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).
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)
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
Hand picking off pests
General purpose insecticide (check label to make sure it’s safe on tomatoes/consumption)
Wilts/viruses – use resistant varieties
Use resistant varieties; General purpose fungicide
- Nematodes – Very common – cause stunting, wilting, death. No good control
- 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 solutionsforyourlife.com website.