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South Florida Gardening: Tricks and Tips for Growing Tomatoes in South Florida


Tomatoes are the favorite garden vegetable of all time. If there is only room for one vegetable in a garden, gardeners will invariably choose tomatoes. I recently considered moving to the beautiful great Northwest, but decided not to when I found I could not grow tomatoes there without a green house.  

When Can I Grow Tomatoes in South Florida?

Growing tomatoes in Florida can be frustrating, especially down here in South Florida, where it's so hot and humid. Regular tomatoes won't pollinate at temperatures over 85 F, so they won't set fruit in our hot, humid summers, which last from May through August. It's best to grow your tomatoes from September through December, and then plant a second crop from starter plant in January to get more tomatoes by April. Just about any northern variety will grow during our South Florida winters, with heirlooms being particularly popular.

There are a few tomato varieties that are hybridized strictly for heat, such as Heat Wave, Solar Fire, Florida 91, Solar Set and Sunmaster. Gardeners' impressions are that heat tolerant tomatoes do not bear well, and don't have much taste.

Cherry Tomatoes - Summer Garden Candy

Cherry tomatoes love the heat of South Florida summers. Favorite varieties include Sweet 100, Husky Cherry Red, Matt's Wild Cherry, and Grape Tomatoes. If you can lay your hands on some Everglades tomatoes, do it. These are a native Florida tomato that is tiny and sweet, and you'll fall in love with it.

How to Plant and Grow Tomatoes in South Florida

You need fertile, loamy, acidic soil to successfully grow tomatoes. The soil in Florida is generally either sand or marl, both alkaline and lacking in nutrients. You can take the time to amend your soil to make it suitable to grow tomatoes, but most Florida gardeners just grow them in 5-gallong or larger containers with a good potting mix. This keeps them from being killed by root-knot nematodes or contracting soil-borne diseases.

Use an acid-based fertilizer such as Miracid or one made just for tomatoes. A good azalea and camellia fertilizer is acceptable if you can't find anything else.

Buy Water Soluble Miracid Acid Loving Plant Food, 1-Pound

Growing tomatoes in South Florida can be a challenge. There are insects and diseases galore that want to destroy your plants, but it's well worth it for the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes on your table.

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