4 Growing Plants
8 Setting Plants
12 Staking and Pruning
12 Insects and Diseases
14 Container Culture
Growing Tomatoes in the Florida
J. M. Stephens, and F. S. Jamison, Head,
Assistant Vegetable Crops Specialist Department of Vegetable Crops
Not only is the tomato the most
important commercial vegetable in
Florida, it is also the most popular
garden vegetable. It is grown suc-
cessfully throughout the state by
many methods of culture in
baskets, in solution, on stakes, on
the ground, mulched, unmulched,
The Florida gardener has a wide
choice of varieties proven to pro-
duce well under Florida conditions.
Gardeners should rely on these
tested varieties. A successful va-
riety in another state may not be
successful here. Such varieties as
Big Boy and Beefsteak are quite
popular farther north and even
here in Florida, but are not recom-
mended for Florida gardens be-
cause they lack disease resistance.
Some gardeners obtain excellent
results with these varieties if the
plants do not become diseased.
Of the large-fruited varieties,
we suggest Manalucie, Manapal,
Indian River, and Floralou (all of
which have resistance to Fusarium
wilt, gray leaf spot, and early
blight), and Homestead, which has
resistance to wilt. A new variety,
Marion, and an old variety, Rut-
gers, might also be planted. For
staking, the varieties Manalucie,
Manapal, Indian River, and Flora-
lou probably will give best results.
Then too, the usually smaller
specialty types may be grown,
such as Red Top V-9, a small, pear-
shaped cocktail or paste-type that
grows on a short bush. Roma is
slightly rounder than Red Top and
is resistant to Fusarium wilt. It
produces well in hot weather, as
does Large Cherry, a very small,
round, red type.
Fig. 1. Small-fruited varieties similar
to Roma may be attractively packaged
in egg cartons for road-side sale.
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Fig. 2. An outdoor seedbed should be shaded in the late summer to protect the
young seedlings from heat and heavy rain.
Growing Plants always be readily purchased, the
St t v g f gardener should know how to grow
Due to the many advantages of
his own plants for transplanting.
transplanting tomatoes rather than
-With proper care, well-rooted, stur-
seeding them directly into the gar-
den, and since transplants cannot d 6-to 8-nch high tomato plants
can be produced in 6 to 8 weeks.
Fig. 3. Paper drinking cups are just Here are some considerations:
examples of the various containers in 0 Plants can be grown in such
which transplants may be grown. Placed
in a flat, they may be moved indoors containers as wooden flats, metal
when adverse weather threatens. pans, or milk cartons, or in hot-
Fig.2.,A o o sd s .hou beds, coldframes, or outdoor seed-
," '......"-^ beds.
.* Put holes in bottom of con-
Due -'. "tth mna g o trainers for drainage, add a layer
'a "'e r t of tiny pebbles, then fill in about
-e -e- -' : 2 to 3 inches of good garden soil
which preferably has been steril-
d tfransplan cant" sized by heat or soil fumigant and
ca be pr i properly fertilized.
Fig.. Pn cp -t Hr aTo sterilize soil, heat 3 to 5
exa s th v u cntais inches of moist soil in oven (350-
wh 400' F.) for one hour. This rids
Fig. 4. A wooden flat for growing
transplants should first be overfilled
with soil, then leveled to give a smooth
Fig. 6. Planting tomato seed by sur-
Fig. 5. Untreated seed may be treated
in the seed packet.
Fig. 7. Some gardeners prefer drilling
the seed into furrows spaced 3 to 4 inches
soil of soil-borne fungi, weeds, etc. -f
Be careful not to over-fertil-
ize. Add 1 tablespoonful of 6-8-8 ; -
or other similar analysis fertilizer "*
to each gallon of garden soil. Mix
well with the soil either before
or after placing soil in the con- KL
Buy treated seed, or treat :'C
seed in packets by placing a pea-
sized pinch of thiram in packet-
and shaking to cover seed. This
protects the seed from decay and .
the seedling from "damp-off" or- .
ganisms. O r r
Either one of two ways of _, --
sowing seed is suggested: (1)
scatter seed over smooth, firm, '
moist surface; lightly cover with -
soil, then sprinkle with water; or
(2) open-up one-quarter inch deep .
grooves in soil at 2 to 3-inch inter- Fig. 8. "Damping-off" of young to-
vals; drill seed into these grooves, mato seedlings may be reduced by
drenching the base of the small plants
then cover and sprinkle. Grooves with a fungicide solution.
