When the heat is on, tomato plants take a break: they don’t care for excessive heat any more than the rest of us. When daytime temperatures are up in the 90s and nights are in the 70s or warmer, tomato plants may keep on blooming, but the flowers often fall off and fruit does not set. Growing tomato plants in hot weather is not necessarily difficult, but may not yield any edibles until it cools off.
Even heat-tolerant tomato plant varieties slow down when the temperature soars. Below, are a few tips that can help you prepare your plants to endure the stressful heat and humidity of steamy summer weather.
A layer of straw, compost, or grass-clipping mulch helps moderate soil temperature, so it doesn’t fluctuate so much. It keeps the surface of the soil just a little cooler than the air temperature, which is better for roots. Mulch also helps prevent moisture in the soil from evaporating quickly, and is great for stemming weed growth.
Do Not Fertilize Tomatoes in a Heat Wave
Fertilization encourages plants to grow, but too much fertilizer will produce leafy plants without much fruit. When the temperature is high, you’ll have more plant than the roots can support. Excessive growth makes tomato plants weak and more vulnerable to damage from insects and diseases.
Avoid Overwatering Tomatoes in Summer Weather
Tomato plants need an inch or two of water a week, and a deep soaking is better than a little water every day. Regular watering helps prevent tomatoes from developing cracks. Too much water will suffocate plants’ roots. The best way to tell if your plants need water is to poke your finger into the soil.
Weeding Makes a Huge Difference
Weed compete with tomato plants for moisture and nutrients. Pull weeds around plants and mulch after you weed to discourage them from growing back. Avoid hoeing; it can damage the roots of tomato plants which can cause the leathery brown patches on fruit known as blossom-end rot. Garden lime may also be used to help gardeners avoid blossom-end rot by raising the soil PH.
Pick Orange Tomatoes
When daytime temperatures are in the mid 90s, tomatoes will not turn red. Go ahead and pick orange tomatoes and let them ripen in the shade on the porch or on the kitchen table.
Once the temperature cools off slightly, tomato plants — and gardeners — will be revived. Tomato flowers will set fruit, and within a few weeks, you’ll be picking tomatoes with both hands.
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