Tomatoes are considered a subtropical plant, yet they grow well in both Texas and North Carolina. Both states have the warm weather and soil condition necessary to grow a healthy crop of tomatoes. While special considerations are needed, for each area, to get the most out of the tomato plants, home gardeners will likely enjoy a bumper crop of fresh, juicy tomatoes in either state.
Having the right balance of nutrients in your soil is essential to the health and productivity of your tomato plants. In North Carolina, fertilize tomatoes at the time of planting, with 3/4 cup of lime mixed with 1/2 cup of 8-8-8 fertilizer. Due to the higher sodium (salt) content in the soil, those planting tomatoes in Texas are advised to add 5 to 6 lbs. of gypsum per 100 square feet of soil if they are planting in sandy or clay loam soils.
The plains of Texas are susceptible to high winds and dust storms. To protect young tomato plants from these harsh conditions, surround the plants with tomato cages or trellises. Wrap these with a clear, perforated polyethylene to act as a shield against these high winds. The wrap also helps keep insects from destroying the plants. In some cases, where tomatoes are planted in wide open spaces, planting taller plants or constructing walls from wooden boards may be necessary. In North Carolina, simple staking of the tomato plants, as they begin to reach their full height, is usually sufficient enough to keep them growing erect. Use a 6-foot stake, driven 1 foot deep into the ground, and placed 3 to 5 inches from the plant. Use string or old nylons to tie the plant to the stake.
It is common practice to use a layer of wheat straw or leaf compost as a protective mulch around the base of the tomato plants. Laying down a 2-inch layer will help keep the moisture in the garden's soil during the hotter months of July and August. Plastic mulch is the preferred choice in Texas for protecting tomato plants. These mulches serve to warm the soil and help reduce water evaporation. Use black-colored plastic mulch for quicker warming of the soil, or silver mulch to help reflect the sunlight back onto the plant, thus increasing the tomato plants yield by as much as 20 percent. In tests, red-colored mulch was found to perform poorly in Texas and is not recommended.
One of the key factors to growing abundant tomato plants is to choose a variety that is well-suited to an area's climate. Popular tomato varieties in North Carolina include Better Boy, Celebrity and Mountain Pride. These types have been found to resist diseases such as verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt and root-knot nematodes. For tomato plants well-adapted to Texas climate, look for the Carnival, Sunmaster, Celebrity, Santiago, Cherry Grande and Spitfire varieties. All of these are both heat and disease tolerant.