Mid-July & No Tomatoes

One of the first things that tipped me off to the temperature record being a bit bogus (“over adjusted” to put it kindly…) was my tomatoes. Were I live, it is marginal for many types of tomatoes. They must be consistently above 50 F at night for fruit set. When I first moved here, it was “iffy” on the tomatoes. With proper placement, some black mulch, etc. etc. you can reliably grow them. Simple “garden square” with medium sun exposure and white cement border, well, you get late tomatoes, but don’t expect to be eating any on the 4th of July.

Now IF “Global Warming” had validity, it ought to have been getting easier to grow a tomato crop each year and I ought to have been harvesting earlier. It wasn’t… So when I looked at GIStemp (the NASA GISS temperature fabrication program) I adopted the “tag line” of “GIStemp- Dumber than a Tomato!”

I got a nice crop, modestly early, about 1998 and using some Russian low temperature selected vines. Other cherry tomatoes and some heirlooms did OK that year, but mostly harvested a bit late.

Then I let the garden go for a couple of years as I worked in Florida on contract.

Well, this year I’ve got a volunteer tomato came up near the BBQ / Patio area. Medium good dirt with a cement reflector “up sun” in the pavers. Direct sun after about 10 AM (indirect before that). A nice warm spot to be.

Now it’s a volunteer, so no idea what variety it is. Likely something that fell off a hamburger… or from sloppy eating “out of hand”. Yet volunteers have already self selected for local conditions and a harsher start to life. This one looks to be a large bush type vine (so far). It has had flowers on it for about a month now (maybe a bit longer). I’ve fertilized it once with Miracle Grow vegetable mix, but it was doing OK even without that ( a little better growth after). Regular water every few days, as needed. All that as I’ve done with other tomatoes.

Now my Dad always taught me that you knew you had timed your garden well (In Iowa and Central valley California, at least) if you had fresh corn on the cob and ripe tomatoes on the 4th of July. It’s now a couple of week past that.

Not only do I NOT have any ripe tomatoes; but I have no tomato set at all. I’ve inspected the vine. Lots of flowers. Some places flowers had been but had blossom drop when fruit set failed. It is NOT a warm summer when you can’t even get fruit SET by July 4th…

Anecdotal? Yes. Can’t say what limit of fruit set temperature is for this variety? Yes. Yet any ‘special’ set temperatures are to the cold side… it is the 50 F that is the “normal” and I don’t know of any that are selected for a warmer fruit set temperature. So, IMHO, this is a valid indicator.

It just is not warmer. I’ve had about 30 years of growing tomatoes here, on and off. Maybe 40 if you count “near here” about 15 miles away a bit closer to the mountains. Had we been warming for 30 to 40 years the “just barely enough” fruit set temperatures would have turned into “reliable” by now. Instead I’ve got “complete failure to set”. There are pollinators around (at least 2 kinds of bees). Evenings have felt quite cool.

Formally, the news is reporting night temps about 56 F, but that is at the airport. Is it 6 F colder here? Is the night sky letting the plant radiate to cooler than 50F even if the air is, say, 54 F? I can’t say. What I can say is that it has NOT warmed from the prior “normal” and it seems cooler. I can also say the tomato has zero fruit set, and it is mid July. IF I’m lucky, I may get fruit set in August. That would put harvest in late September or October. Barely in time for the start of fall.

To me, the tomato is telling me there has been no global warming. Zero. Nada. Zilch. If anything, it’s a slightly cooler summer than for the last 30 to 40 years. Global warming is “dumber than a tomato”… as, it would seem, are many “climate scientists” and politicians…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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17 Responses to Mid-July & No Tomatoes

  1. Richard Ilfeld says:

    Actually, your tomato brings up a very interesting question.
    Authors have, for years, used proxies to reconstruct past temperatures.
    Why do we not see these proxies continued to the most recent present possible,
    as a check that nature is still responding as we thought. If they measured temperature , or “climate” in the past, why not the present?
    Inquiring minds want to know. The tomato may be curious too.

