Keeping Tomatoes Healthy in Hot Weather

What a summer it has been so far.  Early on the heavy rains provided many challenges for the tomato grower.  Now we are in a heat wave with more heat to come.  Contrary to what many think, tomatoes are not heat lovers. They much prefer 75 to 95.  When temperatures get too hot during the day (over 85 degrees) or are too hot overnight (over 70 degrees) many vegetables including tomatoes and peppers will drop their blossoms. This will cause a noticeable drop off in harvest in a few weeks.  I have noticed this effect in my garden:

  • Tomatoes – heirloom and large slicing varieties affected more often than cherry tomato types.  New cultivars of heat resistant tomatoes have been developed for southern climates.
  • Peppers – bell type peppers more affected than hot chili type peppers. Peppers seem more sensitive than tomatoes to this.
  • Eggplant, squash and legumes can also be affected.

 

There are a few things that the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer can do to mitigate this harvest loss:

  • Mulch around plantings to cool the soil and conserve soil moisture.  Organic or non-organic mulch can be used.
  • Water deeply and completely at the root zone.  DO NOT overhead irrigate.
  • Plant multiple tomato varieties to ensure a harvest.  Research the use of heat-tolerant cultivars.

 

CLICK HERE for a Tomato Blossom Drop Fact Sheet

 

 

 

Planning and Planting Start Now For Your 2019 Fall Garden Harvest

It is hard to imagine with tomatoes barely starting to ripen that now is the time to start planning and planting for the 2019 fall garden harvest.  The backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer should plan one season ahead to make sure they maximize harvest in the future.  Right now is the time to think about filling the spots in the garden that will open up after the spring and early summer plants are removed.

The goal is to make sure the garden is planted with no bare soil the entire year,  including winter.  That requires planning. First consider crop rotation.  To do this you need to know your vegetable families.

Take this opportunity to make sure that you keep your ground planted at all times.  There are a number of short term crops that could go into the garden right now that will allow harvest prior to the frost date:

  • Green Beans – can be planted every two weeks for the next month.  Choose rapid bush type varieties.

Beans were planted August 1st. Row cover may be needed overnight for frost protection. Uncover when temperatures warm to facilitate pollination.

  • Peas – Sugar Snaps are 70 days until maturity.  Germination can be tricky with hot, baked clay soils.
  • Summer Squash/Zucchini – plant now or wait until closer to the end of the month in order to miss cucumber beetles for a fall harvest.

Picture taken Mid-October. Notice due to delayed planting their are no cucumber beetles or stink bugs infesting the plants. Planting date was August 1st

  • Swiss Chard – plant now for a fall harvest
  • Green Onions – plant now for a fall harvest
  • Tomato/Pepper – transplants of short season varieties(if you can still find them locally) are possible right now in case the grower has lost plants due to pest damage.  Rotate to another spot in the garden.
  • Lettuce – can be planted from seed or transplant.  May need shade cloth to protect from heat.  Start transplants indoor every two weeks for the next three months for a fall and early winter harvest.
  • Brassicas – start indoor transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Asian greens now to transplant outdoors in late August.

    Start many types of greens indoors now and repeat every two weeks. . Can be transplanted outside later in the season when the weather cools down.

  • Radish – wait until later in the season to direct seed.
  • Beets – can direct seed in the garden now for fall harvest.
  • Carrots – can direct seed in the garden now for fall harvest.
  • Herbs – start more basil now from seed outdoors for a late summer harvest to pair with fresh tomatoes.
  • Cover Crops – keep your garden planted.  Summer cover crops like buckwheat can be planted now, plan on your over wintered space.

Buckwheat is an excellent summer cover crop for developing soil health, suppressing weeds and providing for pollinators.

Think about the spot that you will use for over-wintered spinach production using low tunnels and row cover.

Winter is Coming.

 

Make sure to address fertility.  Did your most recent harvest take out your nutrition?  Address that prior to planting the fall garden.

Feel free to join us at a Garden Walk at Worthington Community Garden on Thursday July 25th to talk about the fall garden plus many more garden topics.  Free and open to the public.

Keeping Tomatoes Healthy in Wet Weather

We are in the middle of a period of wet weather that is predicted to deliver multiple inches of rain to central Ohio and even more to other soaked parts of our state.  Tomatoes are a crop that can suffer several problems related to heavy rainfall that can shorten the harvest period and affect yield.  There are a few things that the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer can do to keep their tomato plants healthy and productive though heavy rain periods.

Key Garden Tasks to Keep Tomatoes Healthy in Wet Weather

  • Mulch – organic or non-organic can both be used.  Be careful if your plasticulture is not permeable to air and water,  the heavy constant rainfall may saturate the soil and drown the roots if the soil cannot dry out. Mulch also acts as a barrier to keep soil borne fungal spores off lower tomato leaves.
  • Fertility – contstant rainfall can leach fertility from soil making it unavailable to the plants. Make sure to monitor plant growth and health carefully to avoid a nutrient deficiency.  Foliar feeding can be used when the ground is too saturated to irrigate with water soluble fertilizer.
  • Pruning – promote air circulation by pruning lower leaves.  Try to minimize lower leaf contact with soil.  Use sterilized pruners to remove any diseased leaves and make sure to put diseased leaves in the garbage and not the compost after pruning.

 

This plant needs mulched around the base to prevent soil borne fungal spore contact with leaves. Pruning of the lower leaves will also promote air circulation to assist in disease prevention.

 

These discolored leaves suggest fungal disease in this tomato plant. The leaves need pruned with sterilized pruners and then discarded into the garbage and not the compost pile.

 

This tomato has both organic and plasticulture mulch at the base to keep fungal spores in the soil and off plant leaves. Pruning needs to be done to allow air circulation at the base of the plant.

 

This tomato plant has had lower leaves removed for air circulation with a combination of compost and plasticulture mulch at the base of the plant.

 

Monitor tomatoes carefully for signs of blight, remove the diseased leaves promptly with sterilized pruners and dispose of disease materials in the garbage, not the compost pile.

Make sure to address fertility needs as production increases.  Heavy rain can leach nutrients into the subsoil where they are unavailable to plants, decreasing yield as the season progresses.

Feel free to email mcdermott.15@osu.edu pictures of tomato problems to assist in diagnosis.

Ohio State University Extension has an excellent fact sheet on Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden.   There is also a plant disease diagnostic laboratory on campus where the grower can send samples if an accurate diagnosis needs confirmed on possible diseased leaves.

Focus on Weed Control – Pennsylvania Smartweed

A weed that I have gotten many questions and emailed pictures about this spring is Pennsylvania Smartweed.  This is an annual weed common to central Ohio that is in the same family as Buckwheat.  It can produce upwards of 20,000 seeds per plant that can persist in the soil for several years so control of this weed before seed set is critical for the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer.

One use of note for this weed is as a trap crop.  Japanese Beetles prefer this as a forage to the rest of my desired plantings and will feed on this first before going to my vegetables, fruits and herbs.  To make effective use of this weed as a trap crop, make sure to kill the beetles regularly or you have provided them with food and shelter instead.

The flower of Pennsylvania Smartweed including a couple of breeding pollinators.  Make sure to mow, herbicide, or use tillage to kill this weed before seed set to prevent large amounts of weed seed from entering your seed bank.

Source fact sheet for background information – Credit: Michigan State University Extension.