I’ve been selling lots tomato and pepper plants lately, I feel it’s past time that I post some planting/growing tips for these two plants.
Tomato and pepper plants grow best with 8 to 10 hours of sunlight per day. In addition, peppers and tomatoes have trouble setting fruit when temperatures drop too low or get too high. The average hottest part of the day in the USA is between 2 and 6 PM (of course the actual time will vary a bit according to where you live).
Your tomato and peppers plants would do well with afternoon shade. The best possible place would be one that gets 100% of the eastern rising sun, and begins getting dappled shade between 12 noon and 3ish. Then gets full shade from 3ish to around 5 PM (at least this is so where I live in Minnesota).
The tomato’s optimal temperature range for fruit set is between 65° and 80° F. Tomato fruit becomes small or misshapen if night time temps drop below 55° F, and will set poorly at lows of 50° F or less and highs of 95° F or greater.
The sweet pepper’s optimal temperature range for fruit set is between 60° and 80° F, and up to 85° F for most hot peppers. Fruit sets poorly if night time temps drop below 60° F, or are greater than 75° F and pepper plants may suffer bud drop. At daytime temps greater than 90° pollen can become sterile and pepper plants may, again, suffer bud drop.
When planting your tomato plant be sure to bury your plant deeply, allowing just the top 4 branches to be above the surface of the soil. I remove all the leaves that would be below the soil line. All members of the night shade family will sprout roots along the stem. This will help your plant develop a large, strong root system that will promote and support growth and fruit production.
I have read that you should not bury a pepper plant, but I contend they can be planted just like a tomato. The difference is, most tomatoes grow much bigger than peppers plants and really need the extra roots. If you purchased my pepper plants in the ½ gallon bags…they are already planted deeply enough. One thing that should be done to your pepper plants that needn’t be done to tomatoes is removing the blossoms. You should remove the blossom buds from your pepper plant as soon as you can safely pinch them off without damaging the rest of the plant. Do this until your pepper has been transplanted and has started to grow again (I’ve found this can take up to two weeks), or until night time temperatures stay above 60° F…which ever takes longer. The reason for this is the fact that peppers grow quite slowly, pinching the buds keeps the plant from wasting its energy producing useless flowers and, instead, allows it to use that energy to recover from transplant shock quicker and be bigger when it’s time to start letting it blossom and set fruit.
A major problem with the tomato plant is its tendency to develop fungal infections. Taking a few precautions will greatly reduce the risk that your tomato plants will succumb to blight. They are as follows (and apply to other plants susceptible to fungus infections as well): Only water in the morning. Water only at the base of the plant. Be careful not to let water splash up on the plant. Do not use a sprinkler. Do not get the foliage wet.
Rain is another issue…and moist stretches in the weather cause lots of problems for tomato plants no matter how careful you are with watering so….
…as promised, here is my recipe for a fungus preventative:
To 1 Gallon of water add:
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
2 1/2 Tablespoons Mineral Oil
1/2 teaspoon Castle, Insecticidal, or Murphy’s Oil Soap
1 Cup 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
Shake solution constantly while spraying, because the oil needs to stay mixed. I use a pressure sprayer I bought at Menards…two for $8.
Spray your tomato plants EVERY single time it rains…Now, there are times when it just rains and rains, for days and days. You can’t spray, and even if you did, you’d be doing it in the rain, and the rain would just wash the concoction into the ground, so you don’t. Then the first sunny day you find your tomato plants are in trouble. This is when you need an actual fungicide…not a preventative.
When my plants…any of them, show any sign of fungus I use ORTHO Disease B Gon Copper Fungicide. I follow the instructions except that I also add 1 cup of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide to the gallon of water (more is not better, H2O2 can burn your plants if it’s too concentrated). First, pick ALL of the affected leaves from the plant (it does not matter that you remove most of them…leaves will grow back), put these in the fire pit or throw them in the garbage, DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE COMPOST. Next, wash any instrument used to remove the affected leaves and wash your hands with soap. Then, last, spray the entire plant until it’s completely saturated and dripping. Repeat on other affected plants from the first step to the last until you’re completely finished treating one plant including washing up before moving on to the next. Do this every 7 days or after rain washes away the fungicide until the plant looks healthy again, then you can resume using the preventative.
A word to the wise: Go ahead and buy the copper fungicide now. You can get it locally at Ace Hardware.