by Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent
Despite the fact that the State of Florida is one of the top two tomato producing states in the United States, many times the Florida home gardener finds it difficult to grow tomatoes. Florida farmers are first in the production of fresh market tomatoes with California farmers being first in the production of processed tomatoes (turned into juice, sauce, paste, salsa, etc.). According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, 30,000 acres were planted in tomatoes in Florida in 2012 by farmers.
According to the University of Florida Extension publication Vegetable Gardening in Florida, “The tomato is the most popular vegetable in Florida gardens.” But Florida offers many challenges for the home gardener in being successful with growing tomatoes.
Florida’s warm, wet weather offers an ideal environment for a host of tomato pests (insects, diseases, nematodes). Many home gardeners are not familiar with some of the better tomato varieties for Florida. Correct variety selection is a key factor in successfully growing tomatoes in Florida. Many Florida gardeners plant too early or attempt to grow tomatoes too late in the season. They fertilize too much or too little.
At this year’s tomato seminar, I’ll begin by sharing the basics of how to grow tomatoes in Florida’s challenging environment. But I’ll spend most of the time concentrating on tomato pest control options, including non-chemical choices of combating the scores of tomato insect and disease problems.
If you plan to grow tomatoes this year, you may want to attend the Controlling Tomato Pests in the Home Garden seminar. Learn how to identify and control many of the insect and disease pests associated with growing tomatoes in the Florida home garden. I will provide this seminar on Thursday, April 2 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Okaloosa County Extension Office, 3098 Airport Road in Crestview.