• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Mike Haasl
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • James Freyr
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • jordan barton
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • Greg Martin
  • Leigh Tate

Tomatilloes aren't filling out husk

 
pollinator
Posts: 213
46
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I planted eight or so tomatillo plants, that have grown like crazy. They have also flowered well, and have produced collectively probably close to a thousand papery husks.

But they aren't filling out! 95% or more are empty!

People talk about a lack of polination due to a lack of ibsects pollinating them.
I doubt this is the cause - my tomatoes in the beds next to them on three seperate sides all have put on plenty of fruit.
My pepper plants in a bed on the catacorner also produced plentifully.

We've had plenty of rain, plus they are on irrigation. I doubt it's a lack of water.
They also get full evening sun for ~6 hours.

I haven't pruned them, but I hear it's not neccessary for tomatillos.

Any ideas? This is my first time growing tomatilloes, and this is making me one sad tomatillo-less panda. =(...
 
Posts: 83
Location: Oklahoma Panhandle
14
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
About the time you give up on them you may find some husks with fruit.  The first year we had them it seemed they started filling just before frost time.  Good luck!
 
Jamin Grey
pollinator
Posts: 213
46
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I hope you're right... frosts are getting awfully close. Probably 60 days left for me (if I protect them from the first one or two with frost blankets).
 
pollinator
Posts: 418
Location: Southern Germany
194
kids books urban chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts bee
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It is my first tomatillo year as well, but I have loads and loads of fruit - most of them rather small, but getting ripe. Some of the fruits get really big.
The first fruit I had was already in May when I had the four plants inside. I manually pollinated each blossom, going from plant to plant and back because they need pollen from another plant.

That makes me think that it is indeed a pollination problem.
Tomatoes will easily self-pollinate. A little bit of wind or moving air is enough to get the pollen on the stamina (right word?) of the same blossom - that's why you often get less tomatoes in a greenhouse!
Not sure about peppers.
Have you ever seen pollinators on the blossoms? I can see my bees flying among the blossoms of the tomatillo.

And have you bought the plants or grown them from seeds?
 
Jamin Grey
pollinator
Posts: 213
46
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Anita Martin wrote:
That makes me think that it is indeed a pollination problem.
Tomatoes will easily self-pollinate. A little bit of wind or moving air is enough to get the pollen on the stamina (right word?) of the same blossom - that's why you often get less tomatoes in a greenhouse!
Not sure about peppers.
Have you ever seen pollinators on the blossoms? I can see my bees flying among the blossoms of the tomatillo.

And have you bought the plants or grown them from seeds?



I grew them from seed. Common variety Toma Verde from a professional seed compaby (RareSeeds.com / Baker Creek)

They are not in any greenhouse - just outdoors with plenty of wind.

Tiny tomatillos begin to form in the husks, but don't grow to fill out the husk, leading me to think maybe I should've pruned the plants.

I have eight or so plants. Maybe I'll go prune two of them and leave the others alone, and see if it makes a difference in the time I have left.
 
gardener
Posts: 1911
Location: South of Capricorn
751
dog rabbit urban cooking writing homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would give them time. Whenever I`ve grown them they've been super hardy, the bugs ignore them, never a spot on the leaves. Volunteer like crazy, very resilient plants. I don't have a frost limit that affects nightshades here so I can't tell you how long they took, but they all did eventually fill in, and I ended up ripping the plants out for space. You have another month or two, hopefully the story will change in a few weeks.
 
pollinator
Posts: 148
Location: Idaho
73
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Our tomatillo plants didn't start producing fruits until we got more pollinators visiting. Our area was really sparse on pollinators early this summer then it seems like everyone found us and our garden was filled with a huge variety of pollinators such as wasps, bumblebees, mason bees, some honey bees, and butterflies. The cucumbers now have seeds in them when they didn't early in the summer - we got cukes but with no seeds inside early on.

I am really concerned with the reduction in insect life. I'm hearing about it from a lot of people around here. I know that the polyculture garden we started last year and the expanded one this year has been the reason for our variety of pollinators and their predators. We need to feed those critters or we may find that our food supply has been impacted. Imagine getting cukes but no seed for next year? Or melons, squash, etc.
 
Jamin Grey
pollinator
Posts: 213
46
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I didn't receive any mature tomatillo fruit, and the season is over.

Some of the husks were on their way to producing, with half-sized fruit (toxic, iirc).

I bet if I had one more month's growing season they would've done okay

I'll try again next year, and prune them heavily. I didn't prune them at all this year.

