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July 21, 2012

Growing Tomatoes in Florida Heat

In my never-ending quest to grow tomatoes year-round in Florida I have embarked on trying them out in our excruciating summer heat. We know that there are two problems with growing tomatoes in Florida summer months: the sun kills the plants, and what it does not kill, the heat and humidity finishes the job by preventing pollinating. Usually, we have the last of our crop in June and then park our garden tools till September.

But this year I decided to experiment and seeded a few grape tomatoes sometime in late May. The seeds germinated and little plantings were replanted into the 16oz styrofoam cups and were kept under the tree in the shade until they were ready to go into the soil.

Now the problem here is that my whole garden is in the sun, there is practically no place where these young tomatoes could have had any relief from the heat and sun rays. I know that the secret to growing tomatoes in Florida summer is to keep them protected from the damaging sun. So, I figured, I will grow them in containers, in one place where I have some shade, by the fence that borders the woods. In fact, this is a very favorable environment because not only the plants would have shade for the most part of the day, but there is also some air movement, which tomatoes love as well.

Here's a picture of the fence and the woods behind it, just to get a perspective:

If I were to set the containers next to the house, even in complete shade, it would not work because tomatoes like a little breeze, but next to the house it would be still air, in addition to the heat emanating from the concrete walls. So this setup next to the trees was ideal.

Lo and behold in my adventure the plants are doing pretty good and are already flowering:

Granted, the humidity now is awful and left alone, the flowers probably would not pollinate. You need to emulate the bee - every morning before it gets too hot, shake the stem with the flowers at about the same frequency as a buzzing bee, not very long, maybe 10-20 shakes, if I can say that. This will loosen the pollen, and a little baby tomato will start forming. And no, we don't need real bees to pollinate the tomatoes in Florida heat; tomatoes are self-pollinating, meaning they don't have male and female flowers.

So, if you have a corner on your property where it gets a little breeze and shade for the most part of the day, go ahead, and try a few tomato plants even now. I would suggest growing them in containers so they don't get too soggy from all these rains, plus you can control container placement better than a stationary bed. Growing tomatoes in Florida summers is challenging but worth a try. I would suggest growing only cherry or grape varieties as they are not very demanding of the sunlight.


  1. I just discovered your blog and I love it ! We are new to Florida and learning about how to grow things in tropical climate. Thank you for all the information !

  2. You welcome! Glad you found me. Hope you will have a productive and beautiful garden.

  3. Love the tip about shaking the tomatoes to loosen the pollen!! I grow tomatoes year round in FL with aeroponics.

    1. Interesting concept. Aeroponics keeps the roots of the plants exposed, correct?

      I did lose some peppers this year because of the rains - the soil got too soggy.

      But even with aeroponics, how do you protect tomatoes from heat, shade?



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