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Protecting Vegetables and Fruits From Sunburn

Making It Grow! Minute logo

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. My new sunscreen has zinc oxide in it; it actually forms a physical barrier to protect my skin from sunburn. Believe it or not, sunburn is a serious issue for many fruits and vegetables, too. Sunburn necrosis occurs when vegetable’s skin or peel which receives direct sunlight reaches a certain temperature and the tissue is killed. It’s the temperature of the fruit’s skin  – not the air temperature – that’s critical. For example, cucumbers suffer this injury when the exposed side of the fruit reaches a temperature of 100 to 104 degrees. Vegetables and fruits damaged by sunburn necrosis loose cellular integrity and begin to seep fluids and it’s more likely to occur as the fruits get larger and aren’t hidden under the protective leaves; growing   cucumbers and tomatoes on trellises or in cages helps keep these fruits shaded. 

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.