Tomato varieties for the Southeastern USA are pretty wide-open for most locations, but there are certain considerations. I thought I’d start some posts about tomato varieties well-suited for different locations around the USA. And this, my first post, is on the Southeastern USA.
What is the South East?
Well, here are the boundaries I’m considering the Southeast:
- South of Maryland on the eastern seaboard
- East of Texas
- South of Kentucky in the middle part of the USA.
- I’ll include Arkansas, but exclude Missouri.
While a little of both are great for growing tomatoes, too much of a good thing spells bad news for your eventual fruits. So what kind of problems do the heat and humidity cause in the Southeastern USA?
Yikes! There’s a Fungus Among Us!
Unfortunately, fungus thrives in humid locations without good air circulation. Diseases related to fungal infections include alternaria, blights, gray leaf spot, fusarium wilt, damping off, verticillium wilt, mold….you get the idea.
If you are finding a lot of fungal infections in your plants, you’ll want to at least think about some hybrid tomato varieties that are more resistant to these problems. You’ll recognize them by the letters after the tomato name; they include:
- A – alternaria
- F – fusarium wilt strain I
- FF – fusarium wilt strain I & II
- V – verticillium wilt
So for example, if you look at the description for the tomato variety called Big Beef, you’ll see the letters VF1F2TNA, which means the tomato is resistant to alternaria, both strain 1 and 2 of fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, tobacco mosaic virus (the “T”) and nematodes (the “N”).
Other hybrid tomato varieties with good fungal resistance include:
- Applause (ASCF1F2StV)
- Celebrity (VF1F2NTASt) (one of my favorite hybrids)
- Country Taste (F1F2TV)
- Fabulous (VF1F2TASt)
- Razzleberry (VF1F2)
So this gives you an idea of what to look at when evaluating one of the tomato hybrids.
Other Tomato Diseases
Unfortunately, fungual diseases aren’t the only ones to threaten our homegrown tomatoes. We also have to worry about bacterial diseases (bacterial speck, spot, wilt, canker, fruit rot, etc.). And if that wasn’t bad enough, we have nematodes and viral diseases. It’s a wonder that we have any tomatoes at all!
The chances of bacterial diseases can be greatly reduced by careful mulching, as it’s the bacteria in the soil that causes problems. Nematodes…well, if you have them in the soil, the best thoughts would be to either plant your tomatoes in containers (using potting soil) and/or plant hybrids that are resistant to nematodes. Viral diseases can also be present – yikes!
(You may want to read the post on tomato diseases to become more familiar with these banes to growing tomatoes.)
What About Heirloom Tomatoes?
Sure, you can grow heirlooms! Just keep in mind that because mosty don’t have extra resistance, you’ll need to be more on the lookout for any problems. So that means make sure your plants have plenty of air circulation (without being too windy), mulch the soil and consider growing in containers if you have a problem with nematodes.
Where I live in South Florida, I try to grow most of my heirloom tomatoes on the “shoulders” of the season. In other words, I do my best to avoid having the fruit trying to set between mid-July and the end of August, when it’s the hottest. This may mean starting the seeds earlier than normal so I can get the seedling plants outside at the first possible moment. It also means that I plant seeds around the 4th of July so I can grow them in the fall!
However, if you live further north where freezes are common, you don’t want to set out your tomato seedlings/plants until a week after the last frost date for your area. So for example, if the average last frost date for your area is April 5th, you’d want to start putting out your seedlings/plants no earlier than April 12th (unless you have some sort of protection, like a Wall ‘o Water or something of that nature).
And the Tomato Varieties Are…
Here are some that I like for a hot and humid climate. One thing to keep in mind is that most tomatoes don’t pollinate well at temperatures above 90 degrees, so you want to do your best to try and have their pollination mostly finished by that time.
All that being said, here are some tomatoes I like for the Southeast. Keep in mind this is not all the tomatoes suitable for the Southeast; just a few of my particular top picks.
- Determinates: Celebrity, Goliath Bush, Applause, Florida 91, Better Bush, Patio, New Big Dwarf, Green Grape
- Indeterminate Hybrids: Better Boy, Beefmaster, Cobra, First Prize, Goliath, Big Beef
- Indeterminate Heirlooms: Brandywine Red or Brandywine Red OTV, Cherokee Purple, Box Car Willie, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Black Krim. Green Zebra, Beefsteak and Eva Purple Ball. If you’re in an area that doesn’t routinely get daytime highs in the upper 80s and into the 90s, add in Pink Brandywine…or, try Pink Brandywine anyway, just for the taste!
- Cherry Tomatoes: Just about any cherry tomato will grow well. Some of my favorites include Supersweet 100, Black Cherry, Yellow Pear, Husky Cherry Red, Sun Gold, Riesentraube and Isis Candy Cherry