Tomato plants growing, but not flowering

Asked June 3, 2020, 8:51 PM EDT

We have successfully grown cherry tomatoes using an Earthbox system for 4 summers in two different locations. We planted May 2nd this year (from small plants- "red cherry large" variety), and while our plants have grown tall and bushy, we don't have any flowers. We saw one flower very early on on one of the plants, but it must have fallen off. Most people we know have many flowers by now, so we are concerned there is something wrong. I researched the issue and saw that the soil could have too much nitrogen, and we did change the soil for the first time this year, but fertilized it as we did in the past. I have been trying to water the soil directly to get rid of some of the nitrogen, and plan to add some Jobe's tomato fertilizer spikes (high in P and K), but I'm not sure if this will work. Other potential ideas on what's went wrong: we had a near frost the weekend after we planted (low 33F). We covered them with a tarp, and they grew tall, but could this have damaged them so they can't flower? We also have cucumbers (first time growing, img_0330) that experienced the frost and are not doing great either. Second observation: there are these tiny bugs crawling in the soil under the cover of the Earthbox on the tomato plant. Not on the stems or leaves, but lots in the soil. See video here: I guess my questions are: 1) Is there anything we can do to save these tomato plants? Our previous plants have given us 400+ tomatoes each every season except one year when one of the plants (of the 2 in the same container, did not fruit, but the other one gave us 800!). Is there any hope/ should we wait longer? 2) Is it too late to plant cherry tomatoes this weekend (June 6th) if we need to start over? We would start from plants, not seedlings. Would you recommend starting with new soil completely? It's hard to know what the problem was and what we should do differently. Thank you in advance!!

Howard County Maryland

7 Responses

Hi- if you fertilized this year the same way and in the same amount as you have in previous years it's unlikely that plant nutrients are the problem. Your plants look healthy. Excess nitrogen can encourage foliar growth at the expense of flowers/fruits but we can't tell if that's an issue here at all.

Cold temperatures could have injured flower buds and caused open flowers to drop. The tarp was a good idea and did not harm the plants' ability to produce flower buds. We would not recommend any additional fertilizer at this time. Gardeners sometimes fertilize tomato after fruits start to form. The Earthbox is a closed system to a certain degree so fewer nutrients are lost (through the overflow hole on the side).

The little insects in the clip are probably some type until fruits start to form, and stems are possibly psocids or some similar insect feeding on organic matter. They are harmless- part of the soil food web.

Be patient. It's very likely that you will soon see flowers and fruits.

Thank you very much! I certainly hope you are right!

If we did want to get a few more tomato plants as a backup, is it too late to start them now or would it still be possible?

Thank you!

You could start seeds now but would not get any fruit until Sept. A better way is to plant suckers from your plants. You will have to keep them well-watered to get them established (twice a day watering until roots get established).
How to prune suckers:

Thank you for all your help! The video was very informative.

I wanted to check in again. It's been 9 days since my original post, and still no flowers. We actually planted new yellow cherry tomatoes in pots last weekend, and they already have flowers, but still no luck with the cherry tomatoes in the earthbox. Do you have any other recommendations? Is it possible they are just bad plants and will never fruit?

Be patient. They will eventually flower and fruit for you.