Saturday, August 29, 2009

This burns me up (sunscald)!

What Now?

  • Now I am finding spots on my tomatoes and peppers that I have diagnosed to be sunscald. Sunscald usually begins looking like white/yellow spots that are sunken and leathery in texture. Once affected, it usually prevents the fruit from ripening properly. I know this is sunscald because the spots are on the top side of the fruits, and most of the fruits underneath are not affected. The spots on the peppers and tomato in the photos above did begin white, sunken, and leathery but are now also beginning to mold. The tomato has other problems as well (that burn me up too).

Why Me?

  • Sunscald is caused by the sudden exposure of fruits to direct sunlight in hot, dry weather. It's also caused by extended periods of direct sunlight. It can happen when extreme weather such as hail or strong winds move the protective foliage from the fruits. When septoria or blight cause leaves to drop, fruits can be left exposed to intense sun. In retrospect, I remember several consecutive days when we had some strong winds and storms that pushed the pepper plants to one side. I did stake them, but long after they had started leaning. I didn't want to snap the stem in an effort to straighten the plant, so they've been sort of diagonal since the storm. I believe this is what exposed the peppers to direct sun. My tomatoes have been affected by blight, explaining why the first pickings of tomatoes have been fine, but this past week, the tomatoes have looked horrible.

Now what?

  • Now, when I spot a fruit that has sunscald, I can pick off that fruit in order to encourage the plant to set more fruit. Other suggestions for preventing sunscald: use a shade cloth during the hottest part of the day (realistically, I will not be diligent enough to do this), plant tomatoes upside-down, limit pruning and keep foliage healthy in order to provide shade to protect fruit.


  1. How disappointing! :o( I've dealt with some of that myself, as I fought early blight back in June. If there's enough foliage, maybe try "training" some of the leaves (especially on the tomatoes, it may be easier) to cover the baby tomatoes as they grow. It's worked for me and my Black Krims!

  2. Most often, I will just pluck off the affected fruit, give some water and let the plant heal itself. How do you plant a tomato upside down?

  3. HI Wendy,

    My Meme is posted!



  4. All part of the 'joy of gardening' my dear! It's what makes gardening so

  5. Huh. This is certainly nothing I've ever had to worry about. Especially this summer, since the sun has very rarely even come out. I didn't realize the sun was so strong in Maryland.

  6. That's so sad. Our sun rarely gets strong enough to sunscald things. Most of my tomatoes were in full sun for weeks and were all fine. The plants are dead, but at least the tomatoes were fine.

  7. oops... this happens to my plants very often especially when there is a sudden change of climate... suddenly when the weather gets really hot... even leaves will get sunscald! Many times I wish I could have a greenhouse... then I don't have to worry about the weather :-) Nonetheless, I hope that your other plants are not affected. Have a great day!

  8. That stinks! They are like little jewels and it's so heartbreaking when they don't get to shine. I am sorry that happened to you.

  9. Come to think of it, there was a sort of sudden weather change. It had been a very mild summer and suddenly got very hot. Anyway, I am surprised too since I really only get about 6 hours of good sun - on a good day - and in the good section of my garden.

    Autumn Belle, to plant a tomato upside down, you need someone really strong to hold you up by your legs, then you get a...just kidding. Something like this...

  10. Oh, and thanks Julie for the tip - After this, I will definitely be more aware of how the foliage hangs on the plant. My neighbors might have me committed if they see me out there arranging each leaf just so...

  11. I hear ya on the shade cloth -- I know at some point, I'll have to have it for my veggie garden, but it's easier right now for me to NOT. :)

  12. Very nice post!
    When my tomatoes start ripening, I usually remove big leaves to let sun touch the fruit. This summer, I realized that if days are very hot, this could not be a good idea, since tomatoes lose their leaf screen and get scalded.


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