Fig. 9. When properly thinned to 3 or 4 inch intervals, young tomato seedlings
should develop into sturdy, well rooted, transplants.
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should be about 1 inch wide to
avoid sowing seed too close to-
gether. When very close, roots be-
come entangled and difficult to
separate without root-injury. In
both cases, keep containers moist
and in warm place after seeding.
If "damping-off" is noticed
after young plants come up, wet
the base of the plants with 21/2
tablespoons of ferbam 76% to 1
gallon of water.
Thin plants to 3-4 inches
apart when they are 2 inches high;
transplant the extras into flats,
peat pots or bands. If plants are
left unthinned, they will become
spindly and are more subject to
Expose plants to sun and
wind as much as possible to condi-
tion them. Tomato plants grown in
protected places will tend to be-
come somewhat weak and spindly.
A few days exposure to the outdoor
environment while they are still in
the containers will help them sur-
Fig. 10. When thinning and trans-
planting seedlings, care should be taken
to disturb the tiny root system as little
vive better when transplanted in-
to the garden.
Table I-Planting Information
North COntral South
Florida Florida Florida
Spring Feb.-March Jan.-Feb. Nov.-Feb.
Fall Aug.-Sept. Aug.-Sept. Aug.-Sept.
Days to Maturity:
Transplants 70-90 70-90 70-90
Direct Seeded 90-115 95-115 95-115
Row Spacing (inches) --. 36-60 36-60 40-60
Plant Spacing (inches):
Staked 12-24 12-24 12-24
Ground 18-40 18-40 18-40
Seeding Depth 2 in 1/ in. % in.
Fig. 11. A sturdy, well developed
transplant should be set in the row
S-' slightly deeper than it grew in the seed-
S' bed. Fig. 12 (below) A starter solution
gets plants off to a fast start
Setting The Plants Fig 13. Freshly transplanted tomatoes
should be protected from the hot sun for
Tomato plants are easily injured 3 or 4 days. Palmetto fans are plenti-
or even killed by frost. In the ful and to the job well.
spring, they should be set in the
garden as soon as frost danger
has passed. In the fall, they should '
be set early enough to produce ',
a crop before danger of frost. -':
Transplant when conditions are
best soon after a rain, when -
cloudy, or in late afternoon. Dis-
turb roots as little as possible -
when moving plant from flat or ;?
seedbed to the garden. Keep roots e
Into properly spaced hole (see '*
Table 1 for proper spacing), insert
plant slightly deeper than it grew _
in the flat. Tall, spindly plants still _l
may be used by laying half of the
stem at an angle in a hole about
4 inches deep. The above-ground
part will grow straight up and the
stem covered with soil will develop
A starter solution gets plant off
to fast start. Stir 1 to 2 table-
spoons of 6-8-6, 4-8-8, or 4-7-5 fer-
tilizer into 1 gallon of water. Pour
1 pint around base of each plant.
In addition to the benefits of mois-
ture and nutrients, the soil will be
firmed around the roots, eliminat-
ing air pockets. Protect the plant
2 to 4 days after transplanting by
shading with palmetto fan, news-
paper, etc. A cardboard band plac-
ed around the base of each plant
and inserted into the soil will help
protect it from cutworms.
For every 100 square feet of
most soils, about 5 pounds of 6-8-8
fertilizer will be needed during the
life of the tomatoes. One-half of
this should be applied at planting
or transplanting time, placed in
two bands each located slightly
below and 2 to 3 inches to the side
of the seed or transplants. Do not
place this concentrated band of
fertilizer directly in the planting
furrow or beneath the seed. Part
of the remaining half should be
applied as a side dressing about
3 weeks after planting; the rest
should be added later depending on
the needs of the plant. On rock-
land, the total amount needed will
be about 2 pounds of 6-8-8 per 100
The use of organic materials or
manures as fertilizer is beneficial
to the soil and plants in many
ways. Animal manures especially
Fig. 14. Fertilizer should be placed in two bands each located two to three
inches to the side of and slightly below the level of the seed or transplants.
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I ig. 15. The row should be fertilized and moistened before the plastic mulch is
applied. Fig. 16. The edges of the plastic should be firmly anchored with soil to
keep it from blowing away.
