Tomato Time
Growing Tomatoes in Northeast Florida 
—Matthew Barlow/Earth Works Garden Center Manager
Did you know that January - February is the best time to start tomatoes from seed in Northeast Florida? After many years of trial and error, I have found that starting my tomatoes early in winter yields the best results. Follow these few easy tips and enjoy delicious homegrown tomatoes.

When you see the word tomato in this article, insert the word “Heirloom” in front of it. That’s the only kind I grow; hundreds of varieties are available. If you’ve had one, you know why they’re the only kind I grow. If not, once you taste your first, you’ll never grow hybrids again. All the flavor and texture you wish grocery-bought or restaurant tomatoes would have, heirlooms possess. Check out our garden center in the winter for seeds, or shop or for some great options.
Tomatoes can be tricky to grow organically here in Northeast Florida. They evolved in entirely different conditions in higher altitudes in the mountains of Central America. To ensure success, we must race against time and climate to get a healthy harvest before the heat of summer arrives.

Plant seeds in small four-inch growing containers in January or February. Use fresh potting soil. Please place them in the sun and keep them watered as needed. If temperatures dip into the lower thirties, be prepared to protect your young seedling from the cold. Cover them with frost blankets, or bring them inside until it warms back up.

Once the seedlings are about six inches tall, bump them up into six-inch containers. (These are also called “one-gallon” containers.) At this point, I fertilize them with a water-soluble/liquid fertilizer once a week to speed up growth and maturity. After the young plants are around a foot tall, I will plant them in fourteen-inch containers. (7-gallon pots) This will be where they grow for the rest of their days.
Now it’s time to give these Tomatoes some support! I make a trellis out of bamboo, or wood stakes, with heavy-duty jute twine. The plants grow like vines and are hard to support with less than sturdy hardware. I’ve had mixed success with tomato cages and gave up on those years ago when I had cherry tomatoes growing over ten feet tall. Now I grow tomatoes more like one would grow grape vines, laterally instead of vertically.

Once tomatoes are about three feet long, I feed them with a high phosphorus fertilizer. In the store, we carry Jack’s Blossom Booster, which works like a charm in my garden. It’s all about flower production at this point. More flowers equal more tomatoes. I use the formula once a week.

At this point, also be careful not to overwater. Tomatoes need water to grow and move nutrients through the vines, but more water can be required. Please do your best to ensure they get watered but dry out well between waterings. This can prove to be difficult if we receive much rain. You can set up your tomatoes to grow underneath an overhang next to your house or have another roof or way to protect them from rainfall.

Once your tomatoes have set fruit and begin to blush color, pull them off and allow them to finish ripening indoors. This will prevent unwanted critters from pecking, snatching, or nibbling on your valuable fruit. Set the tomatoes next to bananas, avocadoes, or other fruit that ripen off the vine to speed up the process.

Heirlooms are best-served solo, sliced, and topped with a bit of salt and pepper. Over the years, I’ve hosted friends and family for Tomato Tastings in the kitchen. Because of the immense variety of heirloom tomatoes, the Tasting Events with friends has always been a hit. There are so many different flavors, notes, textures, and colors. Not only are the tomatoes delicious, but they’re also visually appealing. Nothing better than good times, good people, and homegrown tomatoes. Cheers, and keep on growing.

Replacing the original concrete drive and refacing the steps gives an instant update to a 1980s home!
Pavers can be an attractive option for replacing worn, broken cement drives. They are more expensive than a traditional cement drive, but you certainly get what you pay for. Pavers provide more color and design options. They are more durable than concrete which is prone to cracking. Pavers actually withstand four times the weight of concrete slabs with a 50-100 year lifespan versus 25-30 years for concrete. The final product here is quite impressive.
Yes! You Can Create Houseplant Container Gardens
Bringing plants into our homes is back in a big way. Just like you put together beautiful combinations of plants on your porches and patios, you can also make elegant planters to complement your interior design. The basics are the same. Combine plants with similar light and watering requirements using the thriller, filler, and spiller recipe. Here we have pulled out the red of the stems of our thriller with the fantastic red leaves of the Heartbeat Begonia as our filler. Also, the silvery blue-green leaves of Apoballis Acum are matched by the unique spiller Cebu Blue Pothos.

  1. Apoballis Acum Lavalei- Don't let this camo plant 'hide' in your collection! Apoballis Acum "lavallei" is a rare tropical houseplant relatively new to the United States. Grow in bright, indirect light inside the home and keep away from hot sunlight, which can burn tender leaves. If grown outside, place it in a shady location. 
  2. Heartbeat Begonia- Drought Tolerant, Colorful/Attractive Foliage, Shade Tolerant, Low Maintenance. Bright, excellent foliage plants grow in the deepest shade – carefree and colorful.
  3. Cebu Blue Pathos- a pretty and popular variety of pothos with shiny, silvery-blue leaves that seem to sparkle in the right light. Trailing or climbing, Cebu blue is a beautiful addition to any indoor jungle, and it gets bonus points for being such an easy-care plant.
It's Time to Get Ahead of Those Pesky Weeds
1 Keep weeds in your lawn under control by hand pulling or using a pre-emergent herbicide before average temperatures reach 65-70F. As temperatures warm heading into Spring, the threat from the Winter weeds diminishes and is replaced by the emergence of warm-season weeds. In our temperate climate, there is some crossover in the seasonal varieties of lawn weeds.
2 Weed And Feed products typically include pre-emergents. UF recommends March 1 for the earliest Weed and Feed applications in North Florida. “You will not injure your lawn by waiting to fertilize, but you can certainly injure your lawn by fertilizing too early,” writes Larry Williams, the Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County. Difficulties in avoiding too late applications of pre-emergent herbicides and too early fertilization give some credence to using herbicides and fertilizers separately. 
Florida perennial weeds
dandelion nutsedge
Florida annual weeds
chickweed crabgrass beggarweed
An Easy Way to Feed Your Lawn!
Sharpen your mower blades for the new season. Use the mower on its mulch setting, which feeds your soil with organic matter that typically constitutes less than 5% of soil composition and is crucial for biological activity. Feeding the soil with organic matter reduces the need for fertilization by increasing microbial activity and soil structure.
The biological Benefits of Organic Matter in Soil:
  1. Provides food for the living organisms in the soil.
  2. Enhances soil microbial biodiversity and activity can help suppress diseases and pests.
  3. Enhances pore space through the actions of soil microorganisms. This helps to increase infiltration and reduce runoff.
Top dressing supplementation for the lawn is an excellent approach to increasing organic matter in your soil. Top dressing is available by bag or truckload. And Earth Works Lawn Care offers a combination of aeration and top-dressing services.

Check Out This Great Product to Help Instantly
Clear Up Your Pond.

Learning Opportunities
Learn How to Keep your Pond Clean & Healthy
Are you tired of dealing with dirty and murky water in your pond? Do you want to learn how to properly maintain your pond and keep it clean and healthy for years to come? Join us for this informative event!


* Offer good through Feb. 28, 2023. Not valid in combination with any other offers or on previous purchases. Not applicable on statuary and other ceramic items, containers only. The 50% discount is applied to the lowest-priced item.
Come Grow With Us!
Garden Center Hours
Monday through Saturday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm / Sunday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
We would like to thank you all for your continued support!