Tomatoes for the Home Garden – Part 1

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 09:56 AM.

Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in home gardens.  They are nutritious vegetables that provide good quantities of vitamins A and C.  Tomatoes are used in many cooking recipes or as a fresh item in combination with salads.

Tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate.  The determinate types are gaining in popularity in home gardens.  Determinate tomatoes are referred to as “self-topping” or low growing types. They will usually grow to a height of 3 to 4 feet depending on the variety.  As a result, they can usually be staked with 4 to 5 foot stakes or cages.  Determinate varieties will bear fruit primarily over a four to five week period, then fruit production decreased considerably.

Indeterminate types have a different growth habit than determinate types; they are not self-toppers and usually produce fruit throughout the entire season unless they are killed by diseases or insects.

Some recommended varieties for the home gardener are:  Floramerica, Celebrity, Amelia, BHN602, Fletcher, Florida 91 and Talladega.

To raise any vegetable successfully, you need to begin with adequate soil preparation, and tomato culture is no different.  Tomatoes need a slightly acid, soil, with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8 if the pH of your soil is less than 6.0 you need to add lime to raise the pH.

Since some of our soils in Florida are slightly alkaline, you really shouldn’t add lime unless you have a soil test that indicates the need for it.  Then about 5 pounds of dolomite per hundred square feet of garden is the average recommended rate.  Be sure you work the dolomite into the soil well in advance of planting.

Another important part of soil preparation is fertilization in which I will give some tips, also talk about setting the transplants into the garden and mention some of the early cultural care they need.  My information was provided by Extension Vegetable Specialist Dr. Steve Olson of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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