October 7, 2013

Perennial Tomatoes, Year Two

Last fall, before the first frost, I took cuttings from my tomatoes and stuck them in a glass of water in my kitchen window. As they grew roots (and this variety evidently is a great rooter!), I moved them each to their own glass of water. (You can read about the first part of this grand experiment here: Perennial Tomatoes.)

I kept them going all winter long, and in late winter/early spring I potted them up, each in their own cup. I ran out of room on the kitchen windowsill. It's the only window that faces the right direction and the cats can't get up in. My cats love to eat anything green. Even if they didn't, they'd have knocked all the pots on the floor. Windows belong to cats, you know.

When the time came - when the days and nights were warm enough and the chance of frost was finally past - I planted them outside. I watered them. I waited for that first red tomato, and waited, and waited. There were flowers, but no fruit.

I was pretty sure it wasn't because they were cuttings. My pepper plants from the feed store didn't even bloom. Was it all the rain we had during the summer? The grasshoppers? Lack of bees? It was a mystery. Then I talked to other people who were having the same problem, so I knew it wasn't just my plants.

At the county fair, I talked to quite a few people who bemoaned the fact that they didn't get enough tomatoes to can. I mentioned it to our visiting former extension agent, who said he'd heard this from many people in several counties. He said that too much water or fertilizer can cause huge plants with no fruit, but if that were the cause there would have been no flowers. During the summer heat, the pollen becomes sterile, and he thinks that's what happened: for some unknown reason, the pollen was sterile. We'll probably never really know the cause.

I told him about my tomato experiment. He said yes, it could work, tomatoes keep growing until "they get frosted". He'd never thought about the concept before, but yes, it could work...

Now I have little green tomatoes, big green tomatoes, orange tomatoes... and delicious red tomatoes! It works! Hopefully the first frost will hold off long enough for all the green ones to ripen.

This will work with any variety of tomato you happen to grow. Some varieties will grow better in water and root better than others. Even if you are currently growing hybrid tomatoes, they will produce fruit true to type, because they are grown from the same plant instead of seeds.

And it will soon be time to take cuttings from these plants to put in water on my kitchen windowsill again. Year Three? I'll give it a try.

Part 1 - 10/10/12

Part 2 - Update #1, Spring

Part 3 - Update #2, Year Two (This post)

Part 4 - How to Take Tomato Cuttings

This post has been shared at the following:
Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, the Backyard Farming Connection, Mountain Woman Journals, Tilly's Nest, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways,  the HomeAcre Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, Home and Garden Thursday, From the Farm, Farmgirl Friday, The Homesteaders Hop, Clever Chicks, Tuesday Greens
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  1. I'm going to try this. We also had such a terrible tomoto year, but with the cooler temps we're getting some fruit again. I can't wait to see what happens for you next year.

  2. Thank you, Angi. This terrible tomato year is a mystery, isn't it? I hope you'll give this a try, and let me know your results.

  3. I've so gotta try this! Out of the 5 varieties we planted, 2 did great. Unfortunately, I don't know what they were (1 was given to me by a stranger at a store), so I can't go buy them again. Problem solved - cuttings!

  4. That's perfect, Nikki! Take lots of cuttings since you can't replace these plants.

  5. I wish I would have read this earlier, I have to try this.

  6. File it away for next year, Kathy!

  7. That is awesome and when I finally get a plant that is disease resistant I will do just that! I have had a hard time for the past few years with some dreadful blight and I need to get out there and find a better plant. Once I do, I'll be unstoppable in my propagating! Very clever!

  8. Wishing you luck finding a disease-resistant tomato variety. Do you rotate where you plant them each year?

  9. Janice K.8:16 AM

    Does this have anything to do with the fact that your tomatoes might be 'determinate' and not 'indeterminate'? We live in eastern WA and I had a ton of tomatoes this year. We used compost from the compost bin when we planted them and I didn't have to even fertilize this year. It was the year of the tomato, cucumbers, peppers!

  10. Hi Janice, I grow an indeterminate variety, so I don't think that was the reason. It was evidently just some weird regional thing this year. I hope next year is better!

  11. Now you have me excited to try this next year, as the frost has been here for a couple of weeks..I once had a volunteer tomato that was more frost resistant and when I brought the ripening fruit into the house it ripened perfectly and lasted longer. What I would give to know what that beauty was!!

  12. Janice, I'd love to know what kind that tomato was too. This would be a great way to keep an unknown variety going.

  13. Clever idea! Thanks for sharing it on Tuesday Greens!

  14. I'm heading outside to take some cutting right now! Here in Calif.we haven't had a frost yet so my Big Boy plant is still giving us a few tomatoes! Thanks for the great posts!I'll be a follower! I "garden" at www.theradishpatch.com and I'll share your posts! Thanks,Donna

  15. I have been doing this for a few years. It is a great way to get tomato plants to fruit earlier. I have found in my garden that overwintered cuttings like this will set fruit about 2 months earlier than seed grown plants.

  16. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead7:45 PM

    Thank you, Damo. Great observation; I hadn't noticed.


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