Harvest & Increase Your Yield of Tomatoes
Start your tomatoes early in the year using the heat of your house and growing them in the early stages on the window ledges of your house. This means you have tomatoes ready when they are expensive in the shops, especially if the grower has had to pay to heat his greenhouses. If you suffer from pollen, then have a cold frame or space in the greenhouse ready to take the plants just before the flowers show signs of opening indoors.
On tomatoes grown upright as cordens remove all sideshoots throughout the season.
In mid-August for outdoor tomatoes and mid-September for cold greenhouse, remove the growing tip of the main stem of the plant at least two leaves beyond the last truss. The outdoor plants should give you at least four trusses with the fruit set, and in the cold greenhouse six trusses. For each variety you grow, note in your log book or diary how long it takes the last truss to ripen if you plan to grow them again next year. The times given in this paragraph are for the South of England in the UK. Take off two weeks for the North of England.
After mid-August, remove the mature leaves beneath the lowest truss of fruit. Removal of these leaves will encourage the plant to channel its resources into fruit production and improve ventilation close to the soil. Use a sharp knife make a clean cut flush with the stem. Any leaves that turn yellow should be removed completely
It is tempting to think in a hot summer that tomatoes will keep growing and ripening forever more. But as the nights draw in the plant will be slower to swell more fruits. So it is best, if the aim is to obtain maximum ripe red tomatoes, to be ruthless and automatically remove the growing tip at the times stated.
Mesh net cover over tomatoes
Protect tomatoes stored or ripening indoors from flies by covering them with a mesh net as shown above. If flies attack the tomatoes they will go off and taste vinegary. Buy the mesh covers here for UK or here for USA.
You can let the tomatoes ripen on a sunny south facing border. Alternatively if you have room indoors you can start picking some when they show signs of turning orange and bring them indoors to ripen especially in a poor wet summer. This will encourage the plant to concentrate on growing and swelling the remaining fruit.
How to ripen green tomatoes indoors.
Wrap tomatoes in a mature green state individually in tissue paper and place them, stalk end up, as one layer in a box. Boxes can be stacked on a table or platform off of the ground. Tomatoes ripen at 14-21°C (58-70°F), and 85-95% relative humidity. Wrapping the tomatoes in tissue helps to prevent rotting. Store them in an area with some air circulation such as basement, back porch or garage.
They should turn orange within three to four weeks. Some tomatoes can be hastened into ripening by putting into a bag with ripe apple or banana. The smell (that is the ethylene gas) of a ripe fruit will accelerate the ripening of the tomatoes. Inspect the tomatoes regularly and remove any that show signs of decay.
Mature green means that the tomato has all its pulp (juices or jelly) inside and just shows signs of an orange or reddish tinge on its stalk end. Incidentally, Florida, which is the largest producer of tomatoes in the U.S., ships almost its entire production mature green.
Tomatoes will ripen satisfactorily in the dark. Sunlight is not needed, but the temperature is important.
However in the later stages of ripening, once the tomato had turned orange, in September and October I place trays of ripening tomatoes on the South facing windowledge of our kitchen. Though it faces the sun, it is through frosted glass and sunlight of Autumn is not as strong as that of Summer. The kitchen is also the hottest room of the house in Autumn.
Try and harvest all tomatoes from the plant before the first frost. Green tomatoes hit by a light frost should ripen indoors, but any heavier and they will not ripen and should be used straight away.
How to cope with a glut of red and green Tomatoes!
There usually a glut of green tomatoes at the end of the summer, so here are some further suggestions for using these tomatoes. They can be roasted with onions so that the mild acidity of the green tomatoes is blended with the sweetness of the onions cooked at the same time. Dice some green tomatoes and add them to a curry or stockpot. If you have any further comments please add them to comments form using the link further down this page.