The tomato is a beloved fruit that is synonymous with summer. It is a staple in many dishes, from burgers to salads to homemade pasta sauce. However, as summer ends, so does the tomato harvest. But what if it didn’t have to? What if you could extend the season and continue enjoying fresh tomatoes?
Late summer is the time when tomato plants are at their peak and bearing ripe fruit. But how do you keep them going well into winter? Here are my top tips that allow me to enjoy a much extended tomato harvest year after year.
1. Prune Properly
Pruning is essential for redirecting the plant’s energy to where it’s needed most: the fruit. It also increases air circulation, which deters diseases.
I have a full tomato pruning guide you can find here. But the short version is this:
- Remove sideshoots
- Remove lower leaves
- Remove any damaged areas
- Never top the plant
2. Grow Undercover
The biggest step you can take to extend your tomato harvest here in the UK is to grow your tomatoes in a greenhouse.
This prolongs the growing season at both ends of the year and gives you a few extra weeks of growing time.
It also has the added benefit of helping to protect against blight.
3. Grow In The Ground
I am a big advocate for growing everything in the ground if possible, even in a greenhouse. This is why I put raised beds in my greenhouse.
Your plants will be bigger and healthier, and they will also keep growing for a lot longer. A pot or grow bag is always going to have a limited amount of nutrition and space.
Once the plant hits these limits they stop growing, meaning no more tomatoes for you.
Even growing in the ground, as summer progresses, the nutrients in the soil get depleted. Tomatoes, being heavy feeders, need a nutrient top-up to continue producing quality fruits.
5. Heat Your Greenhouse
As cooler weather approaches your tomato growth will slow down, before being eventually killed by the arrival of the first frosts of the year.
You can slow down this process by heating your greenhouse.
Now this doesn’t need to be expensive, and there are lots of cheap ways to do this. Infact I have a whole article on it.
One of my favourite ways are these cheap DIY candle heaters. When done properly they can give you a precious few more weeks of growing time.
Even with all of these factors, one of the biggest elements is going to be luck.
You can’t do much about the weather and if we have an awful autumn then you will always be fighting an uphill battle.
But if you follow along with my tips then you will buy yourself a few extra weeks at minimum, and, if you are lucky, possibly a lot longer!