Posted: Sep 11, 2012 9:12 PM by Peter Terpstra
Updated: Sep 11, 2012 9:50 PM
BOONE COUNTY - The drought that plagued Missouri crops during the summer left some home gardeners curious on how to keep their tomatoes healthy in hot and dry conditions.
Farmers and gardeners attended the annual Tomato Festival on Sept. 6 to learn techniques to help with a healthy crop of tomatoes and chilies.
Here's a list of tricks to help keep your tomatoes on track during a hot summer:
1. Irrigation is everything. All tomatoes must receive enough water to survive. Horticulturist James Quinn says each garden is different in how often gardeners should water the plants, but he suggest watering vegetable plants every other day in an extremely hot summer. Quinn also says a sprinkler could be an alternative to manually watering vegetable plants.
2. Provide shade to protect tomatoes from heat. A tomato plant does not need to sit in the hot Missouri sun to grow. Creating a shady roof by hanging a white sheet over the plants will help keep the tomato plants cool enough to pollinate and produce fruit. Missouri vegetable specialist Sanjun Gu said tomato plants will not pollinate or produce fruit in a temperature 97 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
3. Use mulch and other water absorbing material over the roots of plants. Putting mulch, newspaper or another absorbent material at the base of a plant will help protect from weeds, provide the plant with water and keep the pant at a cooler temperature.
4. Look into heat-resistant types of tomatoes or other vegetables. One of the most common types of tomatoes that have a higher tolerance to heat is cherry tomatoes. Also, chili peppers are naturally tolerant to heat and can grow in a hot and dry environment.
5. Growing tomatoes in hot, dry, summer means gardeners must be more disciplined if they want a successful crop. Quinn says the perfect garden is a garden that only needs to be watered and picked on weekends. With the weather that heated up Missouri over July and August, gardens required more watering and tending to keep the plants cool enough to produce fruit.
Melissa Applegate is co-owner of Jack's Gourmet Restaurant in north Columbia. She said the restaurant started to grow its own tomatoes in reaction to higher tomato prices.
Applegate also said other ingredients also increased in price over the hot summer months including corn and beef.