Causes Of Small Tomatoes – Why Does Tomato Fruit Stay Small

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Even seasoned gardeners can sometimes experience problems with fruits and vegetables that they have grown successfully for years. While blight diseases and insects are common tomato problems that most of us have faced at one time or another, some less common problems do occur.

One such problem that we receive many questions about here at Gardening Know How pertains to tomato plants that produce abnormally small fruit. If you’ve noticed that your tomatoes are too small, read on to learn some reasons why tomato fruit won’t grow to an appropriate proper size.

Why Does Tomato Fruit Stay Small?

The most common cause for small tomatoes is stressed plants. When plants are experiencing stressing circumstances, such as extreme drought or heat, insect infestation or disease, they oftentimes stop sending their energy into flower or fruit production. Instead, the plants will focus their energy on the roots, so that despite what is happening to the aerial parts of the plant, the roots will ride it out and survive. Flowers and fruit may stop growing and eventually drop off the plant when stressed.

Lack of water from drought or improper care is the number one reason tomato fruit won’t grow. It is recommended that you never allow your tomato plants to wilt. The soil should be kept consistently moist or the plants may show signs of stress such as wilting, leaf drop or tomatoes that are too small. Many gardeners grow tomatoes in self-watering containers to ensure proper soil moisture for fruit development.

Additional Reasons for Small Tomatoes

Other factors can result in tomatoes that don’t get big. In southern regions, extreme heat has been known to cause small tomatoes. It may be necessary to provide some protection from intense afternoon sun so that tomato plants can fruit properly. However, too much shade can also result in small tomato fruits.

Too much nitrogen or fertilizer is also another common cause of poor fruit production. Nitrogen rich fertilizers promote green leafy foliage but too much can lead to small tomatoes.

Poor pollination will also cause a lack of fruit or small tomato fruit. Most tomatoes that gardeners grow are self-fertile, but increasing pollinator activity near the garden can ensure proper pollination.

Wild tomatoes are not self-fertile. It may be necessary to hand pollinate such plants. Wild tomatoes are also known to produce much smaller fruit than common tomato hybrids.

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