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Author Topic: Overwintering Tomato Plants  (Read 7322 times)
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jamesj24
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« on: April 06, 2012, 03:52:28 PM »

Tomato plants are perennial plants, surviving for years in warmer climates. 

This year, I'm planting my tomatoes in containers so that I can keep the winners for next year.

Have you ever kept your tomato plants for more than one season? 

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Jim
1/2 acre, Pleasant Hill, CA (Walnut Creek/Concord)
USDA Zone 9; Sunset Western Garden Book Zone 14/15
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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2012, 05:03:13 PM »

No but peppers are also perennials and I've kept them several times.  I didn't try to keep them bearing.  I discovered this by accident one year when frost got one of my favorites.  It was already potted and I took it in the GH to try to save it.  It died down to the ground anyway.  I just left it sitting there out of laziness and set a couple small pots of seedlings on it, like using it for a table.  I was surprised when it started coming back out with warmth and the little water that drained off the seedlings.  I lost them all when we had that real cold spell in 2010 so a heat source is important for reliable over wintering.
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tbird
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2012, 05:31:02 PM »

  A tomato is as you said a perennial plant that will live until environmental conditions kill it or very long life.  The problem is that tomatoes do not produce in their second or subsequent years nearly as well as their first.  Therefore it is not feasible from a production standpoint to over winter the tomato plant.  BUT,  it is feasible if you have the ability to take a cutting off of tomato plants, root them and keep them over winter for replanting in spring.  My grandfather in New Orleans bought tomatoes in spring one year and grew them, took cuttings in early summer, planted them in the garden in mid August, took more cuttings in October and used them to over winter which he planted the following spring.  My dad used to always kid him that he only bought tomato plants once in his life.   Wink


  The advantage is that the plant that is grown from the cutting is a 100% identical plant because it is the same plant.  Therefore you take the cuttings from the plants that grow best in your garden and the next crop will be the same plants.  also let's say you like to grow a particular variety that you may have to start from seed because it is generally not available in a nursery or big box store.  By taking a cutting you save the problem of possible failure in germinating that variety the following year.  Tomatoes are generally not expensive to buy as sets so you won't really save money and considering the year round care it is not time efficient, but it can be worth it for some varieties.    Also when you buy from nurseries or big box stores you risk diseases coming into your garden that might otherwise be avoided by re-growing your own disease free plants.  Wink


  Pardon me James for not saying this sooner,  but Welcome to the forum and may you enjoy your time here!   Grin
« Last Edit: April 06, 2012, 05:34:39 PM by tbird » Logged

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jamesj24
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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2012, 07:40:11 PM »

Thank you for the information.  With hybrids, it is hit or miss, some are winners.  I tried covering and almost burying them to protect them through the winter, but they all died.  I regret not having taken a cutting of some tomato plants I had last year that were extraordinary producers.  That's why I decided to plant them in pots this year, allowing the roots to grow into the ground, them pulling up the winners and keeping them inside for the winter.  

I had a similar experience with my squash last year.  They did poorly until the fall, when they suddenly began producing with the cooling of the temperatures.  I am in California, 35 miles inland from San Francisco, where the summers are quite hot and dry.  I tried building a cold frame around them last fall, but they perished in the winter.  It seems that their productive lives could be extended if they had proper shelter.  

There was a famous long-lived cherry tomato at Epcot Center: "The greenhouse’s biggest SINGLE tomato plant yielded a total of 32,000 tomatoes by the time it reached 16 months!  They even won a Guinness World Record for the most tomatoes harvested from a single plant in a single year."  http://thephotogardenbee.com/2010/01/03/disneys-epcot-greenhouses-are-amazing-part-i-the-land/  



At Epcot Center: Tomato Plants hung vertically yield great numbers in their harvest © Britt Conley


I've also heard that peppers can grow as big as trees in warm climates.  
« Last Edit: April 07, 2012, 08:12:06 AM by jamesj24 » Logged

Jim
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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2012, 10:11:13 PM »

I've found that the stems of peppers and tomatoes get very woody with old age.  A spring planted tomato that I keep over the summer refuses to bear on that old wood and only fruits on the young tip growth once it cools down in the fall.  Therefore, I get better results for fall by taking cuttings as tbird described.  I can start seeds around New Years and they'll be blooming by set out time.  I prune my peppers in late summer and feed them.  That rejuvenates them and revs up production til frost which is around Nov. 20.  A wintered over pepper can get you a little earlier production but it still has to be cut to the ground because the old wood isn't productive.  It really is more trouble than it's worth unless you have a heated greenhouse. 

I've read that a lot of people in SF keep tropicals going year round outdoors.  Maybe your inland location gets colder but I think you could probably do well with some of the Canadian or Russian tomatoes that you could cover with a trash can if you have only occasional frosty nights.  Some of them make full sized fruit on very dwarf plants and set when the nights are in the low 40s.  They're not as good as main season tomatoes but they're 100% better than what's in the grocery stores.
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jamesj24
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2012, 07:49:24 AM »

Ah, I think you've hit on the core of the problem: the woodiness of older plants that slows or stops fruit production.  I asked my horticulture teacher in a class I took a few years ago, why farms don't keep tomatoes growing for multiple seasons because it would save so much work for not having to replant.  He said that the farmers find the advantages of having young, vigorous, new plants far outweigh the advantage of starting out with fully mature plants from a prior growing season, whose production value drops with age.  They are probably more prone to diseases and pests as well.  I asked a neighbor of mine, who is a gardener in his 80s about overwintering of tomatoes, and he said that he had heard it has been a failure in this area (Walnut Creek/Concord, CA) unless one has a greenhouse.

Starting seeds indoors has become almost a second nature practice for serious gardeners, and, as you say, they can practically start the growing season with mature or nearly-mature plants, in the early summer.  In fact, I recently bought some beautiful tomato plants with blossoms on them already.  That makes it easier to start over with new plants rather than overwintering plants.  It sounds as if one should cut a 2nd year or older plant back, allowing as much new growth as possible.  At least the roots would be fully grown, saving the plant from having to spend so much time and energy doing that before actually producing tomatoes.  

I don't think most tomato plants will survive the winters in my climate, which has at least 2 months of nightly temperatures in the 30's.  I read that tomatoes need a minimum winter temperature of 40 o F to survive overwintering, which is possible in Southern California, though the Canadian or Russian tomatoes you mention are worth trying.  
« Last Edit: April 07, 2012, 07:58:39 AM by jamesj24 » Logged

Jim
1/2 acre, Pleasant Hill, CA (Walnut Creek/Concord)
USDA Zone 9; Sunset Western Garden Book Zone 14/15
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