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  The hot sun is brutaly attacking my tomato plants laden with tomatoes.  Other plants are being effected as well.

I went to Home depot this morning and looked a heavy duty sun screen.  They want $79.00 for 6 x 50' roll.  My garden is onebox 12 x 40 and to cover it all would be real expensive.  I had an idea of making 4 x 6 six frames covered with cloth and and mounting the frames on uprights so that they could be tilted at various angle above the plants depending on need.

Does anyone have a better idea of both the method and material to be more effective and to keeping the cost lower?  Are there not less expensive materials to use for shade?

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Robert are your tomatoes caged or staked?  I do not recommend this form of growing tomatoes because the heat impact (high up is hot and dry) is harder on the tomato plants.  General recommendation is to let the plants sprawl.  With the sprawling method, some of them will sunburn a bit, but you don't want to touch the damage until fall.  They will stop setting fruit, no matter what when the night temps go into the 80s, then start setting again in the late summer/fall when the night temps fall back again.

As for some possible options - lattice fencing could be positioned at a 45 degree angle from the west/north sides, still allowing a lot of sun access but minimizing the afternoon sun intensity.

I appreciate this discussion as i'm overdue to protect my tomatoes and looking for less expensive options. good to learn that the sprawl is better. not my traditional method but this year used straw (was shocked at that price) underneath and let them meander.

Mary Ann,

Over the years the experience with gardeners doing the sprawl for the tomatoes has resulted (generally very successfully) in greater production and longer into and out of the heat of the middle of the summer.  The only staked/caged tomato best success I've seen is at least one gentleman who went for a forest of tomato plants (2 or more dozen) with additional misting at the base that created a tropical jungle so the heat impact was lessened.  Most people don't want to grow that many.  If you look a pictures of the tomato farms, for instance in California, the plants sprawl on the ground.

Burlap will work and is a whole lot cheaper than the sun shade fabric.

I never thought of that, Chris.  Will it let enough sun light through so that I won't have to keep taking it down?

I have east to west exposure to the sun over my garden.  If I have the burlap suspended six feet up over the plants and out three from the edge of the row, will that work OK? It would give morning and evening sun and shade from noon till six at night. If so, I can get under it to tend to the plants.

Robert, I'm not sure about Chris' experience but from what you just described your tomatoes won't get enough sun to be healthy.  Tomatoes need about 8+ hours with all day ideal for maximum production/health.  If for example you do not extend out the burlap past the row as you describe and they get only overhead shade, can you calculate how much sun they would get?

   I feel that i"ve got to something. Even with adequate water, the plants leaves are turning brown and wilting.... even falling.  They are not recovering in the morning anymore either.  It is just too hot and the sun is on them directly from above from 5:00AM until 6:00 in the evening.

  I've got close to 60 tomatoes at verious stages of development some very large yet still green and I would sure like not to lose them.

I do understand Robert.  If they are that stressed then some overhead shade may make a difference.  Just don't want you to go from one stress to another (too much sun to not enough).

Are they staked or caged or did you let them sprawl?    Is the box  12" by 40" or 12 feet by 40 feet?  Big difference in how the roots handle the heat.  FYI the sides of containers and the exposed top 3 inches of soil is about 180 degrees in the middle of the afternoon now. 

The garden is 12' x 40' .  I messed up with my typing skills.

I'm really surprised in that size garden you are having such a problem Robert - post a picture?  Maybe I/we have some additional helpful thoughts.

  I don't know how to upload a picture.   I have pictures but cannot

  get them uploaded to this site no matter what I've tried.

Robert short tutorial: :-)

Have the location of your .jpg noted.  Start your reply, and click on the icon in the above bar for the image (the one to the right of "link").  Click browser and find your image.  After uploading it will give you several choices - where to place it (right, left, center) - choose one.  Then there is a 'size/pixel' - select about 300, and click okay or done, whichever comes up, and you will see the picture in your post and you can add text.  Hope that is clear :-)


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