A water sprayer is very useful for all sorts of jobs including reviving plants that are wilting in hot weather, misting flowers in dry conditions to help them set and spraying to prevent disease.

However, I mostly use my sprayer for giving extra nutrients when they show signs of deficiency on their leaves . Here are a few foliar feeding tips.

You wouldn’t believe how complicated it can become beneath the soil surface when one nutrient prevents the uptake of another or the pH balance is upset by over feeding etc.

That’s the beauty of the foliar spray – you can give plants a supplement such as extra magnesium without upsetting the balance of nutrients in the soil.

The main feed, such as Tomorite, is still given through the soil and extra nutrients, as required at different times of the season are given through the leaves.

Wetting Agent
When spraying leaves it’s a good idea to use a wetting agent. This helps break down the surface tension of water so that the solution being sprayed covers more of the leaf area and is absorbed more easily into the leaf.

Leaf on left plain water - leaf on right, water with wetting agent.
Leaf on left, plain water – leaf on right, water with wetting agent.

The technical name for a wetting agent is “surfactant” but don’t let that put you off – washing up liquid is a surfactant too!

You won’t need very much, in fact it’s best to add a glass of water from the soapy washing up bowl in your watering can than use it neat. Farmers also use it when spraying their crops.

When spraying outside in breezy conditions set the spray nozzle to larger drops – finer spray gets blown around in the wind.

Aspirin update
I’ve been spraying every two weeks with aspirin and I have to say that It seems to be working very well.
Of course most of us in the UK have had very good weather over the past few weeks, so it won’t be put to the test unless poor weather arrives – let’s hope not!

Around 75 to 100 mg per litre is the dosage I’m using as a foliar spray.

Turgid and bendy
Removing side shoots and leaf pruning is best done in the mornings when plants are in their most turgid state – that’s firm and stiff, making it easier to snap off shoots etc. Winding stems around string (or string around stems) is best done later in the evening when plants are more bendy (flaccid) and contain less internal pressure (owing to a reduction in light and transpiration).

“The sap rises and the birds sing …” Copperline by James Taylor.

Water availability
Watering is also best done at the beginning of the day, but when the weather is very warm as it has been lately, it may be necessary to water up to three times daily if growing in containers. Maybe a watering system isn’t just for holidays!

Water availability plays such a major role in the growth and well-being of sensitive tomato plants that the lack of it can have many negative implications … leaf curl, small fruit, poor setting, nutrient deficiency and blossom end rot to name just a few!

Problems are often caused indirectly …
For example, wilting is the direct result of a plant running out of water. However, because a plant’s system requires a continual flow of moisture around its parts, any interruption to its water supply can have a knock-on effect.

That’s one reason why reservoir systems like the quadgrow planter and valves in a tray system like the easy2grow autopot set-up produce such good results. They are particularly useful in warmer weather too when fruiting plants need a lot of water.

Of course if you are growing directly in the ground, such as on an allotment, plants have bigger root systems and access to more water and nutrients, so the watering frequency can be reduced.

Flowering and fruit size
I know that some of us have had fewer flowers and smaller fruit than usual on our plants. Others have experienced the opposite and larger fruit.

How are your tomatoes doing?

Regards,
Nick

 

 

21 Responses

  1. Helen
    | Reply

    Hi Nick

    I’m getting lots of fruit, but the plants themselves seem to be suffering
    It’s been extremely hot here for June, temps reaching 38c (normally July & August temps)
    They look very unhealthy as if they are giving everything to the fruit and everything else is suffering
    I water them every morning before it gets really hot and if needed in the early evening
    I feed them every 2 weeks
    Am I doing something wrong?

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Helen,
      When temperatures get this high, the rate of photosynthesis slows down and plants run out of energy.
      If you can shade the plants with garden fleece, mist morning and evening, if they are in pots stick a white piece of paper etc to the front to stop the roots from becoming too hot. Removing some of the lower leaf branches will help reduce the amount of water they need but remove branches below first truss gradually.
      Regards,
      Nick

  2. Sirps
    | Reply

    Hey,

    Thanks for all these brilliant tips!