They're on irrigation, so I doubt it was water, and I don't think I'm having pollinater issues - I'd like more polinators, but I do see some around (mostly butterflies). Would love to see more bees though...

 
Posts: 7
Location: MD, USA. zone 7
5
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I grow 2-6 tomatillo plants most years. Food for me, and when the blooms get going, they really bring the native bees. Hummingbirds too, which was a surprise with flat yellow flowers!

My first year, I had two plants and got almost no fruit before the season ended. The next year, a handful of volunteers popped up when my snow-peas were close to done (a good bit earlier than I'd planted the tomatillos the year before.) They don't seem to get stunted like tomatoes from cool weather.

I've never pruned them, if the stems hit the ground they usually root themselves.

If you'd like more bees... lime basil! Bees and the flutters love the long stalks of tiny flowers, small birds love the seeds, they smell great if you brush up against them, and it's a determined volunteer.
 
steward
Posts: 5517
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
2136
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This seems like a classic example of the fruits not getting pollinated.

Tomatillos are self-incompatible, which means that they cannot pollinate themselves. Pollen has to be carried from plant to plant by insects or other pollinators. Pollen can also be killed by excessive temperatures, or washed away by rainfall or irrigation.

The most common mode of failure that I observe with tomatillos, is that people will only plant a single plant. Then it can't get pollinated, and doesn't make fruits. For proper pollination of tomatillos,  I recommend not less than 3 plants, even if they all get planted into the same hole.
 
gardener
Posts: 1767
Location: Los Angeles, CA
489
hugelkultur forest garden books urban chicken food preservation
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One additional variable that people haven't mentioned thus far: warm weather/heat. Tomatillos like long, hot summer days and warm summer nights.  Like tomatoes, they crave the heat.  I plant mine next to a west-facing wall, so they get the sunlight of the entire day and afternoon/evening, but also that warmth from the wall as it continues to radiate heat into the evening.

I've never had a problem with pollination, and never pay any attention to that, as, like tomatoes, they are so loaded with blossoms and are so dense that they seem to naturally pollinate.  Perhaps that the problem, but I've never experienced that.

Second, they are heavy feeders, so perhaps going forward (next growing season), hit them with a big scoop of high-N food.  I mulch around my tomatillos with the straw that sits under the chicken roost.  Chicken poop isn't too hot for tomatillos.  This will ensure that you get a massively tall plant, and that will give you enough leaves to produce a ton of sugar for the fruit.  Big plant = big fruit, in my experience.  

Third, start them earlier next year so that when the hot days of July and August come, your plants are already large and bearing fruit.  My tomatillos tend to come up volunteer all over the garden in Feb or so, but I still start a bunch of them in pots in March and grow them in the cold-frame so that they are ready to go into the ground by May.  That way you get a big plant with an early start.

Fourth -- I'd love to share some with you!  Do you have room for 100 pounds of fruit?  We get so many of them that we just leave them to fall on the ground (thus, seeding next year's crop).  How much salsa verde can one family eat?  I use them with stewed pork (chili Colorado) and use some in a pot of soup or in a stir-fry, but how many tomatillos does one family need?  I wish there were a way Permies could do a virtual "share your excess" feature.

Best of luck next season.
 
Jamin Grey
pollinator
Posts: 213
46
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

K Kaba wrote:My first year, I had two plants and got almost no fruit before the season ended. The next year, a handful of volunteers popped up when my snow-peas were close to done (a good bit earlier than I'd planted the tomatillos the year before.) They don't seem to get stunted like tomatoes from cool weather.

I've never pruned them, if the stems hit the ground they usually root themselves.

If you'd like more bees... lime basil! Bees and the flutters love the long stalks of tiny flowers, small birds love the seeds, they smell great if you brush up against them, and it's a determined volunteer.


Thank you for the recommendation and encouragement! I just ordered a bunch of lime basil seeds and will try to naturalize them to my garden next year.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:This seems like a classic example of the fruits not getting pollinated.

Tomatillos are self-incompatible, which means that they cannot pollinate themselves. Pollen has to be carried from plant to plant by insects or other pollinators. Pollen can also be killed by excessive temperatures, or washed away by rainfall or irrigation.

The most common mode of failure that I observe with tomatillos, is that people will only plant a single plant. Then it can't get pollinated, and doesn't make fruits. For proper pollination of tomatillos,  I recommend not less than 3 plants, even if they all get planted into the same hole.



