Under ideal growing conditions, plants set fruit and reach maturity at predictable times. Seed packets or plant descriptions indicate the time to maturity based on optimal growing conditions for the plant. Your vegetables may ripen sooner or later than the predicted time, as the time required to ripen fruits and vegetables depends on several variables.
Weather affects fruit production in a number of ways. Cool, wet weather at the time of blooming may prevent flying insects from pollinating blooms and reduce fruit production. Open-pollinated crops that depend on dry winds to transport pollen may suffer in wet weather as well. Some crops re-bloom days or weeks later, delaying the onset of fruit and ultimately delaying ripening.
The texture and composition of soil affects growth rate and ultimately fruit production. Soil rich in organic matter promotes drainage and improves the ability of plants to uptake nutrients. The pH level, a measure of how acidic or alkaline soil is, affects growth. Most vegetables prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. A pH level higher or lower may inhibit healthy growth.
Vegetables are classified according to the temperatures they prefer. Cool season crops, like onions and peas, prefer cool soil and produce best when planted before the weather warms. Other crops, like tomatoes, peppers and melons, thrive in hot weather. Growth is inhibited and fruit production limited when vegetables are not planted at the correct time.
Predicted maturity dates often reflect the days to maturity when grown under ideal situations, which includes a warm growing area. If you are located in a cooler climate, fruit set and ripening may occur later than the predicted dates. Plants in Northern climates may set fruit and ripen later than their counterparts planted in Southern gardens.
Lack of appropriate nutrients slows plant growth and fruit production. For lush, vigorous growth, plants must receive adequate nutrients to meet their needs. A lack of phosphorus inhibits blooming and fruit set. Testing the soil prior to planting and adding the required amendments promotes healthy blooms and fruit set.
There are many cultivars for each vegetable; each with its own predicted date of maturity. One cultivar of tomatoes may produce fruit in 70 to 75 days while another may take 90 or more days. Always check the specific cultivar, and choose one with a maturity date that falls within the growing season for your area.