With the first frost quickly approaching, it’s hard not to worry about how much longer we will have fresh tomatoes in the garden. In just a few short weeks we will be waking up to frost on the grass and dead tomato plants.
But before everything dies, there is one thing you can do to fix that problem. Something that will make it possible for you to enjoy fresh garden tomatoes through the winter too. You can move your favorite tomato plant inside before it freezes.
Now let me tell you, transplanting a full grown tomato plant is next to impossible …. which is why we will NOT be doing that. Besides, who can fit an 8 foot tall tomato plant in their living room? Not me that’s for sure! Actually, now that I think of it, maybe we could use it as our Christmas tree …… hmmmm.
But no, transplanting a full grown tomato plant is not a good idea. It’s chances of survival are very small. So rather than transplanting your favorite tomato, we will be taking a cutting from it. Cuttings have a very good chance of survival, they will produce tomatoes quicker, and starting with a small plant allows you to keep it compact enough to be inside.
First, you will want to pick the tomato you want to move indoors. There are some rules … or at least things to consider, before choosing which one. Although I would LOVE to grow my black krim cherry tomato inside all winter, it’s not a good idea. That particular tomato is by far the largest plant that I grow. It towers over 8 feet tall easily and sprawls out all over the place. Now imagine keeping that plant compact and happy at the same time …. not going to happen. Choose one of your smaller plants to move indoors. Although determinate varieties stay smaller, you may still want an indeterminate variety. Determinate tomatoes will produce all of their tomatoes at once. If you want your plant to produce throughout the winter instead of all at once, you will want to choose an indeterminate variety.
Once you have your tomato plant chosen, you are going to take your cutting. Find a sucker (the shoots that grow in between two other branches) 6 inches to 1 foot tall. Inspect it to make sure it has no disease on it. Then hold it gently and simply snip it off near the base. I suggest taking three or four cuttings in case they don’t all root.
Place them all in a glass of water. You will want the water to go up several inches, almost to the base of the leaves.
Leave it in a place you won’t forget about it. I don’t even put mine in the sun during this time and they do just fine. After a week or two you will see white roots coming out of the stem. Once they start, they grow quickly. Some tomato plants root slower than others. One of mine took nearly four weeks to root, so don’t give up on them for awhile. I can’t find my picture of the roots, when I do I will put it on here.
When your tomato plant has roots, it’s ready to be planted into your container of choice. Make sure your container has good drainage or your tomatoes will not do well. You will probably have to put it on a pan or something to catch the drainage water. Choose a larger container because tomato roots grow big and like plenty of room. Fill your pot with potting soil and plant your new little tomato being sure to bury all of the roots. Give it a nice big drink, and find it a sunny window to sit in front of. It needs sunlight, but it will also get pretty big, so finding a suitable spot for it might be a little difficult. Mine will probably have to go in the middle of my bathroom floor this year. I suppose it might be fun to get out of the shower and grab a tomato for breakfast on my way out!
The last thing you need to do is stick one of those pathetic wimpy store bought cages around it. Yes, they do have a use after all. You need something to hold your tomato plant up, but you also need a reference for where to prune it. You can prune tomato plants and keep them a reasonable size to be inside. Try to keep the pruning to a minimum, which is why you chose a smaller plant remember? But whenever a branch starts to grow way out of your support cage, you can prune it off a little bit to keep it in check. Don’t cut it off at the base, just cut the branch back a few inches to get it to stop growing in that direction. The plant will put it’s energy into a different branch and, more importantly, growing tomatoes. While I don’t prune my outdoor tomatoes because I prefer to let the plant get as large as it can, I do prune mine when they are being grown indoors. Different situations call for different methods. Maybe you prune yours outside, or maybe you choose not to prune yours indoors. It’s perfectly fine to do any of those options, just know that pruning tomatoes or not pruning tomatoes will not kill your plant.
Now you can happily pick tomatoes through the winter as well as the summer. In fact, in the spring you could simply take another cutting from your indoor tomato plant to move it back outside.
If you are a tomato lover like I am, be sure to check out my other posts about this wonderful garden treasure!
Or subscribe now to The Real Farmhouse and get my free Tomato Freaks Guide to Choosing, Growing, and Selling High End Tomatoes. 8 days full of tomato growing information that will turn you into a tomato growing expert!
Now one last thing… If you are serious about your tomatoes, you need to know this. Tomatofest.com has the largest and most impressive selection of organic and heirloom tomatoes I have ever seen. They have over 600 beautiful, unique, and rare varieties of all different colors, sizes, shapes, and flavors. In fact, this year I am trying out a blue tomato for the first time. Yes, blue! You can’t believe some of the stuff they have until you see it with your own eyes. CLICK HERE to visit this incredible organic and heirloom tomato seed supplier that is run by a couple who harvest their own seeds. If you aren’t buying your seeds through these guys, you are truly missing out on some great tomatoes.
Enjoy your winter tomatoes!