I had seven or eight plants, all in a single 4x8 raised bed. They were growing all over each other, so cross-pollination shouldn't have been a problem, but what you're saying about rainfall is a real possibility - we had very unusual summer rains right in June and July - like three weeks straight where we got 1"-2" rains every three days. Botched my garlic harvesting something bad this year (but apart from that, I was delighted about the rain!).

Marco Banks wrote:One additional variable that people haven't mentioned thus far: warm weather/heat. Tomatillos like long, hot summer days and warm summer nights.  Like tomatoes, they crave the heat.  I plant mine next to a west-facing wall, so they get the sunlight of the entire day and afternoon/evening, but also that warmth from the wall as it continues to radiate heat into the evening.



Normally my summers are very hot - I live in the Midwest. But this summer was abnormal, with lots of rainfall and cloudy skies right at the peak of summer. Come to think, my tomatoes did decently (I got them earlier than ever before), but like the Tomatilloes, they didn't really put on massive growth until late-season. Maybe this was due to the lack of high temps until a month later than normal.

This may have caused a one-two punch: both the washing off of pollen that Joseph Lofthouse mentioned, and not enough warmth to really give the Tomatillo's the kick to take off as crazily as they perhaps would've.

Second, they are heavy feeders, so perhaps going forward (next growing season), hit them with a big scoop of high-N food.  I mulch around my tomatillos with the straw that sits under the chicken roost.  Chicken poop isn't too hot for tomatillos.  This will ensure that you get a massively tall plant, and that will give you enough leaves to produce a ton of sugar for the fruit.  Big plant = big fruit, in my experience.  

Third, start them earlier next year so that when the hot days of July and August come, your plants are already large and bearing fruit.  My tomatillos tend to come up volunteer all over the garden in Feb or so, but I still start a bunch of them in pots in March and grow them in the cold-frame so that they are ready to go into the ground by May.  That way you get a big plant with an early start.


I started my tomatillos early indoors and planted them in May (with a handful of chicken poop under them), but I'll have to remember to fertilize them again during the year. Apart from watering, I don't bother feeding my plants during the growing season. This may be part of the problem.

Also, I just remembered there was a late frost in May that stunted some of the tomatoes. I can't remember for sure if the tomatillos were outdoors at that point, but that might've set back their growth some as well.

Fourth -- I'd love to share some with you!  Do you have room for 100 pounds of fruit?  We get so many of them that we just leave them to fall on the ground (thus, seeding next year's crop).  How much salsa verde can one family eat?  I use them with stewed pork (chili Colorado) and use some in a pot of soup or in a stir-fry, but how many tomatillos does one family need?  I wish there were a way Permies could do a virtual "share your excess" feature.



I'd love such a virtual system. We'd need Star Trek-style teleporters, but I'd've happily beamed someone my surplus sweet peppers - instead I spent like three weeks just dicing and vacuum sealing sweet peppers for stir-fry.

Best of luck next season.



Thanks mate, I'll keep trying!

 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
Posts: 5517
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
2136
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jamin Grey wrote:They were growing all over each other, so cross-pollination shouldn't have been a problem



Doesn't matter how close they are growing together. Tomatillos require an animal to move pollen from one plant to a different plant that isn't closely related.
 
Jamin Grey
pollinator
Posts: 213
46
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Tomatillos require an animal to move pollen from one plant to a different plant [[that isn't closely related]].



Are you saying I need two separate species of tomatillo? All eight I planted were "Toma Verde". Everything I read merely said, "more than one plant", not "more than one species". Seed companies really need to make that more explicit!
 
gardener
Posts: 3292
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
941
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jamin Grey wrote:
Some of the husks were on their way to producing, with half-sized fruit (toxic, iirc).



My head snapped around at the suggestion of toxicity in small fruit, because most of mine didn't fill the husk this year and I've been eating them like mad.  (I roast them with other vegetables.)

I'd be interested in any more information anybody has on this.

A quick bit of Googling turns up many pages with one-line warnings like "immature small fruit are thought to be toxic" or "are considered toxic" -- but never a page that speaks with any particular authority or cites a source.  It feels like a lot of people reciting warnings they heard somewhere.  Which always reminds me of the (legendary?) period when people in New England thought tomatoes were toxic (because nightshades), and grew them for decorative purposes only.

There's also a ton of conversation from people who use the fruit at all sizes.  This makes sense to me; the primary culinary use (salsa verde) uses fruit that may have filled out their husks, but are still usually unripe and tart/acidic/lemony.  They taste exactly the same at marble sizes.  

