No homegrown produce says summer like a juicy red tomato – ideal for a summer salad or as an accompaniment to a barbecue. But tomatoes can also be a source of frustration for gardeners when conditions become hot and dry, or cold and wet, and we are plagued with pests and diseases.
There are a few tricks as we head towards the end of August that can help prolong the productivity of our vines, avoiding some of the fungal and often fatal diseases that threaten tomatoes.
My first tip would be to increase the amount of water that you give to your tomatoes to avoid blossom end rot. I’ll explain: at the beginning of the summer, a single watering will often suffice for tomatoes, but as the temperature increases, the demand for water follows suit. I often need to water my tomatoes twice a day from mid-July until the night temperatures draw in.
Blossom end rot is when a dark, hard patch appears on the base of the fruit, often a consequence of erratic watering, with roots flip-flopping from very saturated to very dry in the same day. To avoid these extremes, a second watering in the afternoon will keep the root ball at a more constant level of hydration.
I would also advocate not watering during the evening as we move towards colder nights. Tomato blight is often prevalent in cool and wet conditions, therefore any watering that you do, try to carry out before 3pm or 4pm. This allows your tomatoes and glasshouse environment to dry out a little before we lose the light. Wet foliage and damp in your greenhouse or on your patio as the temperature drops will often create the perfect conditions for tomato blight.
Cooler temperatures mean that your tomatoes are ripening at a slower rate, and all of that lush foliage can reduce air circulation. My tip would be to remove the lower leaves, to around halfway up your vine to allow as much air circulation and sunlight to penetrate the area around the fruit, to accelerate ripening. The upper leaves and stems will quite often be enough to sustain the plant and provide a much healthier environment as we try to persuade these sun lovers to persevere as we transition to a more autumnal vibe.