Heat Tolerant Tomato Plants – Tomato Growing Tips For South Central States

Heat Tolerant Tomato Plants – Tomato Growing Tips For South Central States

Vegetable gardeners in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas andLouisiana are quick to share their tomato growing tips they learned from theSchool of Hard Knocks. Experience teaches them which varieties are best in theheat, when to start tomato transplants, how often to water, when to fertilizeand what to do about pests and diseases. Keep reading to learn more abouttomato growing in southern regions like this.

Southern Tomato Gardening

Successful tomato growing in Southern regions depends a loton the weather. They have a short season for growingtomatoes – from last frost to heat of summer. Once temperatures reach 85degrees F. (29 C.) during the day and mid 70s (21 C.) at night, tomato plantswill start aborting the flowers.

To combat the short season, it’s recommended that gardenersstart their seeds earlier than usual, at about 10 weeks before the last averagefrost date. Then as the transplants grow indoors, transfer them intoincreasingly larger containers. When it is time to plant outside, gardenersshould have gallon-pot-size tomatoes ready to bear fruit.

Alternatively, buy transplants early from eager gardencenters and keep them growing indoors till last frost date arrives.

Soil Preparation

Always buy varieties with disease resistance. In a shortgrowing season, the less disease to deal with, the better.

Before planting outside, it’s very important to have yoursite prepared. It should be in full sun, at least six hours a day, with gooddrainage and well amended soil. If possible, obtain a soiltest from the local cooperative extension group and correct anydeficiencies. The pH should be between 5.8 and 7.2. Soil temperature should beabove 60 degrees F. (16 C.).

If the drainage is less than ideal, raisedbeds will work or mound up the soil 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm.). Placetransplants deeper into the soil than they were in the pot, close to lowerleaves. If transplant is spindly, lay the lower part on its side beneath thesoil. Add a tomatocage or spike to support the plant and fruit.

Mulch plants with organic material such as hay, compost orleaves to reduce weeds, improve moisture retention and eliminate crusting ofsoil.

Water and Fertilizer

Consistent and ample wateringof one inch a week (2.5 cm.) can help preventcracking and blossomend rot. Water every two to four days to keep soil moist but not soggy.Using a soaker hose or drip irrigation system will help prevent foliar diseasesbrought on by overhead watering.

Tomatoesare heavy feeders so plan to fertilize several times till plants mature.Start at planting time with 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 0.9 kg.) of 10-20-10 gardenfertilizer per 100 square feet (3.05 m.) or 1 tablespoon (14.8 ml.) per plant.When the first fruits are one-third grown, side dress with 3 pounds (1.4 kg.)per 100-foot rows or 2 tablespoons (29.6 ml.) per plant. Apply the secondapplication two weeks after first ripe fruit and again one month later.Carefully work fertilizer into soil then water well.

Pests and Diseases

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to pest anddisease control. Be certain plants have adequatespacing for good air circulation. Examine the plants at least once a weekto look for signs of pests or disease. Catching them early is the best defense.

Copper sprays can ward off several fungal and bacterialdiseases such as septorialeaf spot, bacterial spot, anthracnoseand grayleaf mold.

Reduce the numbers of mitesand aphidsby aiming a spray of water toward the leaves from beneath the foliage.Insecticidal soap also can be used on aphids as well as young caterpillars. Stinkbugs can be knocked into a bucket of soapy water.

Be aware of diseases to watch out for that can be identifiedwith an online fact sheet from your states’ university extension service.

Choosing Tomatoes in Texas And Surrounding States

Because of the short season, it is recommended to buy smallto medium size transplants and those that have shorter days to mature. Thelarger sized tomatoes will take a longer time to grow. By choosing determinatetomatoes, which produce an abundance of tomatoes in one harvest, you willbe finished tomato gardening before the dog days of summer. If you wanttomatoes all summer, also plant indeterminate varieties, which produce tillfrost.

Recommended varieties include Celebrity (determinate) and BetterBoy (indeterminate) for red fruit. For containers,Lizzano matures in 50 days. For small fruits, SuperSweet 100 and Juliette are dependable.

New heattolerant tomato plants that set fruit above 90 degrees F. (32 C.) arriveevery year, so it’s best to consult the local garden center or extensionoffice for the latest hybrids. You should still find these heat tolerantvarieties available:

  • Heatwave II
  • Florida 91
  • Sunchaser
  • Sunleaper
  • Sunmaster
  • Heatmaster
  • Solar Fire

'Super Sweet 100 VF'

A cherry-sized hybrid tomato, 'Super Sweet 100' is an indeterminate varietal that requires staking or cages. Each 6 to 8 foot tall plant produces hundreds of tomatoes that can be added to salads or eaten as a sweet, healthy snack. The 'Super Sweet 100 VF' is similar in taste to the traditional 'Sweet 100,' but with more disease resistance. If you cannot find transplants, start 'Super Sweet 100' from seed indoors in February and transplant seedlings, after hardening, the end of March or early April.

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