You may have noticed a drop in tomato production as summer has shifted into full gear. Once temperatures climb above 85˚F to 90˚F in the day and 75˚F in the evening, the tomatoes’ flowers often encounter a problem with setting fruit due to too-sticky pollen, flower abortion or a lack of pollination. There are steps you can take to keep your tomatoes healthy and productive in the summer:
Choose Right: Start with varieties that embrace the summer heat. A quality local nursery should be able to point out varieties they carry that are designed to withstand the heat in your gardening area. The names of some are a great clue to the heat-withstanding capabilities: ‘Phoenix’, ‘Summer Set’ and ‘Solar Fire’ to name a few.
Evaluate Your Sun: Tomatoes do require full sun, but if you are in the South or experiencing temperatures topping 90˚F, a little high-noon shade is in order. Morning sun is great and a requirement, but as the day gets hot, ensure your tomatoes have a bit of shade.
Water: Watering is critical and simply cannot be skipped. Water deeply and around the base of the plant. The less we can water from above (yes, I know that sounds strange when that’s how rain works!), the better. Timing is everything—water in the early to mid-morning. Doing so allows the plants to dry out and not enter the evening hours with wet leaves, because wet leave can lead to disease.
Conserve Water: Mulching around the base of your plants with 3 to 4 inches of organic material will help keep the roots cooler and conserve water.
Keep it Tidy: Keep a close eye out for mildew and disease brought on by heat and humidity. Remove diseased and damaged leaves and fruit, keep the area around the plant clear of fallen plant material and encourage air circulation.
Photo courtesy of Jung Seeds – Big Brandy Hybrid Tomato