If you like to grow tomatoes AND you live in the desert, then you know how important it is to shade your tomato plants during the summer months.
Most vegetable gardeners haul out 50% shade cloth, which does a great job at shading tomatoes and protecting them from the intense desert sun.
Personally, I don’t particularly like how shade cloth looks. As a horticulturist and landscape designer – I like gardens to look beautiful and that extends to vegetable gardens.
So instead of putting up shade cloth over my tomato plants this year, I decided to create natural shade for them.
My tomatoes are surrounded by giant sunflowers on their east, west and southern sides. If you can only add sunflowers to one side, then choose the west side to protect them from the intense afternoon sun.
Throughout the day, they experience filtered shade. My tomatoes look great without any signs of sunburn.
Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed and you can start planting them in March and continue throughout the summer.
Because sunflowers only live a few months, I have planted a second crop of sunflowers in between my existing sunflowers. I will soon plant a third crop in order to provide shade all summer and into early fall for my tomatoes.
An added bonus to planting sunflowers is that they provide food and shelter for birds and you can enjoy their delicious sunflower seeds.
Another reason to use sunflowers instead of shade cloth for tomatoes is that sunflowers are a lot less expensive then shade cloth and are an inexpensive and sustainable solution.
How about you? What do you use to shade your tomatoes?