tomato seedlings

When to Plant Tomatoes in Florida

Growing tomatoes in Florida can be a challenging but rewarding experience due to the state’s hot and humid climate. Florida’s long growing season allows for multiple harvests, but the intense heat and humidity can make it difficult to manage pests and diseases.

Additionally, Florida’s frequent rain showers can cause soil erosion and waterlogging, making it crucial to have well-draining soil and proper irrigation systems. Overall, successful tomato growth in Florida requires careful attention to soil, water, and pest management, as well as selecting varieties that can tolerate the state’s unique climate conditions.

Tomatoes in Florida’s Climate

Florida has a humid subtropical climate with hot summers and mild winters. The state experiences abundant rainfall throughout the year, with the wet season lasting from May through October and the dry season from November through April. Hurricanes and tropical storms are also common occurrences during the summer months.

The climate in Florida can greatly impact tomato growth, as the hot and humid weather can lead to an increase in pests and diseases like whiteflies, spider mites, and early blight. To combat these issues, growers can use insecticidal soap, neem oil, and other organic pest control methods, as well as plant disease-resistant varieties. Florida’s frequent rain showers can also cause soil erosion and waterlogging, which can be mitigated by using raised beds with well-draining soil and proper irrigation systems.

Temperature stress is a real occurrence, the further south you are, consider planting the tomatoes where it will get afternoon shade. Lastly, the state’s long growing season allows for multiple harvests, but it’s important to select tomato varieties that can tolerate the heat and humidity. Companion planting can help with pests, soil erosion and providing shade all while maximizing the space in your garden.

When to Start Tomatoes Indoors in Florida

If you want to get an early start on cultivating tomatoes, begin growing the seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the final spring frost in your area, regardless of the tomato variety you’re growing. In Florida, start sowing your tomato seeds indoors from November 10th to February 14th, depending on where you live.

You may want to get them going even earlier than that and plant them in a large pot ahead of producing them outdoors, just to give them even more of a head start. To start tomato seeds indoors:

  1. Select a planting container. Choose a container at least 6-8 inches deep, with holes in the bottom for drainage.
  2. Fill with a seed starter potting soil.
  3. Plant 2-3 tomato seeds ⅛ inch deep in the soil and cover.
  4. Water the soil until it is moist but not soggy.
  5. Place the container in a warm, sunny spot indoors and keep the soil moist.
  6. When the seedlings reach 2-3 inches tall, thin them out so there is only one seedling per container.

Tomato Varieties That do Well in Florida

Growing early-harvest tomatoes can be very handy in Florida, due to the diversity of its climate. Southern Florida doesn’t get close to a freezing temperature, making a year-long growing season possible. Some varieties of tomatoes are ready to harvest in 60 to 100 days, which makes them perfect for the different zones in Florida. Sow your seeds indoors to maximize your growing season’s yield. I recommend one of the following varieties: 

  1. ‘Aunt Gertie’s Gold’ Tomato – 75-80 Days to Harvest
  2. ‘Heidi’ Tomato – 90 Days to Harvest
  3. ‘Opalka’ Tomato – 90 Days to Harvest
  4. ‘Martino’s Roma’ Tomato – 70-80 Days to Harvest
  5. ‘Fourth of July’ Tomato – 49 Days to Harvest
  6. ‘Sweet Million’ Tomato – 45 Days to Harvest
  7. ‘Oregon Spring’ Tomato – 50 Days to Harvest
  8. ‘Celebrity’ Tomato – 70 Days to Harvest
  9. ‘Yellow Pear’ Tomato – 60 Days to Harvest
  10. ‘Gardener’s Delight Tomato – 52 Days to Harvests

Hardening Off Your Tomatoes

Hardening off tomatoes that you’ve started indoors before planting outdoors is essential to ensure they can thrive in the outdoor environment. When tomatoes are started indoors, they become accustomed to the warm and more stable environment. When planted outdoors, they are exposed to more extreme temperatures, wind, and sun. Hardening off tomatoes helps them slowly adjust to their new environment by exposing them to these elements for an extended period.

The process of hardening off tomatoes begins by slowly introducing them to the outdoors. Start by placing them in a sheltered spot, such as a porch or a partially shaded area, for a few hours each day. Over a week, gradually increase the amount of time they are kept outdoors and the amount of sun they are exposed to. After a week of hardening off, the tomatoes should be ready to move to their final outdoor planting location.

When to Plant Tomatoes in Florida

It’s generally safe to plant tomatoes outdoors when there is no risk of frost or freezing temperatures. In most climates, this means waiting until at least late spring or early summer. In Florida, your final freeze date is expected around December 15th to March 28th depending on where you live. Still, be mindful of your weather forecast. If it seems like you’re in for a late freeze, wait to plant your tomatoes! 

When to Harvest Tomatoes in Florida

When tomatoes have turned a deep red (or the ripe color of their particular variety) and have no green spots visible, they are ripe and ready to be picked. If there are still green patches on the tomato, it has not yet ripened and should remain on the vine. The ideal way to pick ripe tomatoes is to cup the tomato in your hand and give it a gentle twist- it should come off the vine with ease. When in doubt, you can leave it on the vine an extra couple of days, or harvest the entire branch of tomatoes and allow it to ripen on the vine on your window sill.

Jeff Grayson
Garden Hobbyist
Hello! I'm Jeff, an avid gardening enthusiast. I'm based out of Colorado, where I raise as many indoor and outdoor plants as I can!