Tomato plants often make steady progress until temperatures climb into the 90s, which often happens just as the plants have loaded up with green fruits. Baking in the searing sun can give the happiest tomatoes the blues, and set the stage for problems that can ruin your crop.
To help your plants produce plenty of perfect tomatoes, take steps to moderate weather stress while tweaking your plants’ supply of necessary nutrients.
Wellness Checklist for Healthy Tomatoes:
- Lighten the fruit load on heavily-laden plants. Bring tomatoes that have just begun to blush indoors to ripen, freeing the plants to nurture fruits that need more time to grow. Remove any fruit that shows dark patches on their bottom. This disorder, called blossom end rot, cannot be reversed, so affected fruits should be clipped off and composted.
- Add organic compost and a balanced tomato fertilizer to enrich soil. Fertilize plants every 2 to 3 weeks to keep them supplied with essential nutrients.
- Water well. Tomato plants need up to 2 inches of water a week in very hot weather, and you will see far fewer cracked fruits if the soil is kept slightly moist at all times. Water plants daily if you must. Mulch to reduce how much soil moisture is lost due to evaporation.
- Cover plants with lightweight plant covers through the first few heat waves. Hot sun can cause tomato sunscald – pale, leathery patches on the fruits that pucker when they should be ripening. Bushy plants with plenty of leaves naturally shade ripening fruits from excessive sun, but thrifty plants benefit from shade covers. Use tall stakes to hold the shade cover a few inches above the plants.
Several home remedies can help restore wellness to stressed-out tomatoes. Poke a few antacid tablets into a plant’s root zone to offset a calcium deficiency. Perk up struggling plants by mixing one tablespoon of magnesium-rich Epsom salt into a gallon of water and apply to plants’ roots. Mix one-half cup milk into a quart of water and spray onto foliage for a light buffet of nutrients, and to possibly prevent powdery mildew or other diseases.