Central Florida Fall Tomatoes

cfldoc(9 Clermont, FL)August 20, 2008

Somewhat new to central Florida vegetable gardening, being a Pennsylvania transplant. Had a spring crop of tomatoes and tried a limited number of varieties. I was most impressed with the taste of the cherry "Sungold". Had tons of fruit on BHN 640 but I am not sure the taste was to my liking. "Better Boy" tasted better as did "Giant Paste" but not too many fruits. Had great brussels sprouts and broccoli from last Fall and Winter. I am enjoying learning the Florida ropes! For the Fall tomato attempt I am trying 14 different types:

Sungold

Black Cherry

Black Plum

Cherokee Purple

Red Brandywine

Crnkovic

Rutgers

Homestead

Arkansas Traveller

Giant Paste

Solar Set

Sun Master

Marmande

Tiffany

Plants have been in the ground since the beginning of August and are looking very good, but soaked now for 2 days by storm Fay. It has also knocked over my corn, which is just beginning to tassel. I added some grower's mix, composted cow manure, epsom salts, and Epsoma organic fertilizer to each hole. Not sure what varieties will do best here, so trying a few and I will let the board know how it goes. Right now only Rutgers and Sungold have a few blossoms. All plants are the same age. Greetings to the board, this is my first post.

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delta_charlie(Z9)

Hi cfldoc, first welcome to the forum and to central florida.

I find the fall crop to be completely different then the spring. During the spring the days are getting longer and there is lots of sun available for the plants to grow. You should be able to grow anything in the spring.

In the fall with the days getting shorter it is hard to give the plants enough sun. Also, the sun tracks way to the south and shading can become a problem. Finding a spot that gets maximum fall sun is critical. The potential for bad weather (TS and hurricanes) and the hot weather makes me want to wait as late as I can before starting the plants. I just started my fall tomatoes from seed one week ago. They will go into over size 5 inch pots and stay mobile until about the first of October. That way I can move them indoors if bad weather comes. Also, it tends to be too hot and humid to set well until October.

I have found the early types to work the best for me for the fall crop. They handle the short days much better then the longer season types.

BTW - check out the Florida forum on this site. Lots of help there for learning the quirks of growing in Florida.

Hope this helps, DC

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 6:25AM
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cfldoc(9 Clermont, FL)

Thanks for the tips DC. I've got a few extra plants that I may try in pots so I can move them around as needed. I think I have a pretty good spot sun-wise, but we shall see. I'm in search of the perfect tomato, which is about the same as searching for the perfect wine....tastes vary. If you have some favorite varieties for Florida's unique conditions, I would appreciate your suggestions.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 1:48PM
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naplesgardener

hi cfl
I've been trying out many tomatoes (like you) for a couple years now. It's fun tasting the diff types and watching them grow.
My first year was a honeymoon-no pests-no disease. After that I found out what tomato hornworms are, what nematodes are and what TYLCV is. Doesn't matter though I'll not be discouraged as long as some tomatoes make it through.

I've grown about half the names on your list and the one that remains a permanent fixture is Black Cherry. You might want to try Dr. Carolyn (ivory cherry) also. I have seeds if you want to try (you can also look at my list if there are others).

Solar Set is a good choice for fall's warm temps. Reliable and productive although not the tip top tastiest compared to heirlooms.

Good luck

P.S. deltacharlie is a good info source for tomatoes and other veggies

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 9:23AM
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suze9(z8b Bastrop Co., TX)

I know your climate is a little different than mine (later frost date for one) but I'll chime in anyway...

Ideally, I like to grow many or most of my fall plants in containers so they can be moved around, but I have gotten a bit lazy about that in the last couple of years. That way I can give them a little afternoon shade when they need it, and move to a better sun area later in the season. Plus it provides more flexibility if one needs to protect for whatever reason (frost, storms). I don't have the hurricane problems here, but I do have the intense heat to deal with when they are planted out, plus the same concerns deltacharlie mentioned with the sun angle changing and the days getting shorter later on. A poorly sited fall plant can take *forever* to ripen some fruit (at least for me in my area). Even a well-sited plant can take quite a bit longer to give me a ripe fruit than it would in the spring.

Most of the vars I tend to like to grow in the fall are early to early-mid season, although I make some exceptions and grow some mid to even mid-late vars if I've personally found they seem to set well in the heat. After all, earlies may not be so "early" if you can't get them to start setting fruit when you need them to.

Also, just about any cherry type is a go for fall crop because they set better in heat and can (usually) tolerate a bit more shade and still produce.

Another general comment/suggestion I'll make since you're new to growing in a warm climate would be to plant out transplants that are on the large side. Those little plants that are grown in six packs, two inch pots, etc. usually don't tend to do as well. Short window of time in the spring to get fruitset before mid-late spring heat kicks in (at least here), and also those bitty ones can burn up in the heat if planted out for fall crop if you're not careful. I like to pot up once to at least 4" pots and grow nice, stocky 10-12" tall transplants before I even think of subjecting them to the tender mercies of the garden.

A few vars I like for fall crop include:

Sweet Quartz F1 - Very vigorous, fast growing (tall) plants, easy to grow, extremely productive. Good nematode tolerance in my experience.
Sungold F1 - see above.
Black Cherry - love the taste, probably my favorite cherry type.
Marizol Korney - Sets well in heat, productive, very good to great taste.
Moskvich - very good taste for a decent sized early red. Good for containers, plants get no more than 4.5 to 5' max for me.
Black and Brown Boar - great taste, sets well in heat, productive.
Mountain Princess - not exactly early, but sets well in heat. Very good flavor, extremely productive. 4-5 ft plants, good for containers.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 5:36AM
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cfldoc(9 Clermont, FL)

Thanks naplesgardener and suze9. I'm going to take a shotgun approach to my tomatoes this fall and try different locations and different types. I know that low fall/winter sun is going to take a while to ripen the fruit, but I'll just see what happens. I have found an organic pesticide containing "spinosad" works well on the army worms that constantly attack my corn, and I will occasionally give the tomatoes a shot of that too. I hate to use any pesticide, but sometimes there is little choice! I find insecticidal soap works well too but can damage plants if overdone, and of course "handpicking" if you can find the little buggers.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 5:23PM
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