  2. cdquarles says:

    I don’t know of any, either, but where I am, temperatures are rarely going to be too cold for tomatoes. May have nice ones in May, if April wasn’t too cold. Very rare for May to be too cold. People around here are on their second or third crop, if the rainy June didn’t hurt them from molds (generally called rot). July, so far, after the cool start, compared to average, has been pretty much near average. 60s to 70s at night, 80s to 90s during the day. If a big dry high sits over us, we can get upper 90s/low 100s with mid 70s dew points and the photochemical haze noticeable by 9 AM. We generally can get crops into, and sometimes through, October. After that, it is too cold.

  3. D. J. Hawkins says:

    I noticed this year that the lightning bugs are late. Getting swarms of them now, but around these parts (NJ) we usually see them in the second week of June.

  4. E.M.Smith says:


    IMHO, it is because splice artifacts are used to effect and avoiding the splice leaves flat to falling temperatures… As the present cold wet cycle deepens, it is getting harder so sell the warming FUD.


    Inland, just 80 miles, it is very hot and tomatoes are stellar performers. Here, the low is set by the cold ocean currents vs sun. So I can’t say if the sun is colder, the ocesn colder, or both. But I’m happy to trade no tomatoes for now AC needed ;-) At night, the ocean is unopposed…

    @D J Hawkins:

    Verry Interrresting… bugs have temperature dependant maturation rate… wonder if there are entomologist records of bug arrivals for long periods…

  5. Larry Ledwick says:

    As far at bugs go, I bet there are niche sources someone could mine for related data.

    For example fly fishermen types would probably keep track of things like the mayfly hatch date in a given location. Might have to go to a local news paper sports feature to watch for that sort of thing. Likewise things like nuisance bugs such as miller moths and grass hoppers are probably recorded by the agricultural types.

    Same with special interest bugs like the arrival date of the monarch butter fly in a given area.

    It would probably take a couple years of research just to chase down likely candidates to try to assemble a chronology for, but it is an interesting idea for someone with the right skill set and connections to pursue.

    Other temperature and weather related biological markers could also create data sets.

    Cherry blossom bloom date
    first buds on trees
    peak pollen days for certain species (ie cotton wood trees when they release their seed and cover everything with their cotton tufts)

    Related the agricultural service maintains info on soil temperatures to assist with planting dates.
    Last frost and first frost dates etc. On the eastern sea board some of those records might go back essentially uninterrupted for 200+ years.

    In the near arctic like Alaska they have “Ice out” records on various rivers and when the ice cover finally breaks up at given locations in the spring. The Nenanaa ice classic has info posted for the last 28 years. But records go back 101 years.


  6. John F. Hultquist says:

    There are charts for a place about 50 miles south of us. We are higher and get more wind.
    Have a look.

    January and February were a bit cold but not record breaking. Since then the average prevails.
    However, snow and cold lingered and I could not plant anything at normal times. Wet and wind during the time our cherry trees blossomed reduced fruit set. When soil and air temperature came up, yellow summer squash set many fruits but had not the leaf mass to support them. I’ve thinned about 80% and today harvested 2 about the size of beef-franks.
    These sorts of plants are not native and, to me, just do not represent and respond well to the weather here. Maybe 1 in 4 years they do what we would like them to do.
    We do have a native plant – Sagebrush Mariposa Lily or Calochortus macrocarpus


    Our Mariposa Lilies seem to bloom about the 4th of July — every year.
    This year I found the first one on the 3rd.
    My thought is that native plants “integrate the long term weather patterns” — climate.
    Introduced plants, say tomatoes and summer squash, respond well if the year’s weather is what they expect. Frequently they get something else, and suffer.

