Best Tomatoes To Grow in Tampa
The tomato is the quintessential home garden plant. It seems every family loves that fresh taste of a sun-ripened backyard tomato, and for good reason. They’re delicious! The process of growing your own food is exhilarating and also educational. Tomatoes are a great place to start for the beginner garden hobbyist, but can also be a wonderful challenge for an experienced gardener.
Since we are just past the last predicted frost, I thought I’d share my picks for greatest tomatoes to grow here in Tampa. Try one, or try them all!
Hybrid tomatoes are popular garden staples. These varieties have been selected, perfected, and designed to have all of the best qualities. Their plants produce tons of fruit, while also being fairly disease resistant and heat tolerant. “Early Girl” and “Better Boy” are two great hybrid tomatoes that work well locally.
“Early Girl” is named for their early fruiting time, in 50-62 days. This tomato plant is a relatively compact plant, and if provided continual nutrients and proper watering will continue to fruit all year. This continuous growth is called “indeterminate.” Early Girl will spread out so it needs to be reigned in somehow, either by being caged, staked, or trellised. Eliminate suckers for better, more hardy stems and fruit – this is true for all tomatoes!
“Better Boy” is a hugely-prolific tomato variety, holding the Guinness World Record for the number of fruits from a single plant. Fruiting begins around 72 days and is also an indeterminate plant that requires staking or trellising.
Planted together, you get a lot of tomatoes over a pretty short period of time. You’ll have plenty to share with friends and neighbors too.
Tomatoes are usually the first thing people think about when they think of gardening with heirlooms. Heirlooms are varieties that are over 50 years old and are not hybridized or genetically modified in any way (see my earlier article on what heirlooms are here). Compared to the varieties above, they are slow growing and don’t produce as much fruit. I can tell you though, they have so much flavor it is worth the effort to grow these beautiful tomatoes. If you want more quantities of these, plant more plants!
Varieties like “Brandywine” and “Cherokee Purple” are two of the most popular heirloom varieties. “Brandywine” is a heavy pink-fruited indeterminate tomato variety that can grow fruits up to 1.5 pounds. The plant produces relatively low numbers of fruit, but what it lacks in number it makes up for in size and flavor. Fruiting in 80-100 days, they also grow more slowly than other varieties.
“Cherokee Purple” is a black-fruited indeterminate tomato that has a beefsteak tomato shape with dark flesh with sometimes green-rimmed seeds. It maintains a red-mahogany color with green near the stem when ripe. It matures in about 80 days. It is said that these originated with the Cherokee tribes and are hundreds of years old. As with other heirloom varieties, what the plant lacks in the overall number of tomatoes produced, it makes up for with flavor.
Get Your Snack On
Grape and Cherry Tomatoes are a favorite snack to pull off of the tomato vine and eat while you’re standing in the garden. I consider them a reward for all the gardening hard work! If you can resist temptation long enough for them to reach the table, they are also great in salads or even bruschetta. These two varieties have superior heat tolerance:
“Super Sweet 100” hybrid tomatoes create wonderfully sweet grape-like clusters of 1” tomatoes that are packed with Vitamin C and flavor. They have decent disease tolerance and mature in about 65 days. They are indeterminate as well so they will continue to produce until the first frost. You won’t know what to do with all the tomatoes you get… so be prepared to eat!
“Yellow Pear” is an heirloom variety that I truly feel has the flavor of the larger yellow tomato varieties, but in a very compact package. And the fruits are adorable little pear shapes, just over an inch long. They make your salads, compotes, salsas, and other tomato toppings very colorful. The plants can go crazy (up to 12’ tall!) so be aware of that when you’re planting these near a structure or next to other plants. They are indeterminate like the others as well, so fresh yellow tomatoes are a possibility all season for your snacking pleasure.
One more thing: #ProTip Never store your tomatoes in the refrigerator. The flavor compounds begin to break down if their temperature is below 55 Fahrenheit. Store them in a cool place on the counter instead. Tell your friends!
That’s my recommendations for tomatoes to grow here in Tampa. We have all of your tomato and other garden-growing needs right here in our store. Stop in!
Happy Gardening! – Marissa
Cherry Tomato Mix, Photo from Dwight Sipler
Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply
I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child.
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me. The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!) Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.