Plan now to change that tomato's yellow
Also: peat, and slugs
For the past few years our tomatoes have been ripe on
the bottom but the upper part stays yellow and hard; this part is
white and hard inside, too. They get a lot of sun and are planted
on the south side of the garage, which is covered with white
aluminum. Could heat reflecting off the aluminum cause this? - L
A tomato condition called yellow shoulder fits your description.
"Blotchy ripening" is a similar problem but doesn't restrict itself
to the upper part around the stem. These aren't diseases but
cosmetic problems: normal red pigment just fails to develop in
Some experts say yellow shoulder is genetic, so some tomato
varieties are prone to it. Others say it's due to adverse growing
conditions. Whichever one, you can handle it.
Switch varieties to one that you've seen that can turn
completely red. That covers the genetic angle.
Several growing conditions can contribute to yellow shoulder.
Low light levels can cause it, but probably not in your sunny bed.
Too much light on the fruit itself or overly high temperatures
during the ripening period may well be the culprit in your case.
More yellow shoulder seems to occur on tomatoes at the top of the
vine, and on plants that have lost top leaves to diseases and
insects, because fruit there doesn't get filtered shade from
foliage. Try moving your tomatoes away from the heat. This will
also help you stay ahead of defoliating insects and diseases, by
getting the plants away from pest populations that may have built
Low potassium levels can lead to yellow shoulder, too. Use a
complete fertilizer with adequate potassium, such as 10-10-10
Last fall, I asked my
husband to get some peat moss for my garden. He bought a huge bale
of Canadian peat. How can I use it all?
Canadian peat is partially decomposed plants, harvested from
bogs. Although its production has become controversial - Should we
be draining and emptying bogs of their peat? - there's no doubt
that it's good for a garden. It greatly improves soil's water- and
nutrient holding capacity, breaks up heavy soil, and reduces
If you grow plants from seed, use a fine layer of peat to cover
the soil once seeds sprout. This discourages "damping off" fungus
that can wipe out a whole flat of seedlings overnight.
Outdoors, spread it 2-3 inches deep on the soil and dig or till
it in. The particles act like sponges, attracting many times their
weight in water and nutrients, holding them until roots can get
Like a dry sponge, though, dry peat might repel water at first
and need a bit of coaxing to start absorbing. I've dug up peat
chunks that were still dry after a year in the soil. Dry peat is of
no use to plant roots, so I get it wet before digging it in. Put it
into a bucket, add water and knead. Or punch a hole in the plastic
bale, insert the hose end, trickle in water and let it sit 'till
You can also use it as mulch, spreading it on top, two to three
inches deep. It insulates and keeps the surface moist, smothers
weed seeds, and gradually mixes in to improve the soil. Again, best
to wet it before spreading it, or irrigation water may bead up and
(Some additional thoughts developing now about the use of peat,
here on our Forum)
My back yard is shaded,
so I planted hostas. The slugs are proving to be my nemesis. I have
a dog, lots of squirrels and birds. I am fearful of putting out
anything that would hurt them. Can you offer any
Where slug populations have boomed, it's fairly simple to
de-fuse the situation if you act early, in April and May.
In April, rake out all mulch and debris from your hosta beds.
With it comes lots of slugs and slug eggs. Compost this stuff, or
give it to a yard waste collector to compost. The heat of a
regularly-turned compost pile kills slugs and their eggs.
Originally published 3/26/94