Growing tomatoes under shade cloth
(New Madrid, MO)
Q. I have raised Juliet tomatoes for several years with very little problems and consistent taste from start to finish except for the past 2 years. We have had 2 hot summers in a row, therefore the blooms were aborting instead of setting fruit. I've had very good luck with using shade cloth over pepper plants and was wondering if tomato plants would benefit from this also. My Juliets did not set very much fruit until it cooled off in the late summer and early fall. Do you think shade cloth would work for tomatoes?
A. Yes! Shade cloth can work to keep excess heat and light off your tomato plants.
Excessively hot temperatures - over 90 degrees consistently during the day and 75 degrees or higher overnight - stress tomato plants. They abandon any idea of producing blossoms and fruit, and simply concentrate on surviving. (Read more about problems tomato have setting fruit.)
By placing shade cloth over your plants during the heat of day (particularly between 10 AM and 2 PM) or longer, you take away the additional stress factor associated with unrelenting sun.
Some gardeners have also had considerable success encouraging tomatoes to set fruit by using tomato blossom set spray.
You can also help plants by making sure they receive consistent watering, especially during heat spells.
Good luck and happy gardening!
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