Tomato, Basil and Avocado

April 14, 2009

Tomato, Basil and Avocado

This week two readers have written to Diana with their questions:
From Palm Springs, California where a reader’s tomato plants have developed very green, but very small, tight, little leaves and don't seem to be producing at all even though we've had them several months. Should they be discarded or might they start producing?

I have never heard of tomato plants producing small tightly curled leaves and nothing else – and over several months at that; these tomato plants are obviously not doing what tomato plants should do!
Actually the problem here is quite basic – were the plants grown from seed, or bought as plants?
If the former, the seed was old, or not up to par - if the latter I would have a short sharp word with the suppliers!
Tomatoes are very willing and grow from seed to producing the first flowers and tiny tomatoes in around eight to ten weeks at the most, so I think these plants will have to be discarded as no good.

And the same reader’s basil plants are growing but have a pale green color – is it overwatering that causes this?
Basil, a gorgeous herb can be slightly tricky.
It does like warmth and light (both of which I should think it has in plenty in Palm Springs) and hates damp and cold. I am assuming this basil is growing in a pot (although, even if in the ground, the same things apply) so firstly I would ask if it’s growing in poor soil and needs a little plant food, the second possibility is - could there have been a sudden cold spell which chilled it and turned it pale?
Make sure it is in a warm and sunny location and feed it just a little, and it should be fine.

Our second reader, Patricia Kemp from Augusta, Georgia would like to know the best way to grow an avocado plant from start to picking time?
People often grow avocado pits for the pleasure of the handsome houseplants they produce (a friend of mine has one in her living room which touches the ceiling and has to be cut back from time to time).
If you want to grow an avocado to produce fruits you have to buy a young avocado tree from a professional grower, since like apples, pears and peaches, the fruiting tree has to be grafted onto a rootstock. I would think three or four years would see your tree producing a good crop of fruit, but if you are really interested in growing one or more trees the supplier will be happy to tell you all you need to know. Another thing to consider is that the full-grown trees are pretty big and wide spreading so will take a lot of room, unless you are ruthless about pruning.
Talk to a producer who will, I’m sure, be able to help with lots of helpful information. Do let us know if you decide to go ahead!
As always,
Happy horticulture,