The Q&A Archives: What Tomato To Plant In Louisiana?

Question: I live in south Louisiana, and have never planted tomatoes. My husband found out last year that he loves homegrown tomatoes, so we thought we would try planting some this year. What type is best for South Louisiana? When do I need to plant them? Will they grow in containers or do I need to plant them in the ground? Fertilizer / food? Shade or sun? Thank you in advance from a gardener who hopes she has a green thumb!!

Answer: Many gardeners discover their green thumbs by growing tomatoes. They are the No. 1 vegetable grown in U.S. backyards for the very reason that your husband discovered: there's nothing quite comparable to the taste of a homegrown tomato!

Tomatoes are a warm weather plant, and should do fine in your climate. There are several varieties that have been particularly bred to withstand the heat and humidity in the southern states, such as Heatwave II.

Tomatoes can be set out in the garden as soon as the temperatures reach a consistent 50 degrees F. They cannot tolerate prolonged cold or frost. They should be planted in an area that is sunny most of the day. The soil should be cultivated at least a foot deep, be rich in organic matter (add compost) and weed free. When planted, tomatoes should be set lower into the soil than they were grown in their pots. This will allow them to develop more roots along the stem. Most tomatoes need a tomato cage or need staking which is a simple procedure of pounding a 5' 2"x 2" into the ground about a foot deep when the plant is set. As the tomato grows, the long vines are attached (old panty hose are excellent for this) to the stake to keep it off the ground.

Tomatoes growing in good garden soil should not require any extra fertilizing. But if you insist, try one specially blended for tomatoes. Do not apply one with too much nitrogen (such as manure, blood meal, cottonseed meal or any fertilizer with a high first number) or you will encourage leaf growth at the expense of fruit.

Tomatoes can be grown in containers, but are more demanding. They need a consistent supply of water, and in your hot climate container grown tomatoes may occasionally need watering as often as twice a day.

For a first timer, I'd suggest trying a single plant of several different varieties, to find out which one you enjoy the most, and to insure a good harvest in case one variety fails. Go find your green thumb this summer?you'll enjoy every minute of it!

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