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Old June 26, 2016   #1
BajaMitch
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Default Heat Wave Almost Killed My Plants

In Orange County, Southern California last week we had a record breaking heat wave that had two consecutive days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (104 F, 107 F). Nearly killed two of 19 tomato plants in buckets and devastated about 85% of all flowers. Not sure, but my guess is that this will cut production down for the season by 50%, I think, and that is only if damage control at this point is successful. Crying shame. Spent a year studying and months preparing for 16 separate experiments. The Cherokee Purple had at least 6 trusses of flowers - all died.

I was in Baja California from June 6 to the 23rd and had all the plants on a well tuned drip watering system. In my absence, my good neighbor called me in Baja to tell me that my plants were biting the dust but that he would do his best to mitigate the problem. Luckily he is a tomato growing guy who really knows his stuff. He put up several umbrellas to shade the plants, put stake supports where needed to uplift sagging plants (several stems broke) and watered them as needed.

Any body else in So Cal experience devastation from the heat wave, if so, what did you do to fix things?
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Old June 26, 2016   #2
KC.Sun
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Seaweed fertilizer?

Not sure, but possibly something to look into. I'm still experimenting with this, but many say it helps when plants are under stress.
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Old June 26, 2016   #3
MarianneW
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My solution is to grow in the shade. It works. I don't even water every day and it has been triple digits for weeks and will be for the future. They don't set much in that heat but the existing tomatoes just plug along only wont grow quite as big. The leaves do get a bit crispy above 110f.
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Old June 26, 2016   #4
pixlpush
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So sorry to hear about your plants Mitch. I'm close to the coast and it didn't get quite as hot here, topped out at about 87 degrees, but that's about as hot as it gets here. It came on fast though and my plants had been stuck in cool fog up until then. Any quick change in the weather sure doesn't help anything.

Yesterday I noticed one section of the garden wilted and drooping so bad I didn't think it was going to come back. Turns out that my drip irigation hoses there were completely blocked from our hard water. after bending them back and forth the flow of water came back. I gave everything a good soaking and amazingly they look good again today. Disaster avoided for now.

The high humidity, 90% right now, is causing me some trouble with grey leaf mold. Once that stuff gets started in can wipe out everything really fast. I've sprayed twice with Serenade and pruned off all the leaves that were having issues, (the bottom 2.5' of a couple of my plants) and that seems to have helped for now.

I hope things recover for you. It's always something out there waiting to wipe everything out. Makes me really appreciate farmers that are doing this for their livelihood rather that a hobby like me. Still waiting on my first BLT, that usually makes it all worth it.
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Old June 26, 2016   #5
BajaMitch
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Out of 19 container plants, the ones that are partially shaded have been doing the best overall. Before the heat wave, the plants that had more direct sunlight were doing much better than the rest, but when the heat came, those larger plants seemed to have the top new leaves wilted worse than the middle leaves and much worse than the lowest leaves. And, of course, the plants with the most direct sunlight lost all of their flowers...not a good thing for determinates.

Seems like some shade on all plants might be the way to go in the future.

I agree that I now have a great appreciation for farmers toil. There are so many things that can go wrong
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Old June 27, 2016   #6
Gerardo
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Default I feel your pain

I had some losses too.

1) Trusses fried
2) Growing Tips fried
3) Slightly exposed fruits (from fungal war pruning), fried on the exposed part
4) Protected fruits, boiled from the heat


heat wave ouch tv.jpg


Moves to protect:
  • deployed canopy with shade cloth
  • played musical chairs with containers so as to insure minimal exposure to sun on all forming fruits
  • On RGGS tubes I increased the size of the reservoir and decreased the amount of plants on each circuit
  • Added extra mulch to containers
  • Fed plants with dry fertilizers
  • Drench w worm-compost-alfalfa tea
  • Foliar kelp products

Looks like they're going to make it.

I hope yours rebound too BMitch.

Last edited by Gerardo; June 27, 2016 at 12:16 AM.
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Old June 27, 2016   #7
Worth1
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I checked the soil temperature the other day after the sun went down and it was 100 degrees.

I think it was partly due to wood composting or something.

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Old June 27, 2016   #8
Dewayne mater
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Heavy mulch, plus sun shade cloth. Won't prevent pollen from becoming unfertile, but will keep the plants chugging through and helps keep the numbers down of insects that thrive in heat like spider mites.
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Old June 27, 2016   #9
heirloomtomaguy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo View Post
I had some losses too.