  7. Graeme No. 3 says:

    Oddly enough last summer in the Adelaide Hills there were comments galore about poor tomato crops. (2016 was a wet year here) It wasn’t just my poor gardening, anyway I got a good late crop well into autumn of the small pear type.
    What I have noticed is that my agapanthus are starting to flower later. Normally they started at the end of Nov. or first week in Dec. The last 2 years they have just beaten Christmas (that’s the early sort, other follow). So first week of Dec. third week (21st) and then 23rd. Agapanthus are considered indestructable here, although the current frosts are knocking them about badly. Strange because the Weather Bureau keeps insisting that the minimum temperature hasn’t gone below 5℃.

  8. beththeserf says:

    Tomatoes, climate – wise,
    are somewhat like
    the canary in the mine,
    or temperature – fahrenheit
    at which water becomes ice.
    Empiric data rules,
    thank goodness for that.

  9. jim2 says:

    Well, for now, it’s just weather. But if this keeps up a few years …

    I don’t want it to get cold, but if the Sun is the driver, that’s what will happen in the not too distant future. At least the silver lining is the CAGW shtick will find the road a bit rougher.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    Maybe it’s time for me to try, once again, to learn how to grow the Asian cold weather vegetables. Choy (turnip related greens) and daikon (radish with giant mild root)… I’ve got a Persian fava bean (small like a regular sized Great Northern) that grew well one winter and had less of a ‘coat’ and milder flavor than horse beans… i.e. it was easy to cook and eat. Probably ought to get some skill with the colder season plants.

    Here in California, while the nights are cool near the coast, the days easily get to 90 F at times and can be quite dry. Not exactly what a cold weather plant wants to see… so “we can grow anything” but it can take learning some odd skills. Night cloches on tomatoes even in June (but make sure they are gone after sunrise), shade over cabbages in summer days.

    You get problems like peas that start really well, but then run smack into hot days and sulk, or get white powdery. Might be easier to grow them in actual winter… There was one year I grew the favas in winter and tepary beans (desert natives) in summer; proving year round legumes “worked” here. Oh Well…

    Right now we’re having about a 30 F swing each day. About 60 F tonight and 90 F today. May actually get some fruit set on the tomatoes if that holds for 3 days… As a first rough estimate, that’s about 30 / 12 hours or 2.5 F / hour. Somehow 1/2 F over 100 years doesn’t seem important…

    @John F.:

    Yup. Gardening is the art of figuring out what that particular plant expects, and giving it!

    My tepary beans, for example, were failures a couple of years. Finally I read up and found out that the really suffer if you water them! Being from the desert, they want (expect) thin soils and low water. Give them rich garden soil and good water, their roots rot… and weeds take over. So finally planted some on some crap soil out of the prepared garden area and didn’t water them. Did nicely… (They grow as a low ground cover, not upright. Yield isn’t large, but they are ideal for an emergency crop in a place where summer rains don’t exist and folks are used to heavy irrigation… that might not be there in a real emergency situation). Just had to learn that “they just want to be left alone” in a barren Goth sort of way…

  11. Gary says:

    Cool and wet here in southern New England. Reminds me a of a summer in the late 60s. No worries about the usual summer dry spell impacting well water use this year.

  12. Judy F. says:

    Sometimes, too much fertilizer makes plant growth but not fruit set and growth. In my part of the country ( high plains Colorado) I have sprayed epsom salts on the plants and blossoms to encourage fruit set. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I will often plant tomatoes with epsom salts ( maybe a tablespoon or so? I just toss it in the hole) but even a top dressing may be too late for that to be a good remedy for you . The foliar application might be the best.

    I am a superintendent for the vegetable division at our local county fair. Every year some of the exhibitors proclaim it has been the best tomato year ever, while the person standing next to them swears it has been the worst. So, after 25 years working at the fair, I have come to the conclusion that in order to raise good tomatoes, it needs to be: hot, cool, wet, dry, humid, sunny or cloudy. The soil needs to be fertilized with horse manure, rabbit manure, compost, or no fertilizer. The tomatoes need to be caged or not and mulched with black plastic, red plastic, straw, grass clippings, or no mulch what are you thinking.

