Tomatoes can be grown indoors in the winter or outdoors in the summer. It all depends on how much sun they require as this is one of the most important factors to consider when growing tomatoes. If you want to grow them indoors, you don't necessarily need a huge amount of sun. If you are growing them outdoors, you will need more sunlight.
This post will help you to understand the different light requirements of the different stages of growth of your tomatoes.
Why Do Tomato Plants Need Sun In The First Place?
Tomatoes are a warm-weather fruit with a soft outer coating that turns red when ripe and a juicy fleshing inside that is edible. A number of varieties such as the Early Girl, Matina, Stupice, Glacier, etc are available today and can be divided into the quicker growing varieties and those that take longer to mature.
Earl Girl and Glacier, for example, are quick-growing varieties and take about 50 -75 days from pollination to ripening.
All plants need sunlight to meet certain requirements for different phases of their growth and tomatoes are no different. These requirements are always changing, mainly because of physical changes within and around the plant. Tomatoes need sunlight to manufacture food for growth.
The plant leaves absorb sunlight and use the green chlorophyll pigment in them to manufacture food for the plant in form of starch. This food is a source of energy for the whole plant, which in addition to the other nutrients and minerals from the roots, is a big requirement for everyday growth.
Early Growth/ Transplanting Phase
During the early stages of growth, tomato plants are usually kept inside and grown in manageable places such as pots. After a few days, they are exposed to the sun for only a limited number of hours a day. When they finally grow up to 6 to 10 inches tall, they are then deemed fit for movement and transplanted to a garden.
Newly planted tomatoes need all the sunlight they can get to develop. This is because its energy is required to support the plant’s huge growth needs such as growing roots and developing new leaves, which result from adapting to new soils.
Additionally, make sure there is enough space between your tomatoes.
Flowering is the stage in tomato growth where new flowers are fully formed and then pollinated by nature (wind, water) or humans. It is through pollination that pollen grains find their way onto the flower’s stigma, starting on a phase that ends with the formation of a tomato at the receptacle. Tomatoes, just like any other plant, need enough sunlight during flowering to enable the full development of the flowers and fruits.
At optimum temperature, normal flowering will occur. But if the plant gets exposed to too much sunlight during the day (i.e. temperatures higher than 85F), blossom drop will occur. Blossom drop happens when fully developed flowers drop off the plant instead of developing into fruit.
Another possible result of exposure to very high temperatures during this phase is the burning up of pollen. As a result, pollination will be hampered for some time until new pollen grains are formed. This explains the no-fruit formation spells during very hot days.
This shouldn’t be called a phase of its own, but it’s got some quite distinct sunlight requirements. For the record, tomatoes need warmth, not lots of heat or light, to ripen successfully. For ripening to happen, two chemical substances, lycopene and carotene have to be released within the tomato.
These substances give it a ripe red color but can only be released at optimum temperatures. That is why the whole ripening process occurs best at temperatures ranging from 68F to 75F and stops happening when they go below 50F or above 85F. Tomatoes left to ripen at such high temperatures tend to have a yellowish orange look and a not-so-great taste.
How Much Of Sunlight Does Tomatoes Plant Need?
There is no definite measure or quantification for the average amount of sunshine a tomato plant needs daily. So far, only its rate of exposure to the sun can only be monitored and limited to allow proper development throughout the phases.
Gardening experts everywhere agree on and recommend exposure to temperatures of between 68F to 75F for a maximum of six to eight hours a day during the whole growth process. For the plant’s sunlight requirements over a single day, they also suggest certain additions and tips that can be borrowed such as:
During morning hours, the tomato plant should be exposed to a good amount of sunshine as long as the temperature range is okay. This is especially necessary to dry off dew and excess water which can be dangerous if left on the leaves for a long time.
Morning light is usually intense but still beats down mildly without the typical harshness of mid-day sunlight.
Depending on your location, you need to provide shade to the tomato plants. During this time of the day, the sun beats down hard so it is an appropriate step to reduce the strain on the plants by providing shade to them.
Just like the suitability of morning sunlight, afternoon sunlight is also a boon for tomato plants. The heat is mild during this time of the day (after 2 pm) and combined with the morning sunlight, it provides suitable growth to the tomato plant.
During the night
Tomato plants actually need a certain amount of warmth at night. Experts recommend building a wall next to the tomato garden whose main purpose is to absorb sun rays during the day and radiate them back to the plants at night in form of heat.
This method is ideal for places with cold nights.
What Are The Effects Of Excessive Sun Exposure On Tomato Plant?
You might be wondering what the whole fuss about sunlight requirement is all about. By virtue of its intensity, overexposing tomato plants to the sun comes with a whole lot of disadvantages to both the fruit and the plant itself. These are some of the effects.
You can always know it is sunscalded when you notice light color leathery patches in different places across the most exposed surface of the tomato. Tomatoes affected by this condition are prone to getting spoilt quickly; they are likely to get rotten fast!
This condition occurs when the plant loses a great deal of water through transpiration after exposure to higher temperatures for a long time. Wilting is best shown by dried-up plants with droopy leaves and stems, color change in leaves, uneven ripening of the tomato, and gradual rotting.
This is by far the most discouraging. Due to mainly too much sunlight, fully developed flowers on the tomato plant may fall before turning into fruit. Each flower is a possible tomato. Having them all fall off one by one is a sign that something is wrong. While there are many other possible causes of blossom drop, high temperatures are still the biggest of them all.
With careful and attentive gardening, your tomato plants should bear a bounty of delicious fruit.