1) Trusses fried
2) Growing Tips fried
3) Slightly exposed fruits (from fungal war pruning), fried on the exposed part
4) Protected fruits, boiled from the heat


Attachment 62743


Moves to protect:
  • deployed canopy with shade cloth
  • played musical chairs with containers so as to insure minimal exposure to sun on all forming fruits
  • On RGGS tubes I increased the size of the reservoir and decreased the amount of plants on each circuit
  • Added extra mulch to containers
  • Fed plants with dry fertilizers
  • Drench w worm-compost-alfalfa tea
  • Foliar kelp products

Looks like they're going to make it.

I hope yours rebound too BMitch.
Gerardo you nailed it. This is exactly what is going on over here.
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Old August 8, 2016   #10
nhardy
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The heat has got my full size toms down to saladette or golf ball size planted in the pots. Watering them daily or sometimes more in extreme 97+ degree days. It is so much easier to plant the toms in the ground. I only water them every 3 or 4 days. I have a pair of wrens checking out my toms.

I'm thinking about killing the cherry toms in hanging baskets. I got most of the ripe fruit picked today. One whole basket is fruitless with little new growth. They have outlived their usefulness. I'm getting tired of all the extra watering. My indeterminates toms planted in the ground are 6 ft plus now. I picked 20 lbs last week. My neighbors are smiling to get free tomatoes.

I'm still grinding my teeth about planting Sungold Select I started from seed. A complete waste of time and space. Live and learn.
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Old August 9, 2016   #11
BajaMitch
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Update

That heat wave in Early June kind of did my 19 containers "in", if you what I mean. Some plants never really recovered as 4 of the 19 have yielded no fruit at all, and, an additional 5 plants yielded no more than 5 oz of fruit all this season. There were a few that did much, much better, but not what they should have done. The two best yielding containers were at my father-in-laws house in Long Beach, CA where the heat wave was not nearly as bad since he is much closer to the ocean. They were Cherry Red and Celebrity and his yield has been closer to normal yields, exhibiting very little to no effects from the record heat of June 9 and 10 this year.

I had a total of 16 experiments going in order to test for different mix recipes (varying proportions of perlite plus sphagnum peat moss plus Kellogg Premium Potting Mix and compost), containers with holes versus no hole containers, top drip irrigation (Drip) versus Self-Watering-Containers (SWC), large containers versus small containers, 6 different cultivars, determinates versus indeterminates, different fertilizer application methods (ferts mixed in the potting mix versus a fert strip versus periodic feeding), and differing quantities of compost.

The good news is that I still got usable results from my experiments as the experiments were set up as Boolean comparisons using only two containers for each experiment and testing for one specific thing. In this type of experimentation, the two plants do not have to do particularly well to render usable results. The only thing that I need to see is which one of the two containers in the two container experiment does better than the other. That is, each experiment was set up to compare only two possible items and the rest of the components in the two containers would be exactly the same in a given experiment pair, e.g., small container Vs large container, holes Vs no holes, compost containing mix Versus no compost, 1 mix recipe of a given volume % for each mix component compared to a mix with a different mix % (17% perlite Vs 34%, 7% compost Vs 25% compost, 0% compost Vs 50% compost (Drip containers), Drip Vs SWC, fert Strip Vs Ferts mixed in the mix, Periodic Feeding Vs Ferts mixed in the Mix, etc.).

I have meticulously maintained periodically taken records that show, for each experiment pair, which of the two containers did the best with regard to the comparative plant health, size and plant height, foliage and stem condition, flower production, fruit production (such as it is), maturation level, soil pH, soil temp. Even though the overall fruit production was low, my records and data clearly show big differences in the Boolean experiments between each of the experiment pairs.

This is what I have learned, so far. Holed containers do better than containers without holes for both Drip Containers and for the SWCs. For the Drip containers, 25% to 30% compost containing mixes do much better than Drip containers with no compost or even much less compost. The one Drip container with 50% compost is doing among the best of all containers. The fert Stip container is out performing the containers with ferts mixed in the potting mix and even out performing the two containers that are being periodically fed ferts. The Strip container is a Walmart 6.25 gallon SWC and is doing better than most all of the 4.25 Drip irrigation containers and certainly better than the 3.5 gallon of mix SWCs that are either a 4.25 gal container or in the other three 6.25 gallon Walmart SWCs. For all the SWCs, those with 6.72% compost do better than those SWCs with no compost in the mix.

