Growing tomatoes in containers can be extremely rewarding, but there are a lot of problems that can plague tomato plants. These problems often are magnified in tropical and subtropical climates. The heat and humidity can promote fungal growth, cause pests to multiply, and more. However, that doesn't mean you should avoid growing tomatoes. You just need to take some special precautions.
Here are six tips for growing tomatoes in hot climates.
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Select an Appropriate Tomato Variety
Cherry tomatoes are the best variety to grow in hot climates, as they have good resistance to heat and humidity. Heirloom tomatoes also can be a good choice, though they're slightly less hardy to the hot, humid climates. However, they should be fine if you live in a subtropical region. Heirlooms also are more prone to the tomato wilt and fungal diseases, so you must stay vigilant to ensure the foliage remains green and healthy. Certain varieties of tomato species have been bred to have good heat and humidity tolerance, so opt for one of those if you can.
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Pick the Right Time to Grow
The right time to grow your tomato plants depends on where you’re located. In the true subtropics and tropics, plan to grow tomatoes during the winter. But in the cooler parts of the subtropics and borderline areas, it's best to grow tomatoes from February to April to avoid the coldest winter temperatures.
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Plant Tomatoes in Rich Soil
If you are going to grow tomatoes in containers, then you'll need a very rich soil. It's ideal to grow your plants in a heavy peat-based soil with a lot of organic matter. Mix a slow-release fertilizer in with your potting soil if it doesn't already have fertilizer added. And add a liquid fertilizer throughout the season, following label instructions.
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Use Large Containers
Tomato plants can become quite large. And you want to encourage this growth to have the biggest harvest possible. So that means you'll need to give them ample growing space in a large container. A minimum container size of 10 gallons per plant is ideal, but an even larger container—roughly 15 to 20 gallons—is better. In general, you will get a much better harvest if you go up a container size.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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The trick to growing tomatoes in containers is consistency. And that especially applies to watering. If the tomato plants don't have a steady supply of water, the foliage can wilt, the fruit can split or shrivel, and ultimately the plants can die pretty rapidly. Plus, plants in containers use up their soil moisture faster than plants with a more extensive root system in the ground. So container plantings leave less room for watering error. A hot climate further compounds this. The heat will make the water evaporate faster, even with humidity in the air. So you'll likely need to water your plants daily or at least every other day to maintain sufficient soil moisture.
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Don't Shade Your Tomato Plants
Tomato plants grow best in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. If they aren't getting enough sun, their growth will likely be stunted and they might not produce many fruits. If you live in a tropical climate, you might be tempted to shade your tomato plants from the hot sun. Don't do this. Even in the tropics, tomato plants need as much light as you can give them. Because you won't be growing them during the hottest part of the year, they should be happy in full sunlight.