Normally, the end of October is time to gather all the green tomatoes because frost will damage them. But this has not been a normal growing season. Highs around 80 (26 C) and lows about 50 (10 C) are in the 10 day forecast. So I will likely be bringing in more nice tomatoes later than I ever have in my 14 years in Chattanooga.
The two varieties that I grow from saved seeds each year are Arkansas Traveler and Rutgers. The smaller perfectly round ones are Arkansas Traveler. The vines these grew on started producing the first week of July. Those were mostly baseball and tennis ball sized. As the season progresses, the average size shrinks. But they are consistently round, juicy and tasty. Most years, I pull the vines of those that begin bearing in early July some time in September. Fungal diseases that thrive in our heat and humidity do them in.
This year was hotter and much drier than normal. The reduced moisture probably reduced the level of fungal diseases and allowed the tomatoes to continue to produce. Our last month with above average rainfall was February. For the year we are more than 20 inches (50 cm) below normal. This month .08 inches of rain is the official total at the airport which is 2 miles from my place. Over 3 inches is normal for the month.
If it weren’t for those TVA dams built during the Great Depression, I would not have had water for my backyard blueberries and tomatoes this summer. Thanks, Roosevelt.
Back to that second variety of tomato: Those Rutgers are big, tangy, and meaty. The BLT’s have been good. I planted the Rutgers later, thinking I would have tomatoes in September as the earlier ones faded. The Arkansas Traveler’s continued to produce. But in this summer’s heat, the blossoms dropped on the Rutgers. The vine kept growing and when the weather cooled enough, the tomatoes set. These past two weeks are when I harvested more tomatoes than any time this season.
That is how I ended up canning salsa on Halloween. I also had the soaker hose running on my blueberry bushes today. Other years I only have watered them while they are producing. But any young trees and perennials that go into winter stressed from drought are more susceptible to cold damage. If you are in the dry Southeast consider what might be thirsty in your yard. A slow trickle of water on dry roots will help plantings endure the coming chill.