I woke up one morning last week to a low temperature of just 37°! Oh my, the forecast was for 42° and I hadn't worried about the tomato and pepper plants at all. I was anxious all that morning, but fortunately it wasn't cold enough to frost-nip the plants - yet. This just reinforces the fact that we can't count on that "average first frost date". It is, after all, just an average.
So, in order to keep my "perennial tomatoes" going, I took the cuttings to keep indoors over the winter, and I thought I'd show you how I do it.
I cut more than I want to plant in the spring. Inevitably, some of them will die over the winter. On the other hand, I know from experience that I will be taking cuttings from these cuttings as winter progresses, to keep them from getting too tall and leggy.
Since my plants were sprawling across the lawn, I cut the longest branches off, and then I went to work. If there was a sucker that was long enough, I cut that off first, and put it in water. Suckers are new stems that will grow at a junction point. It will look like the middle spike of a fork, sort of. See the photo above.
Of what was left of the branch, I'd cut off the flowers (above), and then the lower leaves (below), and discard them.
It isn't necessary to have a leaf node on the stem you will keep; tomatoes will root from the tiny hairs along the stem. So I just cut the stem to a good length.
They are heavy drinkers, so check the water level daily.
I've been asked if I only use suckers but I don't discriminate, I use both the tops of branches and suckers. I've only ever used an indeterminate tomato variety, so I can't vouch for the success of using a determinate variety.
A word of caution: if you are growing a rare heirloom, or a variety that you really don't want to lose, please don't "keep all your eggs in one basket," in other words, save seeds too. Things happen, and you could lose all of your cuttings before spring arrives. It never hurts to have a back-up plan!
Check out these posts for more information about my perennial tomato plant experiment:
Part 1 - 10/10/12
Part 2 - Update #1, Spring
Part 3 - Update #2, Year Two
Part 4 - How to Take Tomato Cuttings (This post)