Want to grow tomatoes in Hawaii? Imagine waking up one beautiful Hawaiian morning and stepping out onto your lanai to see your very own tomato plants growing tall and proud. The vibrant green leaves and plump, red fruit beckon you to come closer, and you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that you grew these plants yourself.
But where to start? With so many types of tomatoes to choose from, it can be overwhelming. Luckily, Kauai Seascapes nursery and Growing Strong Farms (see interview below) has years of experience growing tomatoes in Hawaii and is happy to share their knowledge with you.
Growing Tomatoes; Choose a Variety
First, make sure to choose a variety that is well-suited to the warm, tropical climate in Hawaii. Consider Roma tomatoes for sauces and pastes, or juicy and flavorful Beefsteak tomatoes for salads and sandwiches. Cherry plum tomatoes are smaller but packed with a sweet, rich flavor, while yellow and orange tomatoes add a pop of color to any dish. Let”s talk about these one by one in more detail.
The Roma tomato is a local favorite to grow here in Hawaii.
It’s a classic, with its firm flesh and perfect shape for sauces and pastes.
Kauai Seascapes suggests growing them in a container with well-draining soil and using a trellis or stake for support as they grow.
And let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of making your own homemade sauce with fresh Roma tomatoes.
If you’re looking for something a little different, try your hand at growing Beefsteak tomatoes. These are the big ones, juicy and flavorful, perfect for slicing up and using in sandwiches or salads. It is recommended to grow them in a raised bed with plenty of organic matter to provide nutrients for the plant.
Have you ever tried cherry plum tomatoes? These little gems are smaller than cherry tomatoes but have a slightly oblong shape and a sweet, rich flavor. They do best in well-draining soil and full sun exposure. And don’t forget to use a trellis or stake to support the plant as it grows – these little tomatoes can produce a surprising amount of fruit! They also reseed very easily. You may end up with a huge tomato patch one day!
Let’s not forget about the yellow and orange tomatoes. These varieties have a sweet, tangy flavor and can add a pop of color to any dish.
Growing Tomatoes; Growing Tips
As your plants grow, use a trellis or stake for support to keep them upright and healthy. Most importantly, check your plants regularly for ripe tomatoes, picking them when they are fully ripe and have a deep color. Keep them tidy, don’t let fruit rot on the ground. Here’s a few more tips for a successful growing season.
- Choose a variety of tomato that is well-suited to the climate in Hawaii.
- Ensure that your plants have enough sunlight and water.
- Use well-draining soil in a container or raised bed. Tomatoes don’t like to stay wet.
- Use a trellis or stake for support as the plant grows. Here’s a video for some trellis ideas.
- Consider adding organic matter to the soil for added nutrients, healthier plants and sweeter fruit.
Growing Tomatoes; Harvesting Tips
Harvesting your own tomatoes is a rewarding experience.
One summer day in Hawaii, my family and I picked our ripe fruits from the garden beds. We admired the beauty of the tomatoes and felt grateful for growing them ourselves. That night, we enjoyed a delicious meal of caprese salad made with fresh mozzarella and our homegrown tomatoes and Basil.
Savor the moment when you finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labor – it’s a feeling that’s hard to beat.
- Check your plants regularly for ripe tomatoes
- Pick tomatoes when they are fully ripe and have a deep color
- Be careful not to damage the plant or the other tomatoes when picking
- Store tomatoes in a cool, dry place or use them right away for maximum flavor
Growing Tomatoes with Growing Strong Farms on Kaua’i
We spoke with Dylan Strong at Growing Strong Farms this month because they are the Tomato Experts! No doubt you’ve seen the big juicy Beefsteak tomatoes or colorful varietals that they grow. Here’s what he had to say…
Tell us a little about your farm, how it got started and where it’s at today.
“Growing Strong Farm started in 2009, with 2 homemade greenhouses filled with heirloom tomatoes. I was deeply inspired after seeing small farms being successful marketing directly to consumers in the Bay Area.”
“After working on several different farms in that area I was really drawn to tomatoes. However we weren’t initially very successful growing tomatoes in the quantities needed to have a successful farm. We experimented with a lot of different vegetables to see which would sell well and thrive in our unique conditions in Moloa’a. We also experimented a lot with growing techniques.”
“14 years later and we now have ½ acre in greenhouse space and have specialized in red beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes. As well as two veggie and herb start carts, where people can buy ready to plant crops in 3.5 inch pots.”
Where can we find your produce and tomatoes?
Our produce is available at Hoku foods natural market both Kapaa and Koloa, Papayas natural foods, Healthy Hut, One Hotel, Hukilau Lanai restaurant, Oasis on the Beach, and Collab Cafe.
That’s awesome! What are the best varieties to grow in the tropics?
Here are the varieties we are currently using.
- Red beefsteaks- valley girl
- Cherry tomato- clementine
- Heirloom tomatoes- lucid gem
- Sunfire flare, German Johnson and purple Cherokee.
These varieties have done well in the heat and held up well enough to various leaf diseases.
Any challenges to growing tomatoes that you’ve overcome?
“There are many pests working against tomatoes- fruit flies, rats, birds, root knot nematodes, stink bugs, mildew, fruit cracking and more. A healthy soil will mitigate a lot of these problems but they are never gone completely. We just try to give the plants as ideal of conditions as we can with the knowledge we have and cross our fingers! The best thing about growing here is it is year round so if things are looking really bad we don’t have to wait to start a new crop.”
What is your favorite recipe?
“The greatest way our family enjoys tomatoes is with a Caprese salad! Nice thick tomato slices topped with pesto or fresh basil (or both), mozzarella cheese, balsamic glaze and salt and pepper.”
Yum! Anything else you want people to know about tomatoes or your farm?
“We want people to know that we love growing food and we are committed to growing here for the long haul. People can trust our crops will always be grown in a way that respects the Aina and our bodies.To us that means growing with organic practices. We would also like people to know that we could not be farming here without the foundation laid by my parents, Mike and Candace Strong who farmed On Kauai for over 30 years.”
Growing Tomatoes; Pests
A common pest that can affect tomato plants in Hawaii is the leafhopper. These small, winged insects can cause damage to the leaves of your plants by piercing them and sucking out sap, which can result in yellowing, curling, and stunted growth.
To prevent leafhopper infestations, it’s important to keep your garden area clean and free of debris, as they can often hide in garden debris or weeds.
You can also use organic insecticidal soap, diatomaceous earth or neem oil to control leafhopper populations.
Read more about garden pests in our blog “Whats Eating my Plant? Common Garden Pests of Hawai’i”.
In addition to these organic pest control methods, planting companion plants such as mint or basil can also help repel leafhoppers and other common garden pests.
Reap the Rewards
For all my fellow locals here, there’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh, locally grown produce, especially when it comes to delicious and juicy tomatoes. If you’re looking for a fun and rewarding project to take on, why not try growing your own tomatoes in your backyard or community garden? See our blog post “How to Build a Raised Garden Bed and Grow Your Own Food” for an easy DIY spring project.
Growing your own food is a great way to connect with nature and the land, and it’s also a way to support local agriculture and reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the need for transportation of produce from off-island.
With the right amount of care and attention, you can easily grow your own delicious tomatoes, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve played a part in bringing fresh, locally grown produce to your table.
So, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a complete newbie, I encourage you to give tomato growing a try. You might be surprised at just how easy and rewarding it can be. Let’s come together and support our local agriculture by growing our own delicious tomatoes right here in Hawai’i!
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