2009 Year of the Tomato – not so much

Posted September 22nd, 2009 by Chris V.

I know that I’ve posted about garden successes with tomatoes, however, this growing season was definitely not a consistent one in the Chicago area. Many gardens, including the CCAC garden, had tomato plants that were slow to grow and produce and, once they had produced, the fruit took long to ripen.  However, don’t be quick to blame it on something that you should or shouldn’t have done. Consider the facts…

Tomatoes require warm temperatures both during the day and at night. Temperatures that are too cold (or warm) can cause slow tomato formation and blossom drop (where the blossom that would form the tomato falls off the plant.)

Tomatoes require a certain number of hours of sunlight to ripen. The amount of time varies with the variety of tomato. Along with heat, the sun helps tomatoes develop the sugars and flavor that are so superior to winter store-bought tomatoes.


This summer’s average temperature in Chicago is the coolest and cloudiest since 2004. From Tom Skilling’s Weather blog (http://weblogs.wgntv.com/chicago-weather/tom-skilling-blog/):

The summer of 2009 with its average temperature of 69.2 degrees goes into the record books as the city’s 21st coolest on record and the coolest since 2004 (68.6 degrees)…

An August that closes with five back-to-back days during which the temperature failed to break out of the 60s hasn’t occurred here in 118 years. The summer season hosted 18 such days—more than triple the average of five such days…

But perhaps one of this summers most lasting legacies was its lack of sunshine. Summer 2009 goes down in the books as the cloudiest on record… Sunshine is measured in minutes and the summer’s total was 42,887 of the season’s possible 80,626 minutes of sun, or 53 percent of possible sunshine—67 percent is considered normal…

All this indicates that this was not the summer of the tomato.

Some have had successes and you may wonder how? why? I would guess that it has to do with the microclimate surrounding their garden (and maybe just a touch of luck.)

Looking on the bright side, it was a great summer for other food plants such as raspberries….and there’s always next year!

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