- Continue to water thoroughly. The municipal water in South Florida is between 62 and 70 degrees, depending on the time of year. Also, watering helps keeps the plant hydrated, which is very important as cold causes plants to dry out because they aspirate water faster than their sluggish roots can take it up. On very cold nights, water in the late afternoon, while the sun is still up, so the plant heads into the night in warm(ish) soil.
- Cover your plants. This is more for frost protection, but covering will protect them from wind also. Use a sheet or plastic bag and try to completely cover the plant all the way to the ground. If you use a bag, remember to remove it the next day before the sun comes out and cooks your plants.
- If you can, move them inside. If you have container tomatoes and a garage, drag them inside on nights where the temp is expected to go below about 40.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Tomatoes and the Cold
Here's the question on everybody's mind: is this cold spell going to hurt my tomatoes?
With temperatures dropping into the mid-30s earlier this week, and another cold blast expected for Saturday and Sunday, it's time to worry about cold tolerance.
Fortunately, tomatoes withstand cold fairly well. They do not, however, withstand frost or freezing. So if you live out west, and there's frost coming, you need to protect your plants. And even with the regular cold, I've noticed that cold tolerance depends somewhat on the variety. All of my plants are still thriving, except for the Belgian giants, which have extensive browning on the leaves due to cold damage. The rest look fine, and the fruit hasn't been affected.
Nevertheless, here are some basic measures you can take to protect your tomatoes:
Boy, this season has been something else, huh? First we had that historic heat wave in October, and now we have a historic cold snap. In both cases, it was the Belgian giants that suffered the most, so I can only draw the conclusion this particular variety has a narrower temperature tolerance than the others. The Better Boy, which is a common, garden-store hybrid, seems to be shrugging off the cold just fine.
Ultimately, unless it freezes or we experience a frost, I don't expect this cold spell will seriously damage the plants, even taking into account the cold damage to the leaves. But I will be covering my Belgian giants tonight.
As a last note, that top picture shows some of the earliest tomatoes I've harvested. Those are yellow Azoychkas and the very first Belgian giant pink tomato. Since I took this, I've also started to harvest Better Boy and Marvel Stripe (a particularly beautiful orange and red tomato with a very fruity flavor). I'll post pictures soon ...
In the meantime, let's cross our fingers and hope it doesn't freeze!