So I was out in the vegetable garden this morning, six inches deep in mire, wondering how to salvage the flooded tomatoes. All told we had almost 10″ of rain over a few short hours last week (yes, I meant TEN inches), and such a huge quantity of precipitation meant standing water in the central portion of the garden where my favorite tomato varieties are planted. Turns out tomatoes, unlike many other plants, have a zero tolerance for being so wet, and they immediately started a massive wilt. While it may sound counter-intuitive that plants would wilt from too much water, what’s happening is that the submerged tomato roots are starved for oxygen (called root hypoxia), which sets off a whole chain of chemical events in the vascular system of the plant, including loss of turgor pressure. Result: what you see below.
So what’s a poor gardener to do? Well, what I did: dig drainage trenches, and pray. I’m quite mad at myself, actually: I knew this area of the yard got boggy in the spring, but normally by early summer, the ground is just perfect for annual planting, and in fact, in many years, that added little bit of residual moisture was actually a benefit. But with such a deluge, the soil just couldn’t handle the amount of water it received, and turned to quicksand. Eventually it will drain, but what of my tomatoes?
I’ve been trying to do some research to see if the plants are salvageable or not, but so far I haven’t found much information on this problem. My intention is to prune off the obviously damaged foliage, and wait. What other choice do I have? Hmmmm. All this reminds me of some of the last words attributed to Captain Smith of the Titanic: “Men, you have done your full duty, you can do no more. Abandon your cabin. You look out for yourselves…. That’s the way of it at this kind of time.”
The way of it, indeed.