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Lots of red tomatoes

Trouble with Tomatoes

Not how we do it up North?

When it comes to gardening, Florida is just different.  Northern gardener bite their lips and try not to scream when they first try their craft in Florida. It’s not that great produce can’t be grown here. Florida ranks 2nd only to California when it comes to supplying tomatoes to the United States. Most of the problems home gardeners have with tomatoes has to do with planting the wrong time of year. A Northerner that has grown tomatoes all summer in their northern home will quickly fail trying the same in Florida. Yes, you can plant your tomato seeds now. Yes, in this heat. They grow pretty well in the heat but it takes cooler night temperatures for pollination to take place.  The flowers seem to shrivel up and fall off leaving no fruit behind. Cherry tomatoes and especially one called everglades tomato can take the heat better and continue to have some fruit during the warmer nights of summer. Still production will be down and problems such as insect and disease will be up.

A hand on a small tomato growing on the vine. Photo taken on 04-14-17.

A Florida tomato ripens on the vine. Ber would affect the end opposite of the stem. Photo by IFAS communications

Rotten on the vine

Another problem common to tomatoes is BER or Blossom End Rot. This is one we often see in Florida when the summer rains start. As the tomatoes matures it begins to rot, opposite the stem, on the end where the flower was once attached. BER is caused by a calcium deficiency within the plant.The problem is often caused by uneven watering. Thus, It cannot be fixed by simply adding calcium to the soil or spraying it on the foliage.  It can also be caused by too much nitrogen especially ammoniacal nitrogen, as well as too much soluble potassium and magnesium. Keeping a constant amount of moisture in the soil and making sure nutrients are managed better will help avoid BER. Other vegetable fruits such as pepper, squash, cucumber, and melon can also be affected by BER.

Learning Florida’s Lessons

Learn more about growing vegetables in Florida at my fall vegetable gardening workshop August 10th at the Bert J Harris Agricultural Civic Center’s Sam Polston Auditorium. You’ll receive a 100 page booklet and take part in our seed exchange. We provide the seeds. Learn more on Eventbrite or for more information call the UF/IFAS Extension office of Highlands County at 863 402-6540 or email me at davidaustin@ufl.edu. That’s the news from the Hometown Gardener. You can find and “Like” my page on Facebook at Hometown Gardener.

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