Best Tomatoes to Plant in Coastal South Carolina

Tomato Gardens in the South Carolina Coastal Region

For those living in the coastal region of the state and planning a garden, several tomato varieties can withstand the heat and humidity. Choosing the best variety suitable to lowcountry conditions is important, as plants that do well in the upstate region, for example, may not be the best choice for coastal gardens. Consider the following hearty determinate and indeterminate varieties that can tolerate the coastal region’s heat and humidity resulting in the production of tasty produce.

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Bradley Heirloom Tomatoes

Bradley tomatoes produce a quality fruit with a nice flavor that isn’t too mild, so it strikes a nice balance. The fruit is ideal in salads, sauces, and salsas. Bradley tomatoes are also a good choice for freezing and canning.

The plants need full sun, which works perfectly with the coastal region, and grow to heights from 4 to 6 feet tall, producing strong stems that do best when secured in sturdy cages.

The semi-determinate plant is a prolific producer of fruit that holds onto the stems securely. The skin of the tomato is resistant to cracking or splitting. The fruit has a mild and sweet flavor and is a good candidate for slicing to add to a sandwich.

The indeterminate vine is an annual with planting times in spring and summer. The plant matures in 75 to 85 days.

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Brandywine Tomatoes

The indeterminate Brandywine tomato is considered an heirloom cultivar that has large potato-leaved stems and can reach a height of 9 feet. Each pink-colored beefsteak-shaped fruit can weigh around 24 ounces. Maturity time for fruit is between 80 to 100 days.

The Brandywine is considered to be one of the most flavorful among the tomato varieties. The fruit balances the sugar and acidity evenly to produce a quality, old-fashioned, tasty tomato.

It is the perfect complement when diced or cubed to add to a fresh salad, and its beefsteak shape makes it easy to slice and use on sandwiches. Brandywines grow well in USDA Zones 3 through 9, which include South Carolina.

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Goliath Tomatoes

The Goliath Original tomato earned its name due to the giant fruit the plant produces. The ribbed fruit is firm, dark pink in color, contains few seeds, and is exceptionally sweet.

The indeterminate heirloom tomato produces fruit that ranges in weight from 1 to 2 pounds but can be up to 3 pounds. The maturity time is 85 days.

In comparison, the Bush Goliath is a determinate plant growing to around 3 feet tall with fruit averaging 3 to 4 inches. The plants mature in around 68 days.

Source: Gardenerspath.com

Roma Tomatoes

The Roma tomato is distinguishable by its plum or egg-shape. They are also referred to as Italian plum tomatoes or Italian tomatoes.

The slender, bright red, determinate tomato is firm and meaty with minimal seeds and is often used in canning, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Unlike other tomato varieties, Roma tomatoes contain less moisture.

The Roma, like most tomato plants, need eight hours of exposure to sunlight daily. The plant grows to about 3 feet and the fruit grows to about 3 inches. One medium-sized Roma has about 11 calories.

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Celebrity Tomatoes

Another USDA Zone 8 favorite is the Celebrity tomato. The determinate plants are typically 3 to 4 feet tall with bushy foliage. Depending on the depth of the soil and the climate, Celebrity tomatoes can grow to reach 10 feet. The fruit is medium-sized and weighs between 8 and 10 ounces.

Like other tomato plants, the height of the plant along with the weight of the fruit means either a tomato cage or a trellis is necessary for support.

Celebrities usually take between 65 and 75 days to mature. If the plant is started from seeds, the maturity time increases by around 25 days.

The plant’s fast growth combined with its resistance to known tomato problems, such as root-knot nematodes and verticillium wilt, make the Celebrity fairly easy to grow.

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Costoluto Genovese

This Italian heirloom tomato has a distinctive look with its bright red, flattened, and multi-ribbed sections. The fruit is between 2 to 4 inches and is considered to be one of the best-tasting tomatoes.

The indeterminate plant grows to heights between 4 and 8 feet. The annual is easy to grow, likes warm to hot weather, needs a minimum of 6 hours daily of sunlight, has a very pleasing old-fashioned tomato taste, and takes between 78 to 80 days to mature.

The plants are drought tolerant, have no problem with high heat, and are disease resistant to botrytis and bacterial leaf spot.

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Big Beef

The indeterminate Big Beef tomato is a hybrid variety that produces abundant quantities of fruit with a delicious flavor. The vines average between 3 and 4 feet and do best when provided with stakes or a tall cage. The plant produces fruit weighing between 10 and 12 ounces.

The sturdy vines are resistant to many diseases, such as verticillium wilt, gray leaf spot, tobacco mosaic virus, nematodes, and more.

The Big Beef tomato is a popular variety that earned it the designation of All America Selection.

Tomato Planting Time for the Coastal Region

Several cities in the coastal region include Beaufort, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Bluffton. Even though each is located in the lowcountry regions, there are varying planting times for most.

The following planting dates are based on anticipated frost dates for each city.

Fall Planting – Beaufort

According to the Almanac’s planting calendar for coastal South Carolina, the time to start tomato seeds indoors in Beaufort is June 23. The time to plant seedlings outdoors is August 18.

Spring Planting – Beaufort

Start tomato seeds indoors from January 21 through January 26 and plant seedlings or transplants from March 16 through April 6.

Fall Planting – Charleston

Charleston has a different planting time. For the fall, the time to start tomato seeds indoors is July 12.The time for seedlings to be planted outdoors is September 6.

Spring Planting – Charleston

Gardeners can start tomato seeds indoors from January 31 through February 14. April 5 through April 26 is planting time for seedlings or transplants.

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Fall Planting – Myrtle Beach

In Myrtle Beach, the time to start planting tomato seeds indoors is May 30. Seedlings are ready to be planted outdoors on July 25.

Spring Planting – Myrtle Beach

Start tomato seeds indoors from January 21 through January 26 and plant seedlings or transplants from March 16 through April 6.

Fall Planting – Bluffton

Bluffton’s planting time for tomatoes is the same as Beaufort. The time to start tomato seeds indoors is June 23 and to plant seedlings outdoors is August 18.

Spring Planting – Bluffton

Starting tomato seeds indoors takes place January 21 through January 26. Seedlings or transplants can be planted when the temperature warms up from March 16 through April 6.

Note: For each of the cities listed above, starting seeds outdoors is not advisable.

Tomato Categories – Determinate or Indeterminate

Each tomato variety is categorized as determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes, such as the Celebrity, stop growing once the plant reaches its full size and sets the fruit over several weeks. Once this occurs, the plant is done. Many of the hybrid tomato varieties are in the determinate category.

Indeterminate tomatoes know no bounds when it comes to growing time. Indeterminate tomatoes set up repetitive crops producing fruit throughout the summer and fall. Heirloom varieties, such as the Goliath Original, are large and need supportive cages for support.

Helpful Tomato Planting Tips to Consider

For the best results, follow the planting instructions for the planting time for the particular type of tomato variety or tomato seeds, as the times may vary.

Two important elements for gardeners when choosing tomatoes for the garden are: First, choose a variety that is tolerant of humidity, and second, because of the heat and humidity in the coastal region, choose a variety with skin that is crack resistant.

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Another issue with growing tomatoes in the lowcountry region is the condition of the soil, which can have a pH level that is too high to support successful plant growth and fruit production. Before planting, have the soil tested to determine the pH level so the soil content can be adjusted, if necessary.

Basic things to consider include selecting an appropriate variety, choosing tomato plants suitable for lowcountry growing seasons, providing plenty of full sun exposure, and providing support to contain the plant’s growth and fruit-ladened stems.

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