How to protect garden plants, fruits from sunburn

Q: I am new to gardening in such a hot climate. During last month’s heat wave, some of my plants burned and are just starting to recover. With warm weather expected this week, how can I prevent my tomatoes and peppers from getting sunburned again?

A: The summer heat in Redding can be brutal on plants and people. With such intense sunshine during the summer, it is easy for plants and fruits to suffer from sunburn, especially if the plants are under water stress. Symptoms of sunburn begin as a yellow or tan discoloration on the sun side of the fruit or leaf. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants commonly suffer from sunburn, but other vegetable crops including melon, squash, cucumber, beans, peas, and sweet corn can also suffer from sunburn.

There are several things you can do to prevent your plants or fruit from getting sunburned.

First, you can shade the plants by installing a shade cloth or other material that will provide shade to the garden in the afternoon. Most vegetable plants need six hours of sunlight, and during intense summer light, morning sunlight is best. Shielding plants from the hottest part of the day will not only prevent plants and fruit from burning, but can also keep plants healthier as they can photosynthesize longer during the day. As temperatures increase, the rate of photosynthesis decreases and photosynthesis will stop once temperatures in the leaf rise above 103 degrees. Shading the plant will help keep the plant canopy cooler.

Many established plants, such as peppers and eggplants, can burn from the sun if they receive too much direct sunlight during the afternoon.

Another way to prevent plants from getting sunburned is to water them deeply in the morning to prevent them from becoming water stressed during the heat of the day. Plants can wilt in the afternoon, this is a natural response to heat and low humidity, don’t automatically assume the plant is short of water. It is best to check the soil moisture before watering even if the plant is wilting, especially if you watered the plant deeply in the morning. Waterlogged soil can also cause plants to show signs of stress such as yellowing or drooping leaves.

In future years, you can plan your garden to minimize sunburn on the most susceptible plants by planting taller plants on the south or west side of the garden so that they shade the plants most prone to sunburn. . You can also use trellises for cucumbers or green beans to shade plants that need some protection. Planting green vegetables such as lettuce, swiss chard, kale and spinach in the shade of other plants can also extend the season of these cooler season crops into late spring or early spring. beginning of summer.

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It is also important to remember not to fertilize plants with a high nitrogen fertilizer during the hottest part of summer, as rapid growth can lead to increased plant water stress and new growth can also be slower. susceptible to sunburn. Fertilizers can also increase water stress by adding extra salts to the soil, which makes it harder for plant roots to absorb water.

The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be contacted by phone at 242-2219 or email [email protected] The Gardener’s Office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer questions from gardeners using information based on scientific research.