    Going great guns thanks, getting ripe fruit outdoors in June for the first time ever!

    I missed the reason for using aspirin?

    Also think I may be getting thick skins on some of the fruit, zany thoughts on how to prevent?

  3. stephen clark
    | Reply

    Nick,
    can i ask about branch removal, i know i remove all branches upto the first truss when fruit has set, but what about about the first truss , are branches above the first truss best left alone.
    and at what point do all the branches get cut back to half length

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Steve,
      I use branch trimming as necessary – when plants are crowding each other and more aeration is needed, or at the end of the season to bring fruit to maturity.
      Branch removal above the first truss is usually done (gradually) when fruit on the second truss have set and so on.
      I’m not a big fan of removing as many branches as possible because it’s the leaves that make the energy for growth but removing unhealthy leaves, old leaf branches and branches permanently in shade is a good idea.
      I’ll write more about this in the newsletter.
      Cheers,
      Nick

  4. Jim Breeds
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    I’m not sure I have grasped from this exactly what Aspirin does for the plants?

    Our Black tomato plant from Suttons, Indigo Rose, that we are growing for the first time this year is displaying quite severe leaf curl to the lower leaves and a faint mottling to the new growth, It appears to be fruiting OK. It is growing in our greenhouse with other varieties (hundreds & thousands, and a plum variety) which are not displaying the same symptoms. I have read that leaf curl can be caused by temperature variations between day and night. Our greenhouse is unheated and we did have some quite cold nights but warm days just after it was planted, about a week after Easter. Should I be concerned and can it be treated in any way? Best regards and thanks for your educational posts. Jim.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Jim,
      It’s true that wide swings in temperature can cause leaf curl but it can also be caused by water stress – a consistent water supply (such as using a timer or valve) helps relieve water stress (dry/wet swings).
      I have found Indigo Rose to be a sensitive plant so maybe some shading (garden fleece) to protect against direct sunlight will reduce leaf curl.
      Cheers,
      Nick

      • Jim Breeds
        | Reply

        Nick,
        Thank you so much for your answer. The plant in question is at the front of the greenhouse so receives all of the sun that the sky can throw at it, while it shades the other varieties. Therefore I’ll try the fleece as you suggest. Do curled leaves ever uncurl or are they permanently like that? I guess no need to remove them though?

        • Nick
          | Reply

          Hi Jim,
          Leaves that are only slightly curled do uncurl. Very curled leaves at the bottom of a plant can be removed up to the first truss when the first truss sets fruit.
          Nick

  5. Valerie
    | Reply

    Thank you Nick for an informative letter! I have just found an old bottle of soluble aspirin,so tomatoes here I come!This will cure all your headaches.Unfortunately they are 300mg so I will be making up three litres.
    Certainly after the recent rain my four outdoor plants don’t look very happy so will see what Epsom salts and aspirin do for them.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Valerie,
      Just break the aspirin tablet into thirds – or near enough. My sprayer contains a half litre so I just crumble a few small bits into the sprayer and give it a good shake – it doesn’t have to be too precise. Using warm water also helps and of course the wetting agent.
      Cheers,
      Nick

  6. David King
    | Reply

    Hi Nick thanks for another interesting newsletter! When should foliar feeding start, once the first truss has set, like root feeding, or at any time you feel a plant could use a “pick-me-up”? Can you use normal fertilizer, like ‘Tomatorite’, perhaps diluted to 1/4 strength?

    While on the topic of “spraying”, it seems that Early Blight is affecting many varieties of potatoes on the allotments, mine included. As tomatoes & potatoes are of the same family, can tomatoes be affected by Early Blight? I know, & have experienced, the devastating effects of Late Blight both on potatoes & tomatoes. But as I understand it the two types of blight are produced by different fungi so can the 2nd one affect tomatoes? if it does can a spray be applied to protect them? Have you experienced this problem?

