Tomato Tips in Challenging Times

Unfortunately, the current weather forecast is less than ideal for tomato production (lots of rain and night time temperatures have dipped below 10C lately  in some areas). Here are a few quick tips to help these tender plants make it through to the warmer weather (fingers crossed!) ahead.

Mulch – Heavy constant rainfall may saturate the soil and drown the roots if the soil can’t dry out. Mulching will help regulate rainfall delivery and also act as a barrier to keep soil borne fungal spores off the lower tomato leaves. And it will help reserve some of that moisture for later use.

Feeding and Soil Fertility – Too much rain can leach fertility from the soil. If your plants look sickly, try a shot of liquid fertilizer. If the ground is too wet for more liquid to be added, try foliar feeding (spraying diluted fertilizer onto plant leaves—liquid fish fertilizer diluted 1:50 works well). Note that this should only be done on overcast days to avoid leaf burn. For more information on this subject see: Foliar Feeding–Folly or Wisdom

Pruning – Good air circulation is important and can be promoted by pruning the lower leaves. Try to minimize any leaf contact with the soil.

Watering and Rain – Tomatoes don’t particularly like to continually have their leaves and flowers wet. When it is time to water them, best to do so at the soil level (or self watering containers work great). The soil should be consistently moist—but overwatering is not good.

Overhead Protection – If you have your tomatoes in pots and they are movable and you have a spot under an overhang, put them there—they will be much happier. If they are in the ground, this protective ‘tomato greenhouse’, available from Lee Valley (second picture), is an easy option to keep plants warmer and dryer.

Other tender vegetable plants that could use some protection in a chilly, damp spring include peppers, tomatillos, cucumbers, eggplants, and even squash. If you do suffer a casualty or two, the garden centres still have a good supply of seedlings available.