It seems to take a very long time for the fruit to actually ripen and sweeten.  I was startled the first time I bit into a sweet one this year; in other years, they've never gotten sweet for me here in Oklahoma, and I have almost a nine month growing season.  Honestly I'm still grappling with how to use the sweet ones; it's a very different flavor that I haven't gotten familiar with yet.  I also can't tell which ones are sweet without tasting, which is ... awkward from a culinary perspective.  

I, too, wish I knew whether the "multiple plants" advice refers to plants of different cultivars, or whether growing a bunch of the same cultivar is sufficient.  This year I planted three different kinds all jumbled together (the standard verdes, some seeds from huge green fruit I bought at a farmer's market, and some tiny purple ones).  Only the purple ones filled their husks reliably.  But many of the green ones made pretty big fruit in ludicrously large husks.  Others -- a bigger fraction than I like -- were marbles in big husks.  I had lots of pollination and decent heat, so it's still a bit of a mystery to me.
 
Posts: 42
Location: Vancouver, Washington
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I had a similar problem this year - on one of my tomatillo plants - which has been puzzling me for some time.  I planted two tomatillos next to eachother and in between two rows of marigolds.  One tomatillo was at the end of the bed, the other next to it and next to a bunch of tomato plants.  The one next to the tomato plants got way, way bigger, flowered much later and set fruit much later than the other one.  Frost came with a lot of the fruit still not having ripened.  I'm kind of doubtful the issue is pollination as the tomatillos were right next to eachother and next to other flowering plants.  I do have plenty of pollinators in my yard too.  One difference is that the tomatoes got a lot of Espoma Garden Tone (which is a balanced vegetable garden fertilizer lowest in nitrogen, by the way) and the tomatillos did not.  Considering the bigger, later to fruit plant probably took up some of the tomatoes' fertilizer through it's roots, is it possible your tomatillos got too much fertilizer?
Next year I am not going to plant my tomatoes and tomatillos next to eachother and see way happens.
 
Jamin Grey
pollinator
Posts: 213
46
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dan Boone wrote:

Jamin Grey wrote:
Some of the husks were on their way to producing, with half-sized fruit (toxic, iirc).



My head snapped around at the suggestion of toxicity in small fruit, because most of mine didn't fill the husk this year and I've been eating them like mad.  (I roast them with other vegetables.)

I'd be interested in any more information anybody has on this.

A quick bit of Googling turns up many pages with one-line warnings like "immature small fruit are thought to be toxic" or "are considered toxic" -- but never a page that speaks with any particular authority or cites a source.



I just threw in the "toxic" comment to head off any army of people rappelling down onto the forums and warning me not to eat them.

I also have zero concrete details on tomatillos. My guess is it's exaggerated. Almost everything is toxic - like apple seeds; that doesn't mean humans are keeling over every year. =D

Jen Swanson wrote:Considering the bigger, later to fruit plant probably took up some of the tomatoes' fertilizer through it's roots, is it possible your tomatillos got too much fertilizer?



Your description fits my scenario well, except I don't see how it could've gotten fertilizer. Except for when starting them as seeds, they don't receive liquid fertilizer, and the only real food they get is when I first plant them, I have crushed eggshells, a hunk of fish, and a cup or two of aged chicken manure in the hole they are planted in. That's in May. From May to October is 5-6 months with only water (including rain, which has a little nitrogen in it).

My soil is "okay", but nowhere near the black loose soil one sees on blogs and youtube videos.
(I probably ought to fertilize more, my tomato harvest wasn't too great this year)

So I can't see how mine would have been overfertilized.
 
Jamin Grey
pollinator
Posts: 213
46
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Jamin Grey wrote:They were growing all over each other, so cross-pollination shouldn't have been a problem



Doesn't matter how close they are growing together. Tomatillos require an animal to move pollen from one plant to a different plant that isn't closely related.



Are you saying I need two separate species of Tomatillo? e.g. Toma Verde and another variety?
 
K Kaba
Posts: 7
Location: MD, USA. zone 7
5
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't know how sensitive tomatillos are to close kin, but I know they're self-incompatible. Keep the gene pool big. If you have some leftover seed from this year, pick up seed from another source/strain/swap/salsa, mix them, and plant them together. I haven't refreshed my pool of volunteers with a pack of seeds very often, but I have nearby neighbors who also grow them, and I would be shocked if the bees only visit mine.
gift
 
Common Weeds And Wild Edibles Of The World (HD video)
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic