How to grow tomatoes along the coast

Myrtle Beach, SC

I'm not exactly a new gardener, but moving back to Myrtle Beach has provided real challenges to my husband and myself. I wonder if any of you could help. We finally find our self with a huge garden space, but find that gardening is a pain here. Our favorite is tomatoes - which we have grown wherever we lived (all over this country - and in Europe). But, sadly, we find that our soil has wilt in it. We watch our healthy plants grow big and then quickly wilt away. We finally gave up on growing them in pots - but even then the tomatoes are small and scabby. Any suggestions? Or are we doomed to buying Campari tomatoes at Costco forevermore?

(Zone 9a)

Those Campari's are pretty good aren't they? LOL It is tempting.

I recently heard a speaker who recommended growing tomatoes in containers but rather than using a fluffy potting mix, she said to use a heavier peat bark mix with at least 1/3 to 1/2 compost and a hefty dose, several cups, of organic fertilizer like espoma. The self watering containers, like Earth Boxes, make it a little easier.

I wonder if solarization would help? You would soak it to make it very wet then cover it with a plastic tarp and let the sun cook the soil. Clemson has a good info sheet on it.

Good luck.

Kure Beach, NC(Zone 9a)

Have you had your soil tested? It's true that our sandy soil isn't the best for tomatoes, but can be amended to compensate.
As for your attempts in pots, when do the plants start to fade? In your area, which is very similar to mine, tomato plants stop producing in the heat of the summer and there's really nothing you can do other than wait for the temperatures to cool off. That's why I try to grow indeterminate varieties which will restart producing after the heat of summer is over.
If the problem is in the soil, solarization could help, but it takes a year to really see results.

Johns Island, SC

Good luck with figuring out coastal Carolina soils, ubljd! I've been in Charleston for 27 years, and still haven't figured it out. But I've grown some phenomenal tomatoes over the years here! I'm still not sure why (but I'm not complaining!). Soil pH was 9.1., Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium and Boron were all rated "Excessive", and not just on the edge of the "Excessive" bar, but all the way to the end of it! I've had good luck with Celebrity, Costoluto Genovese (an UGLY,mishapen Italian heirloom, but the best tasting one! One slice covers a whole piece of bread! If you like 'mater samiches", this is one you must grow!), and all the "Sweet One hundreds","Sweet One Million" cherry tomatoes. I'm trying some of those varieties that claim success in areas of "high heat, high humidity (Solar Fire, Phoenix, etc.) again this year (they performed well and met the taste requirements last year, so I'm trying them again). Bottom line, it's a trial and error thing with tomatoes here in the low country. Good luck---and don't give up! It CAN be done!

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