According to all my gardening resources, it is time to start prepping for fall tomatoes.
Most nurseries don’t carry autumn tomatoes, so your best bet is either to try to work with a small local nursery (to see if they can get some baby tomato plants for you) or start your own.
Why “Fall Tomatoes” Instead of Nursing the Ones I Started in the Spring?
Tomato plants that were started in the spring have now run up to the heat of summer (especially in the south). They will be struggling to survive through the hottest months of the year, and not as concerned about producing fruit.
I am not saying pull your current tomato plants out of the garden and plant new ones. My tomato plants still have fruit on them (albeit green) and they still have loads of blossoms. At the moment, I am simply getting my fall plants ready for planting.
Neil Sperry comes in clutch with a great, and more scientific, answer to the question, ‘Why would I want to plant fall tomatoes instead of just continuing with the ones I planted in the spring?’:
“By late spring and early summer each year gardeners are usually frustrated by early blight, spider mites, splitting fruit, tomato fruit worms, blossom-end rot and other problems that beset their spring tomatoes that try to ripen in heat.
The fall crop, by comparison, is freed from all of these issues. You’ll get picture-perfect fruit of the highest flavor and texture.”
As the heat of the summer fades, tomato plants will be getting more of the temperatures they like, warm but not scorching.
* Another great tip for helping your tomatoes through this heat: Don’t water the leaves. Only water the ground near the roots…I know it is so much easier to just set the sprinkler and a timer, but watering the leaves can lead to fungus with turns the leaves yellow. *
Start from Seeds or Cuttings?
I started the vast majority of my current tomato plants from seeds, and I will be doing that again for the fall, but I am also rooting cutting from my current plants – “cloning them” as some say.
For more information or to review my starting from seeds post, click here.
If you saved some seeds from your spring harvests now is a great time to reinvest them in your garden.
Last year I shared a post about tomato suckers (for a refresher, click here). This year, the suckers grew so fast and produced fruit so quickly, I was not able to stay on top of pruning them off. As I said, they produced fruit, but the volume of suckers I have might be why my plants are not producing much fruit at the moment…that of this crazy heat.
Anyway, I am going to make some lemonade out of this sucker situation. I have clipped off some of the well-established suckers (4-7 inches long) and placed them each in a glass bottle in a well-lit windowsill to grow roots.
Make sure to have the newer growth under the waterline. They suck water up like a straw so you will need to top off your container 2, maybe even 3, times a day. The older growth is too woody to sprout roots, so you may also want to trim them a little to make sure a newer section of the stem is under water.
Once their roots resemble Rapunzel’s long locks, I will begin taking them outside to re-acclimate to the full, hot sun before transplanting them into my well-prepared garden soil.
By using cuttings that also happen to be suckers, I am sort of killing two birds with one stone.
This process and concept work well with any tomato plant cutting (in the event you’ve managed to stay on top of your sucker pruning better than I have).
Final note on fall tomatoes: I WILL be planting an egg under each of them again like I did in the spring. Since trying that secret BER (Blossom End Rot) has been almost nonexistent in my daily harvests.
Will you be planting more tomatoes for the fall? If so, how do you prefer to get your autumn babies started?