How do I grow tomatoes in pots in central Florida?

I’m obviously doing something wrong. New to Florida and I used to grow wonderful tomatoes in northern KY. There are so many aggressive birds and squirrels here that I decided to attempt growing Early Girls in pots inside my screened patio (no roof—only screening). The first plants, bought from a nursery, failed soon after putting them out on the patio. No evidence of pests other than gnats. I grew the second batch from seed (also Early Girl) in the same pots. The plants grew but looked spindly and sick. I bought a grow light and brought them inside cause the weather got too cool and the plants looked like they were dying. That seemed to temporarily help but now they look doomed again. My pots have drainage holes and drain pans. I’ve never tried to grow tomatoes in pots. Should I try a different variety? Is my soil bad? I am stumped—HELP!

  3 answers
  • Gardengraz Gardengraz on Jan 08, 2019

    Where in Florida are you? We are fairly new to Florida ourselves. Was surprised to see that they should be planted November or so. Have had one season and on my second. Growing in large pots in a screened lanai, roof screened also. Did get some tomatoes the first season, which were much better than store bought, of course. The ones I planted this past November took off like gangbusters, and have many flowers and the start of some tomatoes. Also, keep track of their watering.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Jan 08, 2019

    Hi Handygirl,

    Sounds like you are doing things to help your tomatoes do well.

    When you plant them in pots, they need to be planted deeply, covering most of the stem, at least 3/4 of it. This is so they have a good root system established.

    The ones from seeds, probably did not have enough dirt around the stems for support, resulting in the leggy growth and low fruit pruduction. I have created this problem too.

    One more thing you could do is sprinkle some Epsom salt around them, being careful to not get it on the plants themselves, it will burn them.

    Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is a valuable nutrient plants need to flourish.

    Happy growing!

  • Janice Janice on Jan 10, 2019

    I suggest you contact your County Extension Agent with your question. They can provide you personalized help for success in your area.