Thursday, August 4, 2011

Keeping Tomatoes Alive in High Heat

Keeping tomatoes alive in high heat is very difficult. Tomatoes are tropical plants so they love hot weather, but they do not like brutal heat. These super hot days are hard on every living thing. Especially when there is no real cooling at night, there is just no rest for anything.

We hit 114 in Arkansas yesterday which was record heat.  It is unbelievable. This has been a hard season for us to grow tomatoes. We had a cool wet spring in Missouri which rotted the first batch we planted. Then we moved to Arkansas, still in time to plant tomatoes, but late. Our plants look great, just really setting good blooms and now into the blast furnace.

So what can you do to save your tomatoes? Healthy plants have the best chance of surviving. So if you have any sick plants you have been babying, you may have to have a hard heart and let them go. Keep your plants healthy by watering at the base of the plant and not on the leaves. This helps prevent mold and rust. This will also conserve water. We don’t have water rationing yet, but that may be coming. Keep the garden mulched to help prevent evaporation. This also cuts down on weeds that will compete with your tomatoes for water and food.

A drip irrigation system is really the best for a large tomato patch. However, if you have just a few in a square garden type of arrangement, you may want to water twice a day morning and mid afternoon, by just pouring the water around the bases of the plants. I use a clean milk jug. This lets me put the water only where I want it. I can also add some worm tea or compost tea if I want to.

Do not fertilize during the brutal heat. Let the plant rest as much as possible when it is incredibly hot. When it cools off again just a bit, you can fertilize if you need to. If you have just a few plants, a sunscreen may save your plants from the unrelenting sun. Let the plants get the morning sun and put the sun screen up around noon. This will let the plant get enough sun for photosynthesis, but save it from the brutal afternoon sun.

Just remember, fall is coming and that has potential for more fall garden goodies. It's not easy to know how to grow your own food in this kind of climate. So remember: not every year will be the optimal growing year. It certainly makes bumper crop years a true blessing.

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