Fig. 17-18-19. Slits about 4 inches long should be cut in the plastic at the proper
intervals. Set the peat pot containing the plant into the bed through the slit in the
plastic. A tomato plant properly mulched with black plastic.
can be used to advantage; how-
ever, over-use often results in ex-
cessive vine growth and poor fruit-
set. Since animal manures are not
complete fertilizers, add 2 to 3
pounds of superphosphate to every
25 pounds of manure. Broadcast
the manure over the soil surface
two weeks or more prior to plant-
ing. Work well into the soil.
As for most garden vegetables,
the best soil pH for tomatoes is
around 5.8 to 6.0. If soil test shows
a pH of 5.5 or less, lime is needed.
From 2 to 3 pounds of dolomitic
limestone per 100 square feet ap-
plied two months prior to planting
will usually be enough.
Hydrated lime may be used
where a quick-acting material is
needed. It may be applied two
weeks or more before planting if
it is mixed well with the soil.
Apply at three-fourths the rate for
dolomite. With both liming mate-
rials, it is best to check with your
County Agricultural Agent for
A material such as straw, leaves,
dried lawn clippings, or plastic
which is placed on the soil around
the plants is called a mulch. It
benefits by conserving soil mois-
ture, holding down weeds, keeping
fertilizer from leaching, and keep-
ing the fruits from rotting on the
soil. It is suggested that a mulch,
especially the black plastic, be
tried by gardeners.
Fig. 20. A six-foot stake should be
driven into the bed about 3 to 4 inches
from the plant. Note the manner in
which the string is tied around the stake
and below the fruit cluster. Also, notice
the pine-straw mulch.
Fig. 21. A sucker develops in the junc-
tion between each leaf and the stem.
These suckers should be pinched out ex-
cept for the first and second ones that
To mulch with plastic, 1) pre-
pare soil and apply all the fer-
tilizer (5 pounds per 100 square
feet) in bands; 2) making sure soil
is moist, lay plastic over the bed
and anchor edges with soil; 3) cut
slits in the plastic and set plants.
With proper rainfall or irrigation
during the growing season, enough
moisture will seep into the root
zone from the row-middles and
through the slits in the plastic.
Staking and Pruning
To conserve space and keep fruit
off the ground, it is a good practice
to stake plants. Many methods of
staking may be used successfully.
One method is to drive a six-foot
stake firmly into the soil about 3
to 4 inches from each plant, pre-
ferably before the plant is set. As
the plant grows, it can be tied with
string to the stake 4 to 6 times
during the season. The tie should
be made just below the fruit clus-
Removing side branches (suck-
ers) as they emerge reduces the
number of fruit produced, but
causes those remaining to be larg-
er and easier to find. Leave two or
three main stems to develop.
Insects and Diseases
Most foliage and fruit-feeding
pests of tomatoes can be controlled
with a general purpose insecticide
- fungicide dust or spray if it
is applied on a preventive basis at
7-day intervals. Spray or dust soon
after a rain or overhead irrigation
to replace that which was washed
off. This spray or dust should con-
tain two of the following insecti-
cides: Malathion or diazinon, plus
DDT, TDE or sevin. The spray
or dust should also contain one
or more of the fungicides maneb.
zineb, or copper.
Some of the most serious tomato
pests are hornworms, fruitworms,
aphids, leafminers, stinkbugs, loop-
ers, cutworms, and mole crickets.
Worm damage usually appears as
chewed out areas or holes in the
leaves, stems or fruit. The tunnels
made by leafminers may be seen
just under the leaf surface. Aphids
attack the young, tender leaves,
sucking out the juices, and are ex-
cellent carriers of plant diseases.
The stinkbug does most of its
damage by sucking juices from
young fruit, causing them to either
fall off or develop abnormally.
Cutworms chew the stems of seed-
lings at ground level, causing
them to fall over and die. Cut-
worms also feed on the leafy parts
of the plants. Mole crickets kill
more plants than they eat by tun-
neling beneath planted seeds and
young plants, causing the soil and
roots to dry out. Since cutworms
and mole crickets are soil insects,
they may be controlled by applying
a l12/ or 2r chlordane bait in the
late afternoon to the soil around
the plant; or chlordane dust or
spray can be applied.
