There’s something very satisfying about picking a perfectly ripe home-grown tomato from the vine to slice and eat while it’s still warm from the sun.
When properly cared for, fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes may be enjoyed far into the fall—extending one of summertime’s simple delights for a few more precious weeks.
What kind and how many tomato plants to grow: Grow an amount adequate for your food needs and manageable within your time schedule. This way you are able to focus on tending to and getting the most out of your tomatoes. A few two to three foot tomato plants that have been proven to grow well in your climate will easily provide for a family of four. If you use tomatoes sparingly, a simply hanging cherry tomato plant will most likely meet your needs. If your tomatoes grow exceptionally well, try canning the extras. Making spaghetti sauce to freeze or can for use throughout the winter is a great way to stretch the season’s bounty.
Conditions: Tomatoes need bright sun and consistent watering. Water the plants daily, just enough to keep the soil damp. Never let the soil dry out completely. Fertilizing monthly will boost the tomato-producing process. When growing tomato plants in containers, the larger the container the better. The more soil you have surrounding the root system of the plant the better the moisture retention will be, so watering will not be as frequent. Be sure that the container has proper drainage holes to avoid root rot.
Maintenance: Stake tomato plants before they start to droop or become top heavy, gently tying very large appendages if needed. Remove brown, dry and yellowing leaves as they appear so the plant can focus all of its energy on nurturing the fruit.
Longevity: Typically tomato fruit growth will begin to slow down as the summer nears its end and temperatures begin to drop. Tomatoes need temperatures above 60 degrees F to finish vine ripening. Most autumn days will reach the 60 degree mark. At night as it becomes cooler and there is a potential for frost, simply cover the plants completely with a burlap bag or old sheet at dusk. Be sure to remove the covering in the morning as soon as the sun is out and temperatures begin to rise. You may also pick green tomatoes before the frost and let them ripen inside on a windowsill. If you have many green tomatoes you can wrap them individually in newspaper and place them together in a brown paper bag, checking every two to three days to remove the ripe ones.