Tomatoes are probably the most popular vegetable grown by home gardeners. Even though it is a little early to plant tomatoes in North Florida, it is not too early to learn and prepare for the 2022 gardening season.
In today’s article, I’ll share some of what I try to do in growing tomatoes in North Florida and invite you to attend an upcoming seminar on growing tomatoes.
I plant tomato plants reasonably early – usually after April 1. Tomatoes are heat-loving plants that need a long warm growing period to grow from seed to fruit. Optimum fruit set occurs within a narrow night temperature range. Tomatoes produce the largest yields of highest quality fruits when day temperatures are in the range of 80 to 85ºF and when night temperatures remain above 62 but below 72ºF.
I fertilize to produce a healthy, sturdy tomato plant when the plant is young. With the first open flowers, reduce fertilization (particularly the nitrogen) to about half the original rate. When the first fruits are about two inches in diameter, reduce fertilization a little more. Once the first tomatoes are harvested, further reduce fertilizer to about ¼ the original rate or completely quit fertilizing. Many home growers fertilize tomatoes too much. This results in a big green plant with few tomatoes. This reduction in fertilization is mainly important with the amount of nitrogen being applied. The plant still benefits from adequate potassium. Just remember that as plants mature and fruit, the demand for nitrogen decreases.
As heat, humidity, rains, diseases and insects increase during summer months, tomato production naturally declines. Entire plants may begin to die. When this happens, I do away with the plants and find something else to do other than grow tomatoes.
For more info on growing tomatoes, you may be interested in attending the Let’s Talk Tomatoes lecture being taught by Okaloosa County Master Gardener Volunteer Linda Timothy. This one-hour presentation will be held at the Okaloosa County Extension Office at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 15. The Extension Office is located at 3098 Airport Road in Crestview.
Timothy is a local expert at growing tomatoes in the home landscape. She will cover her techniques for growing tomatoes in the North Florida landscape.
There is no cost to attend but space is limited so registration is required. Please call the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office at (850) 689-5850 to register.