I decided to do some pruning, etc., and there would be no harm leaving the hose draining into the top of the planter for a little while for a good soaking, because it had been so dry, and because it would probably be somewhere in the 9th circle of hell temperature wise again that day.
Unfortunately for me, that was the day that the thunderstorm long-promised by weathermen decided to drop by.
It was a heck of a storm. High wind, tornado warnings, hail, and several inches of driving rain. Knocked out the power to hundreds of thousands of people. All things considered, it was amazing that my plants survived more or less OK, although my tomatoes and cucumbers were edging to 45 degrees and I was unable to pin them back upright without damaging them. But because so much water was sitting in the top where it really wasn’t supposed to be, because I had saturated it thoroughly, it mostly stayed there. It didn’t drain down into the reservoirs and out the overflow. Combined with the fact that the intense rain stirred up the mix enough to separate a good percentage of the perlite from the peat moss, and it was mostly sitting on top, I had an aeration problem. My cucumbers hanging on the vine turned yellow from an excess of water, and my tomatoes slowly began to suffocate.
I held out hope for a little while… I thought another day of hot weather and some stillness would help drain and evaporate the standing liquid, but unfortunately the weather dawned cool and humid for the weekend. The greens have begun to wither, and the smallest unripened fruit is beginning to shrivel and drop from the vine.
I won’t be the first farmer or the last to suffer a crop loss, though I’m disappointed that my plans to small batch can cherry tomatoes just bit the dust with only a couple of handfuls of ripened fruit. Despite the loss of the tomatoes and the dubious future of the cucumbers, I’m very lucky; my peppers and herbs are unfazed. Once the last of the nearly-ripe tomatoes are salvaged from the vine in the next day or two, I will have to see if I can reclaim the space with a fall greens crop.