If you worry that you missed your window to plant tomatoes this year, never fear! Now is the perfect time to plant your tomato garden for a plentiful fall harvest. Get ready for another season of, “I grew that!” moments.
Growing fall tomatoes can be a lesson in patience, but oh, the rewards are so worth it. Growing fall tomatoes is fantastic for both beginners and experts; just imagine how rewarding it will be to enjoy the classic tomato sandwich well into Autumn.
Tomatoes are a fruit that is most commonly considered a vegetable. They’re a versatile food that can be a delicious addition to your breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND snack recipes. There is nothing like enjoying your first bite of a home-grown tomato.
Tomatoes grow best when growing in temperatures under 90 degrees. Tomato plants can even set fruit until the onset of frost, which is why autumn is becoming a favorite season for gardening experts. The joy of fall tomatoes arrives as a reward for making it through the heat of the summer. You might even discover that your fall tomato crop is more rewarding than your spring harvest.
Time to do the last bit of summer planting!
Tomatoes: Fruits or Vegetables?
The age-old argument of fruit vs veggie stands when it comes to tomatoes. They taste like a veggie, but scientifically, they qualify as a fruit. Here’s why!
Botanical fruits are determined by being formed from flowers, have seeds, and assist with the plant’s reproduction process. Vegetables are determined by the roots, stems, leaves, or other auxiliary parts of the plant.
From a chef’s perspective, tomatoes are labeled vegetables primarily based on their flavor profiles. Whether you call a tomato a fruit or vegetable, they always taste better when you get to pick them right from your own garden.
When to Plant Fall Tomatoes
Tomato plants are considered in season from the beginning of spring through to the end of fall. Depending on the climate you live in, your tomato crop might thrive differently during different times of the harvest season. Most tomato plants produce their first fruits after 60-75 days and once the temperatures dip below 90 degrees.
The key to knowing when to plant fall tomatoes is in the numbers. Count back 60-85 days from the average first frost date. Remember, if you are growing in a grow bag or a container garden that is easy to move, you can extend your tomato season by bringing your garden inside when the first cool temperatures arrive. The National Weather Service is a great resource to check the average first frost date in your area.
How to Grow Fall Tomatoes
Start with strong plant seedlings or transplants that are fully-rooted and healthy. Select heat-tolerant varieties, but think about focusing on those with small-to-medium-size tomatoes.
While growing your tomato garden, it is imperative to keep in mind where you are planting them in your yard or where you are placing your container gardens. Tomato plants are sensitive to prolonged, direct sun exposure, as well as temperatures that are too hot.
Your tomato garden will require full sun. That being said, it is best if your garden can soak up the morning sun, and enjoy some afternoon shade during the hottest part of the summer. Make sure you keep your tomato plants away from extreme heat! Keep in mind that summer planting of tomatoes (to harvest in the fall) requires daily watering.
When the soil temperatures become cooler than 85 degrees, the plants require full sunlight for the best production. Tomato flowers pollinate when daytime temperatures are below the mid-90s, and nighttime temperatures are below 75 degrees. Depending on the variety of tomato, it can take as little as 45 days for a ripe fruit to grow, or as long as 65 days.
Grow Pro Tip: If you are growing your tomatoes in a mobile container, you can bring them inside at night where indoor temperatures are below 75 degrees.
Tips for Fall Tomatoes
When planting your fall tomato garden, it is best to plant deeply. Keep the uppermost leaves right above the soil, all the way up to the first stem. This way, your plants will grow strong roots from each nodule on the stem. After you plant your tomatoes, be sure to apply mulch around the base of each plant.
Provide the tomatoes the nutrients they need throughout the growing season. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and will need a balanced ratio of sunlight, water, and nutrients. You should be mindful to fertilize your tomatoes when you first plant them. You can feed them again in 30 days, and once more at 60 days. When you are fertilizing, make sure to match the correct fertilizer with your soil.
For more tomato growing tips check out our article on 13 tips on growing tomatoes in containers.
Grow Pro Tips for Growing Fall Tomatoes
- Did you know eggshells provide a calcium boost for your tomato plants? Calcium is great for preventing blossom end rot. After making eggs in the kitchen, wash and dry the eggshells. From here, grind the shells to make a powder, then blend this powder with your soil.
- Tea leaves and coffee grounds are a great way to provide a small nitrogen boost to your plants. If you’re feeling extra creative, you can also throw any pet hair or human hair onto the soil; be sure to cut up the hair finely, so it will mix into the soil. Hair provides keratin, which is a protein that your tomato crop will greatly appreciate.
- Your tomato garden from Gardenuity will include two tomato plants, and companion herbs. Growing two plants together can help them mature and set fruit earlier!
Fall Tomato Varieties
Tomatoes love to set fruit after the temperatures drop in the fall. Here are some things to consider for your fall tomato garden.
- Determinate Tomatoes
- Determinate tomatoes are ideal for growing in the fall. This variety of fruit matures early, before the fruit actually sets. This makes it so that most of the plant’s growth occurs before you can see the bearing of the fruit. These tomatoes are known for ripening their fruit in the short period of two weeks. Keep an eye out for the Amelia tomato, the Celebrity tomato and the Bush Early Girl tomato.
- Cool Season Tomatoes
- Cool-season tomato plants consist of both determinate and indeterminate tomato varieties. Some hybrid and open-pollinated tomato varieties in the cool-season category include Celebrity, Cold Set, Bush Beefsteak and Sugar Baby.
- Early Tomatoes
- Early tomatoes, whether they are determinate or indeterminate, will set fruit in a shorter time and at a lower night temperature. Most early tomatoes are ready for harvest in 60 days or less.
- Indeterminate Tomatoes
- These tomatoes are also known as vine tomatoes, or cordon tomatoes. To harvest the best crop of intermediate tomatoes, you should invest in some staking in the ground in order to support these vines. Intermediate tomatoes grow much taller than determinate tomatoes, which is why they need staking to help hold them up. Indeterminate tomatoes will bloom, ripen and bear fruit all at the same time throughout the growing process.
Grow Pro Tip: A few of our favorite tomato varieties for fall include, but are not limited to: Red Cherry, Red Grape, Yellow Sun Gold, Yellow Sun Sugar, Little Porter, and La Roma Red.
Harvesting Tomatoes for Fall
The perfect time to pick your tomato from the vine is when it is in the “breaker stage”. According to an article by Joe Gardener, at this stage, your tomato will be ½ green and ½ pink and can be removed from its vine without any damage to the nutrition, quality or flavor.
For a complete walkthrough on how to harvest tomatoes check out our Complete Guide to Harvesting Tomatoes.
How to Cut Back Tomato Plants for Fall
Tomato plants can be cut back at any time, but for the best results, you should pay attention to how your plant is growing, in addition to what type of tomato you’re growing for your harvest. Indeterminate tomato plants are more like vines, so they should be cut back in order to acquire a second harvest. Determinate tomato plants are bushier, and they do not require pruning in order to harvest the fruit.
When cutting back your tomatoes, you should be sure to