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Sun and tomatoes

by Sheri
I’ve been asked recently if tomatoes can get too much sun. The answer is yes, especially in the late summer and early fall when the sun can be quite intense, the rain levels low, and the nutrient level of our soil is often somewhat depleted. While most of us treat our tomatoes as full-sun plants, my experience suggests that while they do crave heat, they don’t do particularly well when they simultaneously receive a full day of direct sun and intense heat. Which is why I have long suggested planting tomatoes in an area with the dappled shade of a decidous tree overhead. This provides two benefits. One, in the early spring the plant receives all the heat and sun possible, then later in the season, when heat is plentiful (either from air temperature or radiant heat from the soil) but direct sun starts to be a bit problematic, the plants get a small break. Two, at this time of year when the idea of an early frost starts to threaten the delicate tomato leaves the canopy of the tree above provides protection from the lighter frosts. This simple placement of your plant can often extend tomato production by a good two weeks. And if you were lucky enough to have planted your tomatoes in a container this spring now is an ideal time to move the pot under a decidous tree – just make sure it gets a nice dose of morning sun or the shade provided by the tree is quite open. Happy growing!