As I was searching for some other gardening advice altogether, I came across a Florida gardening blogger who seems to have very useful information to share. Unfortunately it looks as if his blogging stopped a few years ago in 2015. Maybe he moved away to a better place.
I found a post with growing tomatoes advice which would explain why I have such a difficult time with tomatoes.
First of all he starts with seeds (Plant Your Tomato Seeds). I’ve been wondering if the fact that I buy seedlings from Home Depot (there is nowhere else I’ve found) is my biggest problem. He says store bought plants “are never very good”. I already suspected this.
Start planting seeds early enough to have seedlings ready for the garden by March first. He says to buy a combination of sizes, but tomatoes won’t grow very large in this climate. I’ve found that to be true as well. I don’t have the space for a lot of plants, but I can use my fabric bags.
Which Tomato Seeds to Buy?
The blogger I am referencing plants Hybrid Tomatoes only. I am not sure why, except that they are probably tougher than heirlooms. A hybrid is a cross-pollinated plant. The characteristics are better yield and disease resistance, among others.
In case you are interested in buying tomato seeds online: Organic Heirloom tomato seeds can be purchased at the Tomato Fest site. These are NOT hybrids. Heirloom tomatoes give the grower the option to save seeds to plant the following year. You can’t do that with hybrids.
Buy the most disease and pest resistant varieties. Look at package labeling for letters that follow the name of the tomato. See the key list of what that lettering means on this page at Gurneys. My packet above contains the letters VF which protects from wilt disease.
Indeterminates only – this means the tomatoes will continue to grow shooting out stems and growing tall all during the growing season. Indeterminates continue to set fruit while you pick ripe tomatoes. In other words, they just keep growing until something stops them. They need staking, whereas determinate varieties are more compact and can grow in pots.
**Note here: Indeterminates can grow to be 12 feet tall! I will need to re-think my staking. I suspect that in Florida they could easily grow to astounding heights. I can see the raccoons climbing my stakes and destroying my crops.
Pick Tomatoes Early
Letting tomatoes ripen on the vine is my preference, but the raccoons tend to pick them before I get to. My reference blogger picks his early and says they taste better when he lets them ripen indoors. His blog is helpful, but not easy to navigate, so use the “search” area.
He mentions planting some tomatoes later in the season, in the shade, in a new area, and they did well. Read about that at the bottom of this page where he “answers a question“.
I’m grateful for this info.