Growing Tomato Plants
in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens
Tomatoes are an important agricultural crop for Florida, and a favorite for home gardeners all over the state. They love the heat, and consistent moisture. Heat we have defiantly got, consist ant moisture, well…we can manage that to with a little care.
I once was just blown away by a customer who was convinced that could not grow tomatoes in Florida. Him, seeing the look of shock on my face, and me, seeing his absolute resolve that it could not be done, led to an interesting conversation. I learned he had moved here in the last few years and was continuing to plant tomatoes just as he always had, in May. After all he had over the coarse of his life become a well adept backyard tomato grower.
So I explained to him that in Florida we had two tomato growing seasons. In addition, he had planted his traditional in ground tomatoes, then like a good tomato gardener added lots of cow manure and good garden compost to help keep the soil consistently moist. Then, as luck would have it, we had gotten hit with the Northeast quadrant of a Hurricane.
Now to all of those native Floridians that read that last sentence, you immediately know that his tomatoes got drowned in ridiculous quantities of water. But for the rest of you, getting the Northeast end of a hurricane equals days and sometimes weeks of heavy flooding rains. I remember, during that storm the soil got so saturated with water that large Oak trees and Maples planted on any kind of an incline were just falling right over, the roots couldn’t keep hold of the waterlogged ground. And if you, like the good tomato grower that you are, have amended your soil generously with lots of water holding cow manures and compost, those tomatoes don’t have a prayer with that much water.
Anyway, my new friend did agree that the second year he had tried to grow tomato plants in Florida and lost the plants, it was due to a bit of an unusual weather experience for our area from the hurricane. And I admitted that I too, had lost all my tomato plants that year to fungus and rot, except a few in containers. And I did admit that since then I had decided to build raised beds that would keep the roots up out of the way of passing monsoons!
He was amazed, he had been growing tomato plants successfully for so many years, and was sure that he was just never going to get a garden fresh tomato in his new Florida home. During that simple conversation we both learned valuable lessons. He learned he might need to rethink gardening as he knows it for Florida, and I learned that if I moved North I would be lost, as I know nothing at all about how to garden anywhere but here!
Most importantly, he was ready to give Florida tomatoes….
just one more shot!