You say ‘Tomato’, I say… | How to Grow Tomatoes in Florida
September 24, 2009
By Debbie Hughes, Estates Horticulturist
While most of the country is winding down their harvest season, in Southwest Florida we are getting prepared for our fall and winter season of growing vegetables. Since the days are getting shorter instead of longer, not all tomato varieties will work in our conditions. Bella Rosa, Floralina, Homestead, Florida Basket, Snow White, and Cherokee Purple are the tomatoes enticing me this season.
- Bella Rosa is a mid season tomato with heat tolerance and resistance to tomato wilt.
- Floralina is a tomato developed by University of Florida and North Carolina State with resistance to three types of fusarium wilt.
- The Homestead variety of tomato is especially recommended for Florida gardeners.
- Florida Basket is perfect for growing in hanging baskets.
- Snow White tomatoes are a pale yellow cherry, sweet without being too sugary. The Estates grew this tomato successfully last year and I found myself snacking on these delightful mouthfuls every day once the bush was mature.
Terms to look for when purchasing tomato seeds include “determinate growth” and “indeterminate growth”. A determinate grower reaches maturity size then begins to flower and produce a set amount of tomatoes, and an indeterminate grower will grow and produce as long as the tomato plant is happy. Another characteristic to consider is the number of days to maturity which could be as short as 60 days and as long as 90 days.
The Estates uses nursery flats heaped with a sterile, soil-less seed mix. The mix is a combination of fine particle perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss.
- Pat the mix down level and water it.
- Sprinkle seeds on the top of the mix, and cover the tiny seeds with a fine layer of mix.
- We have a plastic dome that fits over the nursery flat that provides humidity and warmth inside the mini-greenhouse. Humidity and warmth are two components needed for seed germination.
- Choose a location out of direct sunlight without too much heat. Little sprouts may be apparent within three or four days.
Once four leaves are evident on the seedling, it is time to start using a balance liquid fertilizer (10-10-10) or a worm tea and move into additional sunlight (not full sun yet). The fertilizer reminds the tomato to grow as the media used does not have nutrients necessary for the plants continued growth; the soil-less mix only decreases the chance of seedlings damping off and dying.
In a couple of weeks, the Estates will have tomato plants for sale at the Garden Shoppe and the Downtown Farmers’ Market as seedlings so that you can plant them at home in 5 gallon buckets, raised beds, or other containers (the ground in Florida is not favorable for tomatoes because of nematodes). Come by the Estates Heritage garden to see how our tomatoes are progressing.
Look for future blogs once the seeds are sprouted and growing and we will discuss transplanting them into larger sized pots and then hardening off the seedlings to finally get them into their new home .