I have two sets of SWCs going: 4 Walmart SWCS that contain 6.25 gallons of mix and 4.25 gallon containers that hold only 3.5 gallons of mix (the remaining 0.75 gallons of volume is the water reservoir). Generally, the much larger Walmart SWCs have done much better than the smaller SWCs. BUT, and this is an all import BUT, I do not attribute the Walmart success as being due to container SIZE.

Here is why. My biggest problem (even more so than the heat wave) with almost all my experiments is that I believe that I have over fertilized virtually all my containers. Too much nutrient! The big Walmart containers have virtually the same amount of the six macro nutrients, therefore, the "Concentratiton" of fertilizer/nutrient is much higher in the smaller containers per gallon of mix by a factor of 70% over the larger containers. To bolster my contention that I have over fertilized and that the concentration of ferts in the mix is critical, the one container that is doing the best among the 4 large Walmart SWCs is that the Walmart container with the Fert Stip is way out performing the other 3 Walmart containers where the ferts are mixed in the potting mix. This supports the contention that less fert concentration in potting mix itself is healthier for the tomato plant. Of all the Drip 4.25 gallon containers, the two containers that are doing among the best are those containers that are being periodically fed, meaning that their fert concentration has been lower throughout this growing season than those Drip containers that have the ferts mixed in the potting mix from the beginning of the season.

I analyzed the Chem-Gro fertigation application quantities, especially the ratio of ferts used by AKMark. By comparison to my fert application, both Chem-Gro and AKMark (and even Harvest's use of Chem-Gro ferts) are using much less total fert nutrient than me by 33% to 50%, and, they are both administering the fert periodically, which means that their plant containers are starting out the growing season with much, much less fert concentration in their potting mix by multiples (well over 100 times less fert in the mix) than all of my containers that have all the ferts mixed in the potting mix at the beginning of the season.

Last year, I had to replant on July 1, 2015 (I took them down on April 15, 2016 so that I could use them in this year's experiments. Those 4 Walmart SWCs were doing well on April 15, 2016, but I needed them for this years experiments). Last year, I did experiments with those 4 large Walmart SWCs. Of the four, I had one 'control' container that had no fertilizer added, and the mix consisted of only Kellogg Premium Potting mix; no ferts added until December. The other three had ferts very similar to the fert quantity that I used this year per container. The control did much, much better than any of the other three by leaps and bounds. Another testament to less fert is better.

The reason I used the fert quantity from last years experiment in this years experiments is because I mistakenly thought that I could do better this year by not adding any sand to the mix. Those three Walmart containers that had added ferts plus peat moss and perlite in addition to the Kellogg Premium Potting Mix had large quantities of sand in them...very large. I mistakenly thought that the sand was the only problem - wrong. The sand was a problem for sure, but the ferts were the other problem as I now know (strongly suspect). I now do not use any sand at all as it does nothing for the plants. Sand doesn't wick up water in SWCs, it doesn't have any CEC (the all important Cation Exchange Capacity) at all, and a mix of compost, perlite, peat and potting mix drains just fine while holding water and providing plenty of the absolutely necessary CEC.

Oh, BTW, here are my determinations so far based on my experiments. Use containers with holes in the sides of the container for air root pruning (line holed containers with landscape fabric). The optimal mix for SWCs (IMO) is 2-2-1 (by volume, 2 parts potting mix, 2 parts peat, 1 part perlite) or 3-1-1 (slightly better than 2-2-1) with 6.72% compost with either of the aforementioned recipes (borrow some mix volume from the potting mix for this 6.72% by volume). Use a fert strip instead of mixing the dry ferts into the mix. For top watering drip containers, use holes and a fert strip as well. Optimal mix recipe (IMO) is 3-5-2-2 ( by volume, 3 parts compost, 5 parts potting mix, 2 parts peat, 2 parts Perlite or 25%-41%-17%-17% respectively).

For back yard container gardening, using liquid ferts for fertigation is expensive, comparatively speaking. Being a cheap guy, my goal is to determine the easiest and cheapest way to grow container tomatoes with repeatable, reliable success. But, that's just me. My philosophy is, if you have the money, buy what you want...it's not immoral to do so. But, if you're cheap, like me (irrelevant as to whether or not you've got lots of money - if you're cheap, you're cheap), then why not save some money? Also, IMO, if I can, through my experiments and data collection, achieve a cheap, reliably well working container recipe, that will mean my efforts are financially and physically efficient. Anyone can spend tons of money on expensive grow media and chemicals and expensive ferts, what's the challenge in that? It's like using a Lamborghini to commute to work. Sure, you may get there a little faster, but is that most financially efficient way to do that? Not dissing people with money. If I had the money, I would in fact own a Lamborghini, and I would probably sleep in it, too.