    So my professional opinion is that it is a crap shoot that depends on the variety planted and whatever micro-climate you have in order to get tomatoes. But it is worth however long it takes to
    grow in order to take a bite of that first tomato of the season.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @Judy F.:

    One application, Miracle Grow, by self mixing sprayer and per directions. That works wonders and isn’t overfertilized. That’s not yhe problem. Here, it is either too little fertilizer or cold. Been that way for 40 years…

    Don’t be surprised if folks are economical with the truth about what grows prize winning tomatoes… At the local chili contest, winners must publish recipies. One group, upon winning, had a recipe involving a 10 year old goat head. Seems they dunk it in, then put it back in the freezer for next year… After 10 years they finally won…But, nobody can duplicate their chili as they have no goat head frozen for 10 years…. (and rising).

    Makes me wonder what other Easter Eggs are salted into recipies…Like maybe “alum to taste” meaning wave bottle near pot…

  14. Graeme No. 3 says:

    There are a range of oriental mustard leaf greens available which may do in winter. I have several growing now in winter here untroubled by frosts. They range in strength from mild to very hot (Giant Red) when eaten raw. Cooking tones down the very hot ones. Land cress is a native of North America and distinctly mustardy in taste. (Grows as an understory in the vege plot and reputedly kills White Cabbage Moth larva when they eat it).
    Also Mizuna and presumably Mibuna but as I don’t like the taste I don’t grow the latter. Most people who try it prefer Mizuna to Rocket (Arugula). Lamb’s lettuce and Miner’s lettuce. Swiss chard is hardy. And there is always Kale, I prefer Red Russian one.
    What about Turnips or Beetroot? See if you can get the latter as a white one. Hamburgh Parsly grows into autumn but the roots can be left in the ground until required. Dare I mention Broccoli?

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Graeme No. 3:

    Alas, as Dad was from Iowa and taught me to garden, until about a decade back I never thought to try starting a garden before May, sometimes June… Given that, my experiences with cold crops were dismal.

    In the last decade I finally “got over it” and started trialing winter gardens. Things improved greatly! I’ve now succeeded at some oriental mustards (love the bite of reds…) and even some broccoli and cabbages (still working on heading cabbages). But… when the warm dry arrives, often fast, the cold weather stuff just chokes. I could salvage it with lotscof watrr, but our droughts make that hard.

    I was about to try my year round garden calendar plan when it was “off to Florida”, so I did citrus in tubs instead… and some other potted things.

    Now I’ve got the weed patch from hell to clean out to even begin again… But I’m hoping to get it ready for some fall planting of something… Peas, favas, choy, barley and kale, maybe. I got a rutabaga to grow and would like to do them again. Oh, and I’ve done well with chard, out of leaf miner season… looks like some of the herbs survived. Rosemary, sage, and horseradish, but needs tending…

    I grew some mangles that made good leaves and acceptable roots. May do them again too. Many things, like them, I mostly did to make a big seed stock… now it is more time to run down the freezer full of seeds :-)

  16. Here in SW France the tomatoes are just about coming ripe, about a month later than I’d have expected. The weather here has been pretty rainy/cool relative to normal service, with some glorious days every so often (today is sunny and warm, but in a few days we’ll be back to cool and wet again). I doubt if the grapes will be anything special this year.

    Meanwhile, I expect we’ll be told that 2017 will be the hottest year evah! The crops don’t agree with that assessment.

  17. philjourdan says:

    Another anecdotal observation that is only tangentially related to temperature. A saying in these here parts is the difference between May and July is not the temperature, but the breeze. May you get them, July you do not.

    But we are still getting them. It does make the 95 (degrees and RH) tolerable. But definitely not braggable.

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