Growing Tomatoes in Florida

Tomatoes are a very important commercial crop in Florida, and a popular crop in our gardens.  They’re easy to grow, but it’s important that you get the correct varieties for our area.  Many that you find in local box stores don’t do well here.


Two basic types of tomatoes:

Determinate – large fruit varieties (and some small types). Require staking

Indeterminate – small fruit varieties, don’t need staking, typical short growing season.


Key letters to remember  (re. hardiness/pest resistance)

V – verticillium wilt

F – fusarium wilt

N – nematodes (microscopic wire worms)

T – tomato mosaic

A – alterneria leaf spot



Typically we plant transplants (4 – 5 weeks old is best.  Older plants, though larger, usually produce smaller yields.)

Jan – March (spring garden)

Aug – Sept (fall garden)

Spacing:  3 – 5′ rows,      2 – 3′ if staked

If started from seed, beware of damp-off (caused by overwatering).


Cultural Needs

Plant in full sun

Soil pH – 6.2 → 6.5  –  good drainage

Fertilize with 8-8-8 every 7 – 10 days

Staking – 6′ tie up just behind first clusters

Suckering – remove side branches.  Although this will reduce number of fruit, they will be larger.


Pests   (May have 1 or more issues at the same time)

  1. Insects

Whitefly – cause yellowing of plants and fruit

Caterpillars – (horn worms, cut worms, fruit worms) chew on leaves, stressed fruit

Aphids – feed on young growth (suck out juices) (look for ants)

Leaf miners – tunnel inside of leaves

Stinkbugs – suck juice from fruit

Spider mites  – hot dry weather

Recommended control:

Insecticidal soap

Hand picking off pests

General purpose insecticide (check label to make sure it’s safe on tomatoes/consumption)

  1. Diseases

Early/late blight

Leaf spot

Wilts/viruses – use resistant varieties

Recommended control:

Use resistant varieties;  General purpose fungicide

  1. Nematodes – Very common – cause stunting, wilting, death. No good control
  2. Cultural Problems

Blossom end rot – due to lack of calcium (4lbs of Ca/3 gal of water – spray thoroughly 2 times a week), improper amount of water, or severe pruning.

Blossom drop – too high/too low night temperature, too much N fertilizer, too much shade, thrips, too much water

Weather related – fruit cracking, sun scald

Pick tomatoes when fully ripe.

Maturity:  Transplants – 70 to 90 days;     Seed – 115 days


Good reference:  “Tomatoes in the Florida Garden” – HSS08  which is available from website.

About AskthePlantMaster

I have 50 years of horticultural experience, am currently a Master Gardener in Central Florida. In addition, I'm a Horticulture Instructor and retired Parks Manager and Arborist. I love plants and would love to help you with yours!
This entry was posted in Aphids, Caterpillars, Fertilizing Lawn and Garden, Insects, Nematodes, Plant Diseases, Plant Knowledge, Plant Pests, Spider Mites, Tomatoes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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