Side point; Those darn Walmart container plants lasted from July 1, 2015 to April 15, 2016 and two of them were starting to fruit up by April 15th. That proved something very important to me. There were many very cold days in that 9.5 month period. The maturation of the plants were slowed down very significantly, BUT, they did not die. Nor did the plant viability suffer at all in the long run. Yes, they were very 'dormant' in their growth, but they did not die or perish at all during those months where the over night temps dropped to 37 degrees Fahrenheit and the day time temps didn't exceed 55 degrees for consecutive days. Interesting!

What that means to me is that I am going to plant on April first next year, no matter what the weather is. I deferred planting to early may this year because I read that optimal planting is where the overnight temps are regularly above 55 degrees Fahrenheit and the daytime temps do not exceed 85 degrees. That didn't happen until May 1, 2016. Well, I say baloney to that. The plants will weather the cooler temps in Early April just fine and will be maturing before the really hot weather of summer. You know, the hot weather of June 2016 that ruined my production this year by killing off the 2nd and 3rd flower trusses of both my indeterminates and determinates.

Last item. Funny thing, some of those burned up 2nd trusses and 3rd trusses, for some not understandable reason, apparently were successfully fertilized with pollen as they are now starting to grow some fruit. They actually stayed dormant from June 10th to about two weeks ago where those seeming dead and dried up flowers are actually showing little tiny tomatoes starting to grow.

Last edited by BajaMitch; August 9, 2016 at 06:50 PM.
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Old August 18, 2016   #12
nhardy
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Well I killed off one of my cherry toms in a hanging basket and some potted indeterminate toms. They had some fruit I picked green. They had no new blossoms. Not worth watering. I can give the in ground toms more attention. Thinking determinates only for containers and indeterminates for the ground from now on.

The other two hanging baskets better produce more or they are a goner too. I got bigger tomatoes to pick.
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Old August 18, 2016   #13
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So what and how much did you use for plant food / Fertilizer?

I always do experiments too and I think part of my problem with the big tomatoes growing in EB is they run out of food. They seem good for the first 2 trusses and then zilch. I don't have this problem with RootPouches top watered b/c I can always add more fertilizer.

RE: air pruning; I agree. I also found several seasons ago, my RootPouch tomatoes were much more productive when I elevated them (open air grills underneath).

Actually for cucumbers and peppers I stopped using the fertilizer strip in SWC and just mixed it in and had outstanding results. Cucumbers had enormous yields and Peppers made it through the hot summer still producing fruit. I also did not keep the reservoir full on the peppers b/c I think some of the problems previously was root rot.

I'm gearing up for the fall tomato season - (sowing seeds....) and seriously considering dropping the fert strip.
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Old August 20, 2016   #14
schill93
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Mitch: I think if you live in a dry heat sensitive area, using larger pots will always help you with the heat. I also think that due to climate change and hotter summers for many, that the addition of shade cloth is going to become more common. I lost all of my tomato plants this year, and I'm on a quest myself to prevent it next year.

I live in the desert where temperatures average between 103 - 110 for three months straight. I learned early on that smaller pots were useless here. Between the dry air, wind and heat , a pot less than 10 gal. will dry out faster than you can turn around. The larger pot retains more water and keeps the roots from frying in the heated soil. Your situation is not as bad there, but the same principal still applies.

MarianneW: What are you growing in the shade there? Do you mean real 100% shade or filtered shade with a shade cloth or tree?

Have you been successful in growing any good tasting heirlooms there? (Cherokee Purple etc.) I hate when the question is asked what can you grow in the hot desert and people either say "cherry tomatoes" (I hate cherry tomatoes) or some god awful tasting heat tolerant tomatoes that taste no better than store bought tomatoes. Why in the world would I want to go through all of this work to grow Homestead or Yellow Pear that tastes like wet rubber. .

Last edited by schill93; August 20, 2016 at 05:41 PM.
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Old August 20, 2016   #15
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I grow my tomatoes so they only get sun between 10 and 11:30 am and then 1:30 to 3 pm. Once they get taller, the tops get more sun. I grow them under a tree in the narrow strip of land between my house and a block wall, about 6 or 7 feet wide at the most. Yes, I can grow good tasting heirlooms. This year it was black krim. The trick is I plant in January. I don't get much frost so I can do that. By April I'm picking tasty tomatoes! I can do it in the fall but the season feels too short for any of the good ones.

Have you tried any of the black cherries? Next spring I'm going to try kiss the stars and black & brown boar.
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