October 6, 2014

Perennial Tomatoes, a Repost

For the past several years I've taken cuttings of my tomato plants before the first fall frost
and kept them alive on my kitchen windowsill so that I could plant strong, healthy plants
in the spring. Although last year my cuttings died, my other attempts have been
successful, and it's wonderful to have plants ready to go in the garden as soon as
the weather is warm enough. My local big box stores charge a premium price for 
plants this size, plus mine are heirlooms. (The ones I've grown in the past haven't always 
been heirloom varieties, but that's all I grow now.) 

This is a repost from an ongoing series with an original publish date of 10/10/12. I wanted to be sure you see it early enough that you can take cuttings of your plants before the first frost hits your area. Be sure to tell us if you do this, and about your results by posting in the comments below.

Remember my intention to keep my tomato plants alive all winter?

I took cuttings from my adult plants last fall, before the first frost. I did the Bradley variety first, since they were the easiest plants to get to, and a frost was looming. However, it didn't materialize, and I was able to also get cuttings from the Early Girl plants before loosing all the plants to winter. If you stick tomato cuttings into a glass of water and wait, you will get roots.

I changed the water weekly, but I think the cuttings would benefit greatly from some compost tea during the winter months. I lost the Bradley cuttings in January. Since I'd cut them several weeks earlier than the others, I think they just ran out of energy and sustenance, and they gave up. However, the Early Girl plants did well all winter, until the end of February when their dark green leaves began to lighten.

One had grown so tall and had even bloomed once. I pinched the flower off, not wanting the plant to put energy into producing fruit. I cut the plant in half and stuck the top half into a glass of water so that it too can root.

This week I potted them up.

I poked holes in the bottom of plastic cups.

I put some potting soil in the bottom of the cup, but not too much, since the "stems" on my plants were really long. I placed the roots and stem carefully into the potting soil, and added more soil with a spoon.

Once the cup was full, I compacted the potting soil with my fingers, and added more to bring it back up to the brim.

I watered them well, and let them set in the sink for awhile to drain. Remember, they've been living in pure water all winter long, so I'm sure they need lots of moisture for awhile until they adapt to their new environment.

Now, I have five potted tomato plants, already the size that nurseries will charge a premium price for this spring. They have very healthy root systems. Once the newest cutting develops roots I'll pot it up too, giving me half a dozen plants. I've bypassed the stage of fragile little seedlings that are so easy to lose to fungus, hard to harden off, and so attractive to cutworms.

Only six plants? Well, I lost some, remember. This was enough to test my theory that it would be possible to "clone" your own tomato plants. Next fall I can raise more, using cuttings from these plants, which are clones of last year's plants. To me, that's pretty exciting!

 Some varieties might work better than others. The Bradley cuttings never developed the good root system that the Early Girls did; the Bradleys had a few long, long roots, where the Early Girls had so many more roots.

We're limited only by the number of sunny windowsills we have! (Unfortunately, I have only one east-facing window, no south windows, and only one west-facing window that the housecats can't access.)

Let me know if you do this next winter, what varieties you used, and if it's successful!

Part 1 - 10/10/12

Part 2 - 2/27/13  (That's this post!)

Part 3 - 10/7/13

Part 4 - How to Take Tomato Cuttings

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. I'll be trying it this year! I've already had one cutting in a jar since April or so, but I doubt that one will last the whole winter. It even made a cute little cherry-sized tomato for me a month or so ago! lol It was so cute...

  2. Rose, it actually bore a tomato while growing in a jar? Wow!

  3. Thank you for sharing your experiments with us, especially over such a long period of time. I love experimenting with different growing methods. I tried this last year and we left for a weekend not expecting a frost over that weekend, but it happened, and my cutting was still outside :-(

    Mother nature paid me back though, she gave me a wonderful volunteer tomato this year.

  4. What a great idea, too late to try it this year but definitely going to try this next year!

  5. Anna, I hope you'll try it again. How nice that you had a volunteer tomato plant this year. Surprises are the best!

    Nancy, I'm sorry you missed it this year, but I hope you'll give it a try next year.

  6. Hmm, I might have to try that. How much sun did they get during the day? I'm not sure I have a good window for it....

  7. Anonymous8:00 AM

    To late for me this year but will try it next year. My geraniums( i have 2) were 4 years old this year, just before the first frost i put them in the basement and once a month i give a couple of tablespoons of water, Then early spring I bring out during the day
    until they readjust to the weather, then I trim and clean them and they are ready for another year. I did take acutting this year and it has rooted, yesterday i potted it. If all goes well I will have a new plant by spring.
    Have a great week


  8. Ruth, my east-facing window gets about six hours of direct sunlight right now. That will decrease over the winter of course, but it was enough evidently. I hope you are successful!

  9. Coni, your geraniums sound great and very well-cared-for. Four years is a great accomplishment. You should be able to do tomatoes with no problem!

  10. This is brilliant, Kathi! I'm so glad you reposted this. I've taken cuttings and rooted them all summer but never kept one overwinter. I'm going to see how that will work for me. Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. They're so easy to root, aren't they? That's why I thought I'd try it over the winter, and it worked! I hope it works for you too.

  12. Kathi - yes it did!! I was amazed!

  13. That's amazing, Rose - how cute!

  14. I love this post, Kathi. If I had tomato plants right now I would so try this over the winter. It will be on my list next year!

    1. Heidi, I hope you will remember to tell me how it works for you.
      Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

  15. What a fantastic idea! You are so resourceful. It must feel good to outsmart "the big guys". Thank you for sharing your outdoor post on this week's Maple Hill Hop!

    1. Daisy, I've always had trouble keeping seedlings alive in the garden. This gives me bigger healthier plants to transplant, and I've had much more success.. Thank you for stopping by.
      Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

  16. Very intriguing! I've never saved cuttings from my tomato plants- I think I figured our 9 months of winter would never allow it- but perhaps I will have to scrawl this in my garden ideas book to try next year (our tomatoes were pulled a few weeks ago with the first frost).

    Thanks for sharing!


  17. Erin - 9 months of winter! Oh my, I had to go read your blog and see where you live! LOL!

    We lived in Wyoming for several years and loved the saying "we have two seasons, winter and the Fourth of July, and sometimes it snows on the Fourth of July."

    Here's hoping you have a mild winter this year.

  18. I have already pulled my tomatoes, but I will definitely bookmark this post so I can try it next year. I too only grown heirloom plants. Thanks for the nice article.

  19. Rhonda, thank you for visiting and for your comment. I hope you'll give this a try next year!

  20. Hello Kathi,
    we're doing it with our tomato plants.
    Have a nice week !



  21. Yay! I'm glad you're doing it too, Uwe.


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