    Thanks

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi David,
      Tomatoes can be effected by both early and late blight.
      Remove effected leaves and trim leaf branches to improve air flow around plants. Both blights usually attack lower leaves first because they are the ones that are run down and often nutrient deficient.
      You can spray plants at any time – before or after the first truss has set but best with a pick-me-up like seaweed or magnesium – I highly recommend aspirin to help trigger the plants immune systems, as suggested in the newsletter. Fungal sprays like Dithane, Synthane and Bordeaux Mixture can protect plants but once they’ve been effected it’s often difficult to control the disease.
      Regards,
      Nick

      • David King
        | Reply

        Thanks for your reply, Nick. I think I have an unopened packet of fungicide. I may make up some spray tomorrow to spray my plants & try to prevent them from catching the early blight.

        We have had quite a bit of rain here in the last few days but with the forecast of a fine, dry warm week ahead of us I will take full advantage of it to spray the plants.

  7. Mohammad irfan
    | Reply

    Thanks nick.
    these are really helpful tips.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      You are welcome!

  8. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Nick

    One of the very strange things I’ve experienced this year is with my Black Russian plant. Until last week, I’d had only one fruit set, which had grown huge, but now, suddenly, after the summer solstice, fruit are setting and growing very rapidly. I’ve no idea if that’s the reason (i.e. the plant sensing the passing of the longest day so getting on with things), but what I thought was going to be a disastrous plant is now perking up. I may hit last years total of 20 fruit if the next week is as good as the last. As each tomato can be up to 8oz, that’s not too bad a yield.

    The other thing which can be said is that I’ve got ripe or ripening fruit on all my February 5th sowings, so it seems that if you want tomatoes in June or early July, sow early is the motto. Maskotka and Glacier are in full harvest and I expect to pluck a few Black Cherries this weekend. Sub Arctic Plenty has one big orange fruit currently, which I will leave on the vine to ripen fully.

    Super Marmande is being successful for a second year – it seems to be the easiest Beeksteak variety to grow down here and the other one I was talking about last time not setting apart from on the first truss now has two more good sized fruit coming and hopefully enough flowers still to generate 15 – 20 fruit. We’ll see with that one.

    Shirley and Alicante are their usual reliable selves but Ailsa Craig seems to have smaller and fewer tomatoes growing out this year. Don’t know why – it’s had lots of trusses and flowers to go at. Riesentraube will do well again and the ones I’m growing for show in Rhizopots are doing very nicely too. Of course, you won’t get so many tomatoes growing them that way (I’m stopping at 5 trusses on Zenith and 4 trusses on Cedrico), but the breathable fabric of the pot seems to be producing uniform fruit set and well advanced fruit. I’ve not yet started using Tomorite on them but will start on Zenith at the beginning of July as fruit are now starting to set on the 3rd truss. The late sown Red Alerts produced their first trusses faster than any other strain this year, so hopefully we will get a reasonable crop late on.

    Overall, this season is not going to be nearly as good as last years epic, but several plants seem to be proving their worth as reliable, consistent croppers across multiple seasons.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Rhys,
      Thanks for your very thorough update as usual. I’ve found that some varieties don’t cope very well at setting when temperatures make such wide fluctuations – especially when it gets hot during the day and flowers are ready to set.
      Nick

  9. paul collins
    | Reply

    hello nick, i am growing 5 plants in pots. plants are doing well. 1 has fruits the rest are starting to flower.
    am not watering every day and the plants seem to be the best in 4 years. thanks for your time and newsletters.
    paul.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Paul,
      Yes … it’s been a very good season so far in the UK and most gardeners tomatoes are well advanced.
      The greatest need for water comes when the plants are about six foot tall with fruiting trusses in a greenhouse or polytunnel where it can get very hot – in those circumstances large plants can drink up to four litres a day.
      I’m pleased you like the newsletters!
      Cheers,
      Nick

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