The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Robert: Yes! Tomatoes can definitely be grown in Kentucky. These warm-season crops can be planted directly in the garden when the air and soil temperatures increase. The soil temperature should be at least 60 degrees and the potential for frost is behind us. On average, early May is a safe time to plant tomatoes and other warm-season crops.
Before planting be sure to choose a space that receives full sun. 8 hours of direct sun is a minimum requirement to grow healthy plants. Healthy soil is just as important. Tomatoes can be grown in larger containers or in the ground. Either way, the soil should be nutrient-rich and well-drained. Tomatoes are considered heavy feeders so you will want to make sure the soil has sufficient nutrients at planting time and throughout the growing season.
Water-soluble or slow-release granular fertilizer are both good options. Just use according to product recommendations to avoid over-feeding. If you are growing in containers, fill with good quality potting soil and be sure that there are drainage holes. If you are growing in the ground you may want to have your soil tested. The results will give the current nutrient levels and recommendations for improvement. This can be done at your local County Cooperative Extension Service. The Hardin county offices are located at 201 Peterson Drive in Elizabethtown. The phone number is (270)765-4121.
As far as which tomatoes to plant, there is no shortage of choices. Between the heirlooms and hybrids you will be sure to find a beefsteak, roma, cherry or slicer to please all family members. Tomatoes are divided into two different groups. Indeterminate and determinate; they differ in terms of production and growth habits.
Indeterminate tomatoes can reach upwards of 8ft. tall unlike determinate tomatoes that are smaller and include the bush varieties. Both will require either a cage or some type of staking. Indeterminate produce fruit all season long where as, determinate produce all at once and then sporadically.
It is always a good idea to plant disease resistant cultivars. Some cultivars are more resistant than others regardless of growing conditions. For a list of cultivars recommended for Kentucky gardeners visit: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id133/id133.pdf. During the growing season, keep the plants free from weeds and maintain a consistent watering routine. It is always best to water in the morning and to avoid overhead watering if possible.