Some of the most serious tomato
diseases are early and late blights,
leaf spots, wilts, and viruses. You
may expect reasonable control of
leaf spots using a spray or dust;
however, the wilts and viruses
must be controlled by other means
such as planting resistant varie-
ties. Fusarium wilt, probably the
most common wilt in Florida, is
a fungus which is found in both
garden and greenhouse soils. It
causes a gradual yellowing, wilting
and dying of plants, usually when
they are about to mature fruits.
The widespread occurrence of this
disease is one reason for planting
Tiny parasitic eelworms called
nematodes can cause severe dam-
age to tomato plants. They are
abundant in most garden soils.
Their presence should be suspected
when poor stands, stunted plants,
wilting of some plants more than
others, and plant death are noticed.
Plant injury can usually be found
by examining the roots for swol-
len, knotty galls or brown, sheared-
Controlling nematodes is prac-
tical and cheap using the "in-the-
row" fumigation method. Some of
the fumigants which can be used
are D-D, EDB, Nemagon or Fuma-
zone. Open a trench six inches
deep where the tomatoes are to
be planted. Dribble in the fumi-
gant at the manufacturer's recom-
mended rate. Fill the trench and
sprinkle the surface with water to
seal the fumigant. Allow 2 weeks
before planting for proper aera-
Danger. Consider all pesticides
as potential poisons. Use them ac-
cording to directions; store them
in original labeled containers; keep
them away from children and other
I 1 I 12 I I i I I7 '
Fig. 2.2. Tomato plants attacked by a
virus disease usually are mottled in color
and distorted in shape. This plant was
attacked by Pseudo Curly-Top virus, a
disease which shows up occasionally in
Fig. 23. Nematodes in the home gar-
den can be controlled by "in-cne-ruw"
soil fumigation method. D-D or some
other suitable nematocide should be
dribbled into an open furrdw and covered.
irresponsible persons; dispose of
empty containers promptly and
For those desiring to grow to-
matoes in a container rather than
in the garden, use bushel baskets,
hampers, five-gallon cans or other
similar vessels. Punch holes in
the bottoms to allow adequate
drainage. Fill with shavings, saw-
dust, or well-rotted plant material.
Sand and soil may also be used, but
generally are more troublesome
than shavings or sawdust. Unlike
soil, shavings and sawdust need
not be treated for diseases or weed
Feed the plants by the solution
culture method. No one nutrient
solution is superior. One suggested
nutrient solution may be made by
dissolving 2 cups of either a 6-6-6,
6-8-6, 6-8-8 or 8-8-8 analysis com-
mon fertilizer, 6 tablespoons of
epsom salts, and one-half teaspoon
of iron chelate in 1 gallon of tap
water. This is your Base Solution.
From this you will make your
For young plants, use 2 table-
spoons of base solution mixed in
1 gallon of water. For older, well-
established plants, use 4 table-
spoons per gallon of water. Apply
once every 3 days, or depending on
plant needs. Apply enough of the
growing solution to wet the shav-
ings or sawdust to the bottom of
the container at every application.
Blossom-end rot.-It is common
for tomato fruits to develop a
brown, round, slightly sunken
area on the end opposite the stem.
This spot usually turns black on
ripe fruit. This is a nutritional
(calcium) disorder r. Conditions
which favor its development are:
1) too much or too little water;
2) pruning tomatoes; and 3) too
little available calcium. To some
degree this disorder can be cor-
rected by spraying the plant with
a calcium chloride solution made
up of 4 tablespoons of calcium
chloride thoroughly mixed in 3
gallons of water. Spray at the rate
of about 1 quart per plant, twice
Blossom drop.-It often happens
that a vigorous bush is grown,
but the blossoms drop rather than
setting fruit. Several things can
cause this, such as too low or too
high temperatures at night, too
much nitrogen, too much shade,
over-watering, or even insects.
For best quality, harvest garden
tomatoes when fully red-ripe. How-
ever, if need be, they can be har-
vested when pink, and allowed to
ripen in the home.
Mature green or pink tomatoes
require a temperature around 700
F. to ripen properly. Place un-
ripened fruit in a well-ventilated
place at room temperature. The
window sill is not required, and
might even be harmful if hot, di-
rect rays of sun shine on the fruit.
Fully ripened fruit may be placed
in the refrigerator to prolong keep-
The listing of specific trade names in this publication does not constitute
endorsement of these products in preference to others containing the same
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director