Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Coastal and Tropical South

March, 2005
Regional Report

Stake Tomato Fruits

Keeping tomato plants and fruit up off the ground saves space, avoids contamination, and conserves labor at harvest. Use sturdy sticks at least 6 feet tall or wire cages, or install posts and wire for the Florida weave: 4x4 posts placed 4 feet apart on the row support a system of cables running horizontally between them.

Avoid Blossom End Rot

With this frustrating, physiological problem tomatoes turn black on the bottoms where the blossoms were attached. Excess amounts of nitrogen fertilizer, calcium deficiency, and irregular watering habits are the causes. As a preventative, use tomato fertilizers and avoid manures, spray flowers with calcium, and mulch to moderate water availability.

Try Tomatoes of Many Colors

When shopping for tomato plants, look for the oddballs; different shapes, colors, and flavors abound. Yellows are considered sweet ('Cuban' Yellow Grape', 'Lillian's' Yellow Heirloom'), blacks are earthy and rich ('Black Pear', 'Cherokee Purple'), whites are light and sometimes citrusy ('Great White'), and 'Vita Gold' claims to have 5 to 20 times the beta carotene of other tomatoes.

Grow Some Tomatoes in Containers

Determinate tomatoes, which are genetically limited in height, make excellent container tomatoes because although they must be supported, it doesn't take a huge structure. Look for 'Yellow Canary' and 'Red Robin', perfect for hanging baskets.

Plant Basil and Tomatoes Together

Because we love fresh basil and tomato salad, it's natural to plant them together. But be sure to select large basil varieties, such as the classic sweet basil, for companion planting. Smaller varieties like lemon basil, thai, or the tiny spicy globe can be shaded by large tomato plants.


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