Extending the tomato season

28 Mar

Fading tomatoes

I love, love, love tomatoes. So I get sad at this time of year when the plants are dying back and the fruit are looking dodgy.

I’ve been trying to raise some cold-tolerant varieties of tomatoes from seed, but for some reason they are a bit slow off the mark. My main tomato plants have died back significantly, and although they still have lots of fruit on there, it is high on the plant (so suffering from sunburn), and some of the fruit is getting leathery. The growing tips however still look wonderful and healthy, which gave me an idea.

Tomato cutting

I have read about growing tomatoes from cuttings. The idea is that you cut out a growing tip (either the top of the plant or a lateral shoot) and bury it deeply in some soil. Apparently you need to keep it well watered and protected for a few days, then it will take root. Apparently cuttings produce hardier plants than the original, but I’ll have to test that one out.

J helps me plant the cutting

I took a few cuttings high up on my plants, and J helped my plant them into some pots. I used a mixture of cow manure and potting mix as the medium, and watered with a mixture of seasol and tomato fertiliser. After that they were looking a little worse for wear, but I hope they will put out roots and recover. After this photo was taken I covered the leftmost one with a plastic bag to keep the humidity up, and this evening I brought them under cover. I’ll leave them in shade until they either recover or die.

The tomato cuttings looking worse for wear

Tonight I pulled out the dying tomato plants. I experimented today with the remaining green fruit by making green tomato cupcakes, which are a bit like a apple, sultana and walnut muffin. The green tomatoes are tart like granny smith apples – it works surprisingly well! While you are checking out the recipe, have a look at the $120 food challenge blog – it’s full of great budget recipes and resources.


Update: After some advice from those in the know, I’ve lopped the side leaves off and planted them much deeper. Hopefully they won’t lose as much moisture that way, and will survive. Fingers crossed!

8 Responses to “Extending the tomato season”

  1. Jodi March 29, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    Hi there,

    The trick to transplanting most things is minimising the amount of water a plant looses via transpiration. To do this we need to cut the remaining leaves in half (half way between the stem and leaf tip). I tend to leave the smallest leaves at the very top whole. This will allow the plant to continue photosynthesising, what it needs to in order to grow, and at the same time the conserving water and energy that your cutting needs to make new shoots. Tomatoes leaves, being so big, wilt very quickly if left whole. Have a go cutting the leaves of the ones you have already transplanted. Its interesting to note the difference it makes when you finally do cut them. The stems generally bounce back pretty quickly.

    You could try putting your cuttings in a glass of water for a week and see what happens 😉

    • L March 29, 2011 at 8:42 am #

      You can tell I’m an amateur at this, can’t you? 🙂 I don’t seems to have a great success rate one things start to droop.

      I’ll see what I can salvage!

    • L March 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      Thanks so much for the tips. Another friend of mine (an agricultural scientist) agrees with you, so I’ve lopped the side leaves off and planted them much deeper. Fingers crossed!

  2. The New Good Life March 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Good luck with the cuttings. I finally took the plunge and pulled up my tomato plants on the weekend. I also have a pile of green tomatoes that I’m planning on making into green tomato pickles later in the week.

    I have already planted some broadbeans and silverbeet where the tomatoes were. I’m trying growing them from seeds which is something I haven’t always had great success with – hopefully these will work out better than my other attempts.

    • L March 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      Ooh – I like the idea of green tomato pickles! Do you have a favourite recipe you can share?

      I have bowed to those wiser than myself and removed the side leaves and half the stalk and buried them deeper. I do think they are looking better for it.

      I am planning to plant broad beans in my tomato spot too! Just need to add some manure and lime to the soil, then mulch and plant. Might even get to it this afternoon 🙂

      • The New Good Life April 2, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

        I have two recipes for Green Tomato Pickles – I’ll post them when I have a bit more time.

        Good luck with your broadbeans – let me know any secrets or tips you pick up along the way.

  3. Asydfoodie April 4, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    I cut my tomatoes back, and one of them seems to have restarted and has lots of new growth, flowers and cherry tomatoes. It does have a large planter box to move around in though


  1. A break in the weather « 500m2 in Sydney - May 31, 2011

    […] and I might need to transplant them into separate pots soon. On the right is the only surviving cutting from my mini romas over summer. They are flowering now, so hopefully I’l be back in tomatoes […]

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