Tomatoes like warm weather, so it only makes sense that they thrive in Florida. After all, Florida’s hardiness zone 9, 8, 10, and 11 are some of the hottest parts of the US.
That said, people in FL cannot grow tomatoes any time they want, as the state’s summer heat can interfere with fruit production.
So when to plant tomatoes in Florida? The best month for this task is around January to April in spring and August to September in fall. Read below for specifics.
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Best Time to Grow Tomatoes in Florida
Below is the tomato season for different parts of Florida:
- Spring season – November to February in south Florida, January to March in central Florida, and February to April in north Florida
- Fall season – in August to September for central, north, and south/southwest Florida (fall planting in southwest Florida will require cultivars that suit humid weather)
Note that the above estimates are for outdoor planting. In practice, you should grow tomatoes outside after the last frost in spring, which would fall within the months listed above.
However, if you’re too impatient to wait for warm weather, it’s okay to start seeds in containers indoors four to six weeks before the final frost, then move tomatoes outside once freezing weather has passed.
- To illustrate, because Tampa Florida’s final frost is on January 31, residents here can sow tomato seeds in pots on January 3 or December 20.
- Afterward, on February 1, Tampa gardeners can either move their seedlings outside or sow seeds there.
For North Florida specifically, you should delay the seedling transfer time until 2 weeks after the last frost date.
How to Plant Tomatoes?
Now that you know what time of year to plant tomatoes, check out some tips for cultivating them below.
1. Select your plant variety
As you can probably tell by now, summer is too hot for growing tomatoes in Florida.
However, if you do choose this season as your gardening time, you can pick heat tolerant tomatoes, such as the Everglades or Sweet 100. Rutgers tomatoes, while popular, would not be ideal for most of the state, since they mainly suit cooler zones (specifically, zone 3 to 9).
At the same time, grow cultivars that best adapt to your county or city. In northwest Florida or the Florida Panhandle, Red Bounty and Bella Rosa tomatoes will do well. Meanwhile, southern and central Floridians can opt for varieties like the Brandywine or Red Rave.
2. Plant your tomatoes
Once you’ve got your tomato seeds, it’s time to sow them.
- First, prepare some 3 to 4-inch pots with good drainage and fill them with a commercial seed starting mix. The mix should be sterile and contain sphagnum peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and coco coir.
- If there are any lumps in the mix, crumble them with your hand to ensure even distribution. Moisten the soil with some water.
- Next, sow seeds at a depth of ¼ inch and mist the surface of the starting mix, so it’s slightly damp. Put one plant in one pot only, and if you have several containers, space them 15 inches apart to provide ample room for the tomatoes to grow.
- Continue to water the seeds twice a day after sowing so that the planting medium doesn’t dry out, and give the tomatoes six hours of sunlight per day.
- If all goes well, germination should happen within a week up to ten days.
- When leaves appear, fertilize the plant with Miracle Gro at a rate of ¼ teaspoon per gallon of water.
- Once the tomatoes reach a height of 2 or 3 inches, you can transfer them to bigger pots or directly into the garden bed with soil. Remember to bury the roots deeply, but leave at least ⅓ of the plant above ground.
- Continue to regularly water the tomato plants with 1-1.5 inches of water every week.
You should harvest tomatoes when they are firm and somewhat orange. It’s best not to wait until the fruits are completely ripe, or insects may target them.
To harvest, simply pluck the tomatoes from the stems with the calyx attached to the fruit.
Store the tomatoes in a dark, cool place until they are ripe and ready for consumption. Depending on the air temperature, the fruits can take 2-4 weeks to ripen.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best tomato to grow in Florida?
Some of the best tomatoes to grow in Florida are:
- Indeterminate varieties such as the Big Beef, Bonnie Best, First Lady, and Sweet Chelsea
- Determinate varieties like Flora-Dade, Carnival, Florida Basket, Patio, and Cherry tomatoes
If you’re selecting cultivars based on fruit size, consider the following plant types as well:
- Castlette, Cherry Grande, and Roma for small fruits
- Bonnie Best and Manapal for medium ones
- Bragger, Manalucie, and Solar Set for large tomatoes
Is it too late to plant tomatoes in Florida?
Because tomatoes cannot survive freezing temperatures, it is essential that you let them mature fully and harvest them before the first frost arrives. This is important if you’re planting some fall/winter tomato for consumption.
To determine your latest planting date, look up the maturation period of your crop variety (in days) and count backward from the first frost. In general, you can use 90 to 110 days as your benchmark.
For instance, if your first frost is January 3, the latest time to grow tomatoes will be October 5 or September 15. In this case, mid-October would be too late for planting tomatoes.
Why is it so hard to grow tomatoes in Florida?
Below are some reasons you may find it hard to grow tomatoes in Florida.
- You planted indeterminate varieties that are susceptible to Tospovirus, a disease that has no treatment and can deform your tomatoes.
- You grew tomatoes when the temperature was too high or too low (above 85℉ or under 32 degrees).
- Too much nitrogen in fertilizer kept your crops from bearing fruits.
Also, if you are interested in planting tomatoes in other states, don’t forget to visit our posts, such as:
- Best time to plant tomatoes in Georgia
- When to plant tomatoes in North Carolina
- The most suitable time to plant tomatoes in Michigan
When to plant tomatoes in Florida? Ideally, you should do this task in spring and fall for the best results.
That said, it’s possible to grow tomatoes year-round in Florida if you live in the southern part of the state and give your seedlings enough winter protection.
Do you have a tomato garden? If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to start one.