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How to Grow Tomatoes in Florida

The tomato is a popular Florida vegetable plant in home gardens and for commercial production. Tomatoes grow best in Florida when planted in the spring season, however they can also be planted in late summer or early fall as long as the fruiting period is complete before there is a risk of frost or the plants are covered for protection. Florida soil is sandy and requires alteration with organic manure and fertilizer to increase the nutrient value and moisture retention.

Prepare a garden area for planting tomatoes by testing the soil pH. Tomato plants prefer a soil that is lightly acidic at a pH of 6.2 to 6.5. Add lime to the soil to raise the pH number or ground rock sulfur to lower the pH number. The pH should be above 6.0 for best results.

Apply 100 pounds of composted manure for every 100 square feet of garden space 2 to 3 weeks prior to planting. Use a tiller to work the manure into the soil to a depth of 10 inches.

Plant tomatoes into the garden in the spring season once there is no longer a risk of frost. Tomatoes can also be planted in Florida in the fall season as long as they are planted early enough to produce a crop before the first fall frost.

Set the tomato plants slightly deeper into the garden soil than they were planted in the seedling container.

Create a fertilizer starter solution by mixing 1 to 2 tablespoons of 6-8-6 fertilizer with one gallon of water. Pour approximately 2 cups of solution around the base of the tomato plant after planting.

Place mulch around the plants to prevent weed growth and the transmitting soil diseases. Apply black or red plastic mulch or dry lawn clippings around the base of the plants.

Place a tomato cage, trellis or stakes around each plant to support the stem and branches. This will prevent damage to the plant and keep the fruit off the ground.

Water tomato plants with 1 to 2 inches per week when the rainfall amounts are less than one inch. A heavy soaking of water is better than several light soakings as it stimulates the roots to grow deep instead of at the soil surface. Water tomatoes at the soil level instead of wetting the entire plant.

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