July was an extremely hot, dry month with minimal rainfall in the Memphis area. It was a daily struggle just to keep all of my landscape beds and tomatoes watered as the heat seemed to rob my plants of all of their moisture. Questions from gardeners concerning their tomato plants during the extreme heat started to fill my inbox.
Summer tomato care is a critical component for their growth. When temperatures climb above 90°F during the day and do not fall below 75° overnight, the flowers of tomatoes become stressed. The fruit may not set due to sticky pollen, lack of pollination or flower abortion. There are a few tips that may help your tomatoes stay healthy and productive during extreme hot and dry weather.
- Choose a variety that can thrive in the summer heat. Heat tolerant varieties may be obtained at your local nursery or garden center. Garden catalogs also carry varieties that withstand the heat in our plant zone (7b).
- We all know that tomatoes require full sun for optimum growth however it would be wise to give the tomato plants a respite of afternoon shade if possible. Morning sun is beneficial, but afternoon heat and sunlight will stress tomato plants.
- It is vital that tomato plants are getting plenty of water! This is critical to summer tomato care. It is always best to focus watering at the root zone of the plants. It is also good practice to water early to mid-morning to allow the plants to dry before the evening hours. If the leaves remain wet throughout the evening, there is an increased risk of disease.
- Mulch around the base of your plants with 2 to 3 inches of straw, leaves, or compost. This will provide weed control, moderate soil moisture and mitigate risk of disease. Practice good sanitation by removing diseased and damaged leaves and fruit. Inspect for insect damage which may be caused by mites, aphids or the tomato hornworm.
Please contact me at 901-752-1207 if you have any questions regarding summer tomato care. Be careful out there in the garden and good luck taking care of those tomatoes in this heat!
Photo Credit: Ashley Rae Burnett TEMG2020