Everyone loves to grow abundant fruit and tomatoes are definitely on the top of everyone’s list of fruit to grow on the islands. What’s fantastic is that growing tomatoes in Hawaii has a longer growing season and plants that can last a few seasons and can easily grow in a back-yard garden. Unfortunately, in Hawaii, it can also be a challenge to start and maintain tomatoes in your garden depending on your location and many other growing conditions. I’ll share my success stories of growing tomatoes in Hawaii along with some fun trivia, tomato varieties that do well along with some yummy recipes that you can try with your own home-grown tomatoes on the islands.
Learning to grow your own tomatoes in Hawaii
There are quite a few things to consider in growing tomatoes successfully in Hawaii. Even though there are a few varieties that grow well despite a variety of conditions, if you pay attention to these various factors and tips below, you’ll get a head start to growing some of the best and tastiest tomatoes in your life.
If you are in sunnier and drier coastal areas, tomatoes definitely can be more successful and can grow well outdoors. If you are in the middle mauka range around the 800-foot elevation with more moisture in the air and wetness, there can be more fungal, rain issues and other problems that are susceptible to mildew. Colder and more mauka conditions will bring even more challenging with cooler climates, wetness and some humid conditions mixed in. Wet and cooler conditions have a range of problems that make it difficult but growing in greenhouses or containers might be feasible.
Grow from seed or seedlings
There are positives in either option, if you start from seed, you can get more quantity and plants at inexpensive start up. Seedlings are already off to a good start and can be placed in your garden faster and have a jump start in the growing season.
What types of Tomatoes do well in Hawaii?
Some tomato varieties do better than others on the islands and gives fruit more successfully. When choosing tomatoes to grow think smaller and thicker skin varieties that will survive the slew of pests that will devour your fruit. This includes popular varieties like cherries, golden yellow and the Roma or San Marino tomatoes. Even the University of Hawaii seed lab offers seeds that a proven to do well that includes Healani, Kewalo and Anahu varieties.
A little on the environment
Hawaii definitely has it’s share of bugs and insects along with other things like mold, mildew and other fungal issues that makes growing tomatoes a challenge. But if you are willing to work around your environment, grow hardly tropical friendly varieties and grow in favorable situations like under eaves, green houses or in containers then, you should try growing certain varieties. Check out the CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human resources) guide to growing tomatoes in a healthy and productive environment.
Hawaiian soil is actually poor, rocky and not as nutritious as you would think in Hawaii and needs to be amended. Tomatoes require moderately acidic to neutral soil in which pH 6.0 to 6.8 is optimum also using good organic matter is needed. If you take the time to condition your soil and feed it the right nutrients for tomatoes to grow, you’ll be rewarded with abundant fruits. The best way I’ve produced tomatoes is to enrich the soil with amendments or nutrients, place a lot of mulch as top dressing and to water on a regular basis depending on your rainy weather conditions. If space or soil is more of a challenge, then trying a container version to growing your tomatoes might be an easier way to go in a controlled situation. Fertilizing your plants with a general fertilizer with a 16-16-16 ratio 0r 10-20-20 corresponding to ratios of nitrogen, phosphate and potash mixed in well to the soil and added in a second phase to flowering plants to promote fruit production.
Garden practice growing tomatoes
Seeds can be grown in trays and then transplanted in three to 5 weeks’ time frame and supported with cages or even fencing material that I use from leftover material. Place your tomatoes at least 15 inches apart for them to grow well up your trellis and you can easily prune any side shoots for maximum growth patterns.
Tomatoes are heavy water drinkers and require regular water or they will sulk and even burn quickly depending on the location. If you take care of your garden daily then you can easily water the plants or even set up a drip irrigation program to take care of your tomatoes water needs. Keeping the soil top dressed and moist keeps your tomatoes very happy and healthy.
Tomatoes love the sun
Typically, the best growing conditions for tomatoes is under full sun and heat. Even filtered light is good if you cannot get good sunny conditions for growing some plants.
Problems growing tomatoes in Hawaii
Growing tomatoes is definitely a challenge with gardening in Hawaii with so many different environments, insects, poor or no soil and so many other issues. Insects thrive in Hawaii and whitefly, leaf miners, slugs, mice and other tomato loving insects create a real challenge, so keeping them covered, in containers or off the ground in elevated beds helps to keep insects at bay. Daily inspection, using water sprays and insecticidal soaps along with checking out what can be found on the plant for further treatment is a good and preventative measure for additional treatments.
Harvesting your tomatoes
What a fantastic experience to finally get to harvest the fruits of your labor and see tomatoes getting close to picking. You can easily harvest fruit when the bottom portion starts to turn pink but the best time to pick is when the fruit is at least ¾ quarters ripe for the best flavor. You can expect to get fruit production at least 60 to 80 days and ongoing throughout the season on a daily to weekly basis depending on how many plants you have in the ground.
Delicious recipes using tomatoes
Check out some local favorite recipes you can make with your delicious tomatoes below.
Hmmm Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe
Delicious Stuffed Tomatoes
Make your own Oven Roasted Tomatoes
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