How much sun?

BBarnardAugust 22, 2014

My wife is trying to grow tomatoes (undetermined type) from seeds here in Central Florida. One small tomato has appeared but now the leaves and stalk are turning brown. I say they need some direct sun but she's been keeping them in the shade. What's your opinion?

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goodground(z6 NJ)

Of course tomatoes need sun but you need to provide more info to see what's going on with your plant. lol...A pic always helps....

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:19PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi B,

Both you and your wife are right, so there's no hard feeling to develop with those sorts of bets ;-)

In Central Florida, it isn't the really sunlight falling upon the leaves that kills the plant, as the plant knows how to grow tomatoes if it can set them. It is more that the high temperatures and sandy soil dries out the roots and sandy soils get hot.Not to mention the nematodes which love the wetness when it rains a lot.

To successfully grow tomatoes in this summer heat, usually a mulch barrier to lock in some moisture is needed, which promotes nematodes unfortunately, andy a shade house, which is just a piece of partially light blocking fabrics strung over poles. It serves dual purpose in that it mutes some, but not all of the sunlight. The reason is more so you keep the temperature lower, not because the tomato couldn't use it. Typically the shade cloth is rated at about 30%, and sometimes 50%, which is the percent of the light blocked. So you get 70% of the light coming through with the 30% stuff. That keeps the heat down and the plant doesn't cook.

Tomato fruits are another story. If they are in really bright Florida Sun, they sometimes can't handle it and develop tomato sunburn, which is known as sunscald.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:20PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Tomato plants need a minimum of 6-8 hours of sun per day. However lack of sun doesn't normally cause brown leaves and stalks. Bur this isn't the tomato growing season in Florida. Too late for the spring season and too early for the Fall season.

I'd suggest some reading over on the Florida Gardening forum here for tips from local growers as to when to plant and how best to cope with the unique growing conditions in Florida.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: Florida Gardening forum

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:24PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

In sunny hot Florida, I would say you can grow tomatoes with 4 hours of direct sun, this time of year. In PNW I am growing with less the 5 hours of direct sun but of lots indirect light, long days. I am sure 7+ hours would've been ideal but 5 hours (near minimum) is ok too.

One thing to remember is that in bright sunny day a tomato can get plenty on indirect light for its photosynthesis. In a lightly overcast skies, plants get almost the same amount of light as under florescent light.
JMO

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 10:34PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

"Bur this isn't the tomato growing season in Florida. Too late for the spring season and too early for the Fall season. "

Don't let that bother you, it is mainly for commercial operations, so if you want to have fun, it's no problem. I'm in zone 9a, same as Lakeland, and for the first three weeks in August only had four days of night time lows under 75 degrees F. (74,74,74,73). Cherry tomatoes produce all summer for most people in Central Florida.

My Big Zac has been aborting flowers due to the heat, but is also setting about 5-10% of them ... now it has about 5 small developing tomatoes which did set in the hottest season when we were running around 95 F in the day with high humidity, and at best down to 77 F most nights. This is a nice sight to look at in the summer heat, taken August 17:

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 10:49PM
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conchitaFL(10 Hutchinson Island)

>Don't let that bother you, it is mainly for commercial operations,

Well, not entirely. I would say that in much of FL it's just too much work to keep tomatoes going this time of year. Most hobbyist gardeners I know still pull the spring plants when they finish up along in June or so and take a break till fall. It's just about time to be starting seeds again.

But in the summer it's just not worth it for the lower production, diseases, insect pests that increase along with the heat and humidity.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 11:59PM
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conchitaFL(10 Hutchinson Island)

But getting back to the OP question: if you really want to stick it out in the summer, yes, you do want some shade in the afternoons. Generally speaking things don't need as much direct sun in FL as they do elsewhere, especially in the summers.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:02AM
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BBarnard

Thank you all for the quick responses. As you can see (pictures attached) this is not a serious endeavor. We bought some seeds, put them in this Dollar Store container with Jungle Growth Flower & Vegetable Professional bagged mix and set it on the north side of the house with no direct sun. This is the only plant that grew. Its been humid and we've gotten plenty of rain. The soil does seem damp but not soaked. Do you think there's anything we can do to save this scrawny survivor?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 10:20AM
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lgteacher(SCal)

It could be blight. That thrives in damp weather. It doesn't look like there are enough leaves left for the plant to grow any more.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 10:57AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sorry but that plant is well past saving. It is also well past the point where one can determine what caused it to die.

"Bur this isn't the tomato growing season in Florida. Too late for the spring season and too early for the Fall season. "
Don't let that bother you, it is mainly for commercial operations, so if you want to have fun, it's no problem.

No it isn't "mainly for commercial operations". Not according to all the information available on home gardening in Florida.

If all you want to do is have fun experimenting then sure you can try to grow any thing any time. But if you want actual success then at the very least you need to understand when your growing seasons are. They differ greatly for many parts of the country

Dave

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:52AM
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conchitaFL(10 Hutchinson Island)

BBarnard, if "Central Florida" means the Orlando area, you can't do better than to search this forum and the FL Gardening forum for posts by Silvia ( her screen name here is whgille).

Her success with all gardening is amazing.

Also, here's a useful guide from the U of F about when to plant all kinds of veggies in different areas of FL:

Here is a link that might be useful: U of F IFAS planting guide

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:01PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Dave and Conchita, I don't disagree with either of you, but have a little experience summer growing in zone 9a with equal passion ;-) It is more of an 1/4 full versus a 3/4 empty attitude. I used to live in subtropical Florida (zone 10) and I have no idea how tomatoes would do there but it is quite different.

Hi B, I am similar to Wildwood, FL, so if you come back, please let us know where you are. The difference between St. Cloud (start seeds middle of August) and Ocala (start seeds middle of June) is huge yet both are in Central Florida. Tomatoes can be made happy on a small scale if you adapt your techniques to them, and not the reverse.

Try again right now and you'll have a fall crop without the difficulties and everyone will be happy. I started my seeds August 14 and I'm really mad I hadn't done it in mid-July. If you try again right now, you will do well. Start the seeds in the shade and when they are 3 weeks old give them morning sun and then shade You will be in great shape when when they are 5-6 weeks old and by then give'em the full sun you know they need. If you can keep a plant healthy like I managed to do and it is flowering going into September, you can get the best production possible since by then the Sun becomes your lifeline and we're the Sunshine state...no one else can get such fall explosive growth in the continental US and that is what makes Imokalee the capital of tomatoes.

I started this plant around late May and here is the tomato above that was tiny on Aug 17, now on August 23:

But as I mentioned a lot of blossom drop, and as my Floridian peer Conchita mentioned, there is a lot of pest pressure once you get a few to set, Just like you and your wife sadly found on that tomato plant in this image of the sad sight today 23 Aug:

In Florida,, seriously, you can drive 20 miles from me and get an Ocala climate and 20 miles another direction and get a Daytona climate which for the tomatoes are as different as night and day. While many places will generalize, the best thing to do is use a few more seeds from the dollar store if you're not too serious. I do think your plant needed more Sun, but that that was not what did it in - it isn't worth fixing as others have said.

Happy Growing
PC

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Sat, Aug 23, 14 at 14:14

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:56PM
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