Tomatoes, these summer vegetables, which we are looking for our fresh salads, like the warmth, but suffer from heat stress in the hot day hours. Subsequently, the health and yield of tomato plants may be compromised. But how to notice the signs of heat stress? What are the fastest ways to protect tomatoes from the heat and ensure a bountiful harvest?
Table of Contents
Do Tomatoes Need Protection from Heat?
Tomatoes, these red vegetables that are a favorite for so many people, thrive ideally during warm months, but are vulnerable to heat stress when temperatures rise too much. This condition may appear when the heat increases above the plants’ optimal range, causing a destruction in main physiological processes. As a consequence, the health and yield of these fragile plants may be damaged. Knowing the signs of this kind of stress and learning how to protect tomatoes from the heat is essential to ensure a bountiful harvest.
What Does Heat Stress Look Like in Tomatoes?
Heat stress in tomatoes exhibits itself through some observable signs. The most usual sign is wilting, when the plants begin to droop and become more faint when exposed to excessive heat. Leaves may start to become yellowish or brownish, and the plant begins to shed its blossoms before they have developed, thus decreasing the number of ripened fruits. What’s more, the fruits can become sun scald, while they develop discoloration and even not suitable to be eaten because of continuous exposure to intensive sun rays. The physiological effect of heat stress may also spread beyond the observable signs. Too much heat interferes with normal pollination, which results in malformed or shapeless fruits. In addition to this, when heat-stressed, these red vegetables may become more vulnerable to pests and diseases, which leads to stunted growth and impaired productivity. Therefore, it’s of crucial importance to take measures to protect tomatoes from the heat.
How to Protect Tomatoes from Heat?
With some proactive approaches, you can protect your valuable tomatoes from the scorching impact of intensive sun rays in order to have a bountiful harvest:
- Provide enough shade: Place shade cloth or shading structure over the plants to lower the power of intensive sun rays. This approach will decrease the temperature value and help them survive during the hottest afternoon hours.
- Mulch in a thick layer: Add a thick layer of organic mulch near the stems of your plants. The measure will allow saving moisture, to regulate soil temperature, and hinder weed growth. All of these effects help to relieve the heat stress.
- Water moderately: Maintain a consistent watering regime to keep the soil slightly wet. The best time for this is in the early hours of the day. Thorough watering allows the appearance of strong roots, and gives better chances to the plants to cope with heat stress. Be careful not to overwater, as too much moisture can result in root rot.
- Protect with row covers: They are an ideal solution, which saves the plants from high temperatures while partial sunlight may reach them freely. Row covers allow forming a microclimate around the plants, which is important for keeping more mild temperatures.
- Consider dripping irrigation: One excellent measure for the hot days is dripping irrigation or the use of soaker hoses rather than abundant watering. In this way, the water reaches directly to the plant’s root spots, which lowers the water loss by evaporation and reduces the possibility of appearance of leaf diseases.
What Time of Day is Best to Water Tomatoes?
When you are considering how to protect tomatoes from heat, watering them at the right time of the day is one of the key factors for maintaining their health and stability against heat stress. In most cases, it is best to water your tomato plants in the early morning, but all the hours before the sun is at its peak are suitable for this. Watering in the first day’s hours makes sure that the plants are moisturized enough before the hot afternoon. This gives them the possibility to endure the heat of the later hours without suffering from water stress. Furthermore, the morning hours offer enough time for any damp on the leaves, gathered while watering, to evaporate, lowering the risk of appearance of diseases. You should avoid watering them in the evening, because when the foliage is damp overnight, this can cause the appearance of fungal diseases. In addition to this, when you do this during the hot hours of the day, the water is likely to evaporate before being absorbed by the plant’s roots.
By providing adequate shade, mulching, watering wisely, and selecting heat-resistant varieties, you can preserve your summer bounty and enjoy the delightful taste of homegrown tomatoes throughout the season.