Tomato plants are known for tolerating imperfect conditions, making them perfect for new gardeners. Their resiliency and adaptability ensure that even first time gardeners can have success. This leaves many wondering how tolerable they are? More specifically, can tomato plants tolerate wind?
While tomatoes are less fickle than other plants, they too can be damaged by strong winds. However, there are several options, such as cages, ropes, A-frames, and trellises, to help your tomatoes survive these times. If frequent or extremely high winds damage your plants, depending on the extent and place of the damage, it’s still possible to recover and flourish.
Read on to learn how to protect your tomato plants from winds, and have your best growing season yet.
How do you protect tomatoes from the wind?
There are four main ways to support your plants from wind: cages, ropes, A-frames, and trellises. If you grow your tomato plants in a greenhouse, the wind would not be a factor. However, these techniques would still be applicable in helping to support a growing plant, despite the lack of wind.
Cages – Tomato cages are a great tool to support a growing tomato plant. However, they aren’t ideal for every situation. As the tomato plant grows, you can coax the branches upward with the support of the cage to lean on.
Cages are nice because you don’t have to go back and re-alter the cage as it grows. Once you set the cage in place when the plant is small, the growth fills in the space of the cage. There isn’t much for the gardener to do other than guide branches in the growing stages.
However, tomato cages can vary widely in quality, thickness, and durability. A strong wind can easily mangle and bend low-quality cages. Cages might not be the right fit in areas such as apartment balconies, where between buildings is like a wind tunnel.
If using plastic pots, the weight of the cage and plant may easily topple over during high winds. However, using a heavier pot, such as clay can help offset the weight and height of the plant.
Rope – This is also called the string method. A wire or pipe is run between 8′ tall posts. Along that wire or pipe is rope. The rope is attached to a stake in the ground at the root of the tomato plant itself. As the tomato plant grows, the rope is wound around the root of the tomato stem. During this process, the plant is frequently pruned to grow upwards and not outwards.
This method should be used on indeterminate tomato plants. These plants can grow up to 9 feet, while determinate varieties, such as Roma tomatoes, are bushier and grow to 2-3 feet. Good options for tying plants are jute and twine, as they are biodegradable. This can be a fairly inexpensive option to keep your plants protected from the wind.
Trellis: A trellis support can be made out of any rope or string, or you can buy the roles of a plastic trellis which is usually in a cross formation, held up by a metal or wooden frame.
You can get very creative with your trellis ideas, and it can be fun for some people to come up with some interesting looks for their gardens. With a trellis, you can set up your frame at any height you want. Most gardeners like to put up their posts at around 6 or 7 feet so the tomatoes can grow 5 or 6 feet. The taller the tomato plant, the higher the yield.
Trellis is great protection from the wind if you do it correctly. Making sure your frame is firmly in place and that everything is tied down is key to ensuring that your tomato plants stay up during a wind storm. Like the rope method, it is a very inexpensive way to secure your garden.
A-frames – These vary and combine trellis and A-frame or the string method and A-frame. They are commonly bought at hardware stores and are usually made of wood or metal. In a triangle (A) shape, they stand over a raised bed but can also be used over a pot. It is essential with A-frames to shape the tomato plant so it grows properly with the frame.
A decent A frame can get expensive if you buy from a hardware store, but you can make them yourself too! These frames are a great way to keep the wind from taking out your plants. You have to be sure they are secure. They can tip over, taking everything with them.
Can plants recover from wind?
After some wind, you may notice your plants leaning to one side or looking a little windblown. As long as the plant isn’t entirely on its side, it will fix itself after a few days. Sometimes the wind may have bent a branch.
This is an easy fix. By using a bamboo stick and doing a stint out of a stick, you can reattach the branch, and most of the time, it will heal. It is never too late to throw up some trellis. If more wind is coming, put up something for support to help your plant along.
Wind may end up knocking some tomatoes off the vine as well. If they are almost ripe, they are still fine to eat. If they need to ripen a little more, place them on a window sill in the sun and let the sun work its magic. This may only take a couple of days.
Most of the time, your plant will survive the wind as long as it has a good support system. The only times you may be at a loss is if the tomato plant has been completely ripped out of the ground and its roots are showing. If you are at this point, try and harvest as many tomatoes as you can, and that’s that.
How windy is too windy?
Like all plants, tomatoes need a little bit of wind if they will be healthy, hearty plants. Air circulation helps prevent fungal disease and helps bring pollination, so the plant can fruit. However, that all being said, too much wind can knock over plants and dry tomato plants out, which, in the long run, can stunt the plant’s growth.
There isn’t one answer for how much wind is too much wind. But a good rule of thumb is that all tomatoes need a little air circulation. If you transplant baby plants outside, they will not survive a wind storm. So it is best to watch the weather and do it when the weather conditions are right.
Can I Use a Windbreak?
Windbreaks are great temporary fixes against a wind storm. Windbreaks are usually put up in a square around the plant, or you could even tie something to a tree in the direction the wind is going. The best materials for windbreaks are cloth or plastic.
Something like a shade cloth is recommended over plastic because you can still let light in without accidentally baking the tomato plants. Plastic will act as a greenhouse, making it way too hot for the plants and allowing moisture to settle (which eventually causes fungal disease).
In some cases, this may be a good thing. The wind can come with freezing temperatures, so plastic around your tomatoes may be exactly what you need.
Paying close attention to the weather can determine whether you come out with a good crop or not. It’s important to know what is coming to you can better prepare yourself and your plants.
Having a good trellis system made out of any bamboo support and any string or twine or throwing up something simple like a tomato cage or a frame is an easy and effective way of protecting your tomatoes from the wind. Powerful wind can be a game-changer in some gardens, but it doesn’t have to be the end-all! Happy gardening!
Hi there, my name is Allie and welcome to my blog; GareningWithAllie!
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