Tomatoes in the Florida Garden
Every gardener’s favorite, tomatoes merit special mention. Growing them can be tricky here but by following a few rules you can enjoy delicious, vine-ripened varieties throughout the winter. By now you should have started
seeds and by mid-September you should have nursery-grown seedling set out. You can continue planting from now until about mid-March when it becomes too hot for fruit to set. Grow tomatoes in containers or raised beds for nematode avoidance. Always bury a good part of the stem when planting tomato seedlings. The plant will grow roots all along the buried stem, and you'll have a stronger, healthier plant.
The University of Florida has tested a wide variety of tomatoes for pest and disease resistance and fruiting potential, with kudos going to Better Boy, Bragger, Celebrity, Duke, Floradel, Flora-Dade, Floramerica, Manalucie, Solar Set, Sun Coast and Walter large-fruit varieties. UF/IFAS found the best small fruit varieties to be Cherry, Chelsea, Florida Basket, Micro Tom and Sweet 100.
Retired horticulturist Allen Cordell, who has grown countless tomatoes at the Florida Botanical Gardens and Pinellas County 4-H gardens, swears by Celebrity, Better Bush and Sweet 100. Fertilize monthly with a complete organic and water as needed, and you should have a good crop.