Plant your fall tomatoes over the July 4th weekend. Photos Leslie Halleck

In The Garden: Plant Your Fall Tomatoes

The time is now.

Ok, so the incredibly wet spring season wasn’t exactly friendly to our tomato plants. If you managed to escape without plants covered in early blight disease, count yourself very lucky! The constant rainfall and humidity has been a godsend for fungal diseases, such as early blight. If you’re tired of looking at your raggedy spring tomato plants then you’re in luck: It’s the perfect time to plant fall tomatoes. That’s the upside of our crazy climate here in Dallas – we get two tomato growing seasons. If you mess up with your spring crop, you get a second change.  planting a second crop mid-July will help you extend your harvest through November. Rip up those old plants, throw them in the compost bin and get planting.

Tomato 'Supersweet 100' is easy to grow and a prolific producer.
Tomato ‘Supersweet 100’ is easy to grow and a prolific producer.

A good target date for planting fall tomatoes in the DFW areas is July 4th. So you’re in luck – many independent garden centers around town are having plant sales just in time for you to get your fresh tomato fix. As temperatures are hitting 100 F this time of year, it’s a good idea to plant more heat-tolerant varieties of tomatoes that can better sweat out the rest of the summer. Look for varieties with the words “heat” or “solar” in the name – that’s a pretty good indicator they’ve been bred for improved heat tolerance. Good examples include ‘Solar Fire’ and ‘Heatwave’, but there are plenty of others to choose from. Seek out ‘Indigo Rose’ if you want an almost black-colored cherry tomato that produces in very hot temperatures.

There are a few key practices necessary to growing good tomatoes. Consistent, thorough watering is a must. Allowing plants to dry too often between watering or get over-watered, will result in poor fruit set, cracked fruit or calcium deficiencies (blossom end rot). A planting mix rich in organic compost as well as regular fertilization is necessary. If you hope to have any fruit, a minimum of 6-hours of direct sunlight is required.

You’ll usually have to fend off a few pests and diseases with tomatoes, especially if you prefer the heirloom varieties. Vigorous healthy plants are the best defense, but you can also resort to several organic treatments such as Bti (Thuricide) for chewing worms and horticultural soaps or liquid seaweed for whiteflies and mites. Liquid seaweed is an excellent organic liquid feed and foliar spray. It greens plants up and while repelling spider mites.

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