Leaf burn or scorch on Tomato and Cucumber plants

A common but not always a major problem with tomato and cucumber plants is leaf burn or scorch normally on the tips of the leaves. This problem can be cause by too much sun on a dry plant or too strong a concentration of fertilisers.  
 There is a school of thought that wetting leaves in strong sunlight will cause leaf burn. However, after having grown tomatoes commercially in the past for I have never had this happen, In fact we used to put on overhead sprinklers on hot days to cool the plants down and get moisture around the flowers to help with the setting. I even grew tomatoes in plastic tunnels in Portugal with only side ventilation, so we had to put the sprinklers on quite a few times a day or used a hose pipe the workers appreciated being cooled down at the same time.  Tomatoes are thirsty plants and need a lot of water on hot days especially. The compost or soil can soon dry out, especially if you are watering only once a day. The best way to water tomatoes plants and cucumbers is a little and often, so the soil is always moist but never soaking. A good test especially if growing in peat bags or large post is to take a handful of compost which should not have water running out, which a gentle squeeze water should run out and that is a good indicator you have the watering about right. 

Burned spots on tomato plant leaves can be a result of too much fertilizer or improper fertilizing practices and appears as scorching that begins at the edges of the leaves. The leaf edges look dried out and eventually  brown and brittle. To avoid root injuries that lead to leaf burn, do not allow fertilizers to come in direct contact with the plant’s stem or roots. 

 Scorch from Fertilisers
If you water using a branded liquid feed, please follow the dilution instructions carefully and use half strength on small plants. You can start watering once you see the first trussed forming. Double strength fertiliser will not make your plants grow twice as fast, it will kill them.

If you are using a home-made fertiliser with Comfrey or nettles, then please make sure it is well diluted or you could burn the roots and leaves.

If you are applying fertilizers in a granular form, gently fork it into the soil about with 4 to 6 inches  from the plant’s stem and be very careful not to damage the plants roots as they are close to the surface. By doing this they plant will not receive all the nutrients in one go, thoroughly water the fertiliser in  following the application and repeat the process every 10 days or so.

Sometimes you can get leaf scorching from residue in the compost you may be using, either the slow release fertiliser was not mixed in enough, or the manure you used to make compost was not rotted down enough.

Sun Scorch
Seedlings are very prone to scorch if allowed to dry out at any-time. As they are usually in small pots there is little reserve for the roots so they do dry out very quickly on hot days, so could need a light water a couple of times a day until they are transplanted to a larger plot. Sometimes with a sudden change in the weather it can be worthwhile adding a little shade to young plants on very hot days in early spring. 

This cucumber plant is showing signs of leaf burn. As you can see it starts on the tip of the leaf and sometimes spreads to the rest of the leaf, especially with young leaves. You do not need to remove the leaf at this stage, but it much of the leaf is damaged than it is better to remove it. I would say that this particular leaf burn was caused by the plant being slightly too dry on a hot day, but it difficult to distinguish between sun burn and fertiliser scorch. 

This young tomato plant has quite severe scorch and you can see that the two lower seedling leaves have shrivelled up, so it is best to remove them. The upper part of the plant is nice and green so they problem has past and no real long term damage will occur. Scorch usually appears at the start of the season on young plants and is easy to spot as it starts on the tips of the leaves and is dry and crisp. 

This is a severe case of cucumber leaf scorch, the dried leaves around the base of the plant are Comfrey leaves and this could have causes a high concentration of potash around the roots if there are more Comfrey leaves below ground around the roots system, or again too little water on hot days with a small root system.