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Perennial Tomatoes, Year Four

How to turn your favorite tomato into a perennial.

For the fourth year in a row I'm hoping to have perennial tomatoes. Well, more correctly they are tomato clones, I think, because it isn't really the original plant. Instead, I've been taking cuttings of my plants in the fall and keeping them alive over the winter - hopefully - and planting them again in the spring.

My perennial tomato experiment, year four.

Tomatoes are so easy to grow from cuttings. Just cut off a piece, stick it in a glass of water and wait awhile. Before long there will be little white roots. You can plant that rooted cutting in a pot or in the ground and it will grow into a big plant. Sometimes I've accidently knocked a branch off a plant, or cut one by accident while pruning, but it's a blessing in disguise because it just becomes an additional plant in my garden.

My perennial tomato experiment, year four.

For many years I wondered if I could keep some cuttings alive over the winter in order to plant them in the spring. Three years ago I finally remembered in time to try it, before the first frost hit. Most of the cuttings did make it to spring, and thrived in the garden to produce just like any other plant. I did it again the next winter, so that spring some of my plants were third generation. Last year, the third year, my cuttings died shortly after I brought them inside. This year I'm trying again.

My perennial tomato experiment, year four.

Our first frost was November 1st. In the afternoon of October 31st I cut a dozen branches from the still-thriving Arkansas Traveler plant growing in a tub in my front yard, and another half dozen from the mortgage lifter plants in the garden. Each cutting is about ten inches long. I removed the leaves from the bottom of each one.

My perennial tomato experiment, year four.

I stuck them in glass jars, six to a jar, and used filtered water this time. I'm not sure why my cuttings died last year, but this was the only thing I could change: using filtered water instead of tap water. Hopefully I won't have to use filtered water all winter long, but I'd like to be sure these have a good start before switching. (I let the tap water sit in an open jar overnight to allow the chlorine to dissipate before using it on my plants, but maybe we had heavily-chlorinated water that year.)

They'll live on my kitchen windowsill over the winter. If all goes well this time, I'll pot them up in January or so, and have nice big transplants in the spring. I'll grow other varieties from seed as usual - I could never over-winter enough plants for my needs - but this will give me a jump on the season. These large, strong transplants are ready to go into the garden as early as the weather allows.

You can read about each year's experiment here:
Part 1 - 10/10/12 
Part 2 - Update #1, Spring
Part 3 - Update #2, Year Two
Part 4 - How to Take Tomato Cuttings
Part 5 - Perennial Tomatoes: Year Four (This post)
Part 6 - Perennial Tomatoes: Year Five

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