Essential fall chores for every tomato grower
As the first cold days of fall arrive, those of us still with tomatoes on the vine are starting to look a little closer at the ten-day forecast. Time is running out and the annual race to the first frost begins. Will that beef have enough time to ripen on the vine? What do we do with the green tomatoes still in the garden? When will you get that first frost? Grab a trowel and your gardening gloves, tomato grower; We have some work to do with the fate of your tomatoes this year.
1. How to protect your tomatoes from frost
It's always best to have a game plan ready before the weatherman calls for that first frost. How much you still produce in the garden will determine how much effort you want to put into protecting your plants. Cover your plants in the evening before snow falls. Usually, a few spare bed sheets will do, but depending on where you live, you may want something substantial like a tarp or a mylar emergency blanket. If you use some sort of plastic, you should have an insulating fabric layer underneath. Plastic that touches your plants can still freeze plant cells. Invest in an ice cloth to help get those last few tomatoes out.
Lucky for you, Lindsey has plenty of ways to protect tomatoes from frost, whether it's the first frost of fall or a late spring frost. Depending on the layout of your garden, you may need to use more than one protection method. The next question, of course, is what to do with the unripe fruit on the vine. Can those tomatoes be ripened off the vine or should they be picked raw?
2. How to ripen tomatoes
Heat is the biggest factor in tomato ripening, so naturally, as the weather cools, tomatoes take longer to ripen. When autumn sets in, if you don't intervene, you may have plenty of fruit left on your plants that won't turn red. Tomatoes are picked from the vine when they are about ¾ ripe. So, if you are faced with a drop in temperature, your first step is to get as many almost-ripe tomatoes as possible and bring them somewhere warm. Place them in a cardboard box and they will ripen in a few days.
For tomatoes that can't be picked yet, you may want to continue growing them under polytunnels for the rest of the season. There are some neat tricks to heating polytunnels (or your greenhouse). Elizabeth knows all the tricks to make tomatoes ripen faster, so you'll want to read her article.
3. What to do with those green tomatoes?
If you've picked as many tomatoes as you can, and if you've already ripened the ripest ones, but you're still left with a huge crop of green tomatoes, don't worry. Green tomatoes are often tastier or tastier than their red counterparts and should be considered a crop unto themselves. There are over 20 different ways to use green tomatoes. Of course, you should start with Cheryl's recipe for Roasted Green Tomatoes; This classic dish has changed the minds of many green-tomato dog lovers.
And a batch of his traditional green tomato flavor will help reduce the supply of green tomatoes. If you want to make something quick that you can eat right away, her Quick Pickled Green Tomatoes are definitely the ticket.
4. Extend the growing season
If you're not quite ready to take the plunge and want to get the maximum yield from your tomatoes, there are things you can do to extend the growing season. Of course, whether or not you grow firm or non-firm tomatoes also play a big role in your final crop. With firm tomatoes, you may not have a choice. After their main crop is done, they'll produce a few extra tomatoes here and there, but that's it; They are made for the season. Indeterminate tomatoes will continue to grow and produce fruit until it is warm enough. So how do they generate enough heat to keep growing? You have options!
If you have a greenhouse, moving potted plants inside is a great way to keep them growing. If your plants are outside, you can install polytunnels to protect them from the weather. There are even some unique ways to heat your polytunnels. Elizabeth does her gardening in Scotland, so she's a real pro at extending the growing season on a dime.
5. Get a jump on next year with a clone
If you really want to blow your neighbors' minds and get the ultimate boost for next year's growing season, clone some of your existing tomato plants. Cloning takes a while, and by the time spring rolls around, you'll have a large, healthy plant ready to produce tomatoes. All you need to do is plant it in the ground. It's as simple as poking a stem in the dirt, but if you grab some sharp scissors, I'll walk you through the easy process of cloning tomato plants.
6. Overwintering tomatoes
Bring them in
For the more serious tomato gardener, you should consider overwintering a few tomato plants. Believe it or not, tomatoes are perennial. It's true that most of the world must grow them as annuals, but in their native habitat, tomatoes grow for years. If you want to try to overwinter tomatoes, it is better to use only plants that are free of pests and diseases. Overwintering can be hard on the plant, so you want to start a healthy tomato plant. Depending on the method, you should start the process about a month before your first expected frost.
It's much easier to do if you're growing tomatoes in containers; Bring them in for the year. Don't expect to see fresh flowers or fruit while inside; Generally, our houses do not get enough light in winter. But being warm and sheltered from harsh winter weather will ensure you have a tomato plant ready to go outside next spring.
If you have tomato plants currently growing in your garden that you want to overwinter, you will need to transplant them first. In this situation, a replacement shock is possible as in spring. For best results, prune the tomato plant before planting. Let the plant recover for about a week before digging it up and transplanting it into a larger container. Retain as much rootball as possible. Remember, plants cannot support a large canopy without a large root system. That is why it is important to prune tomatoes first. Once you've repotted your plant, bring it indoors and make sure it's well-watered until it bounces back.
Bare root tomatoes
If you don't like having a large tomato plant in your room during the winter, there is still an option. You can prune the plant back hard, dig it up, and make it through the winter with bare roots. This method puts the tomato into a dormant state.
Start by cutting back to the main stem or stems, leaving the plant about a foot long. Then dig up the plant, or you can pull it out of the ground. Remove as much dirt from it as you can. You need to keep the roots moist and protected during the winter. You will need an old shirt and some sphagnum moss, shredded paper, or coconut flakes. Lay the shirt flat. Then place several handfuls of paper, moss, or coconut in the center. Place the tomatoes in a t-shirt so the bare roots rest amid the protective material. Place more paper, moss, or coir over the roots to form a mass around them. Using a spray bottle, thoroughly moisten this mass before using a t-shirt to wrap everything into a ball at the base of the tomato plant. Wet the t-shirt as well and wrap the bag in a plastic grocery bag before tying it to the base of the plant.
Store prepared plants in paper bags in a dark place such as a basement or garage. In the spring, plant tomatoes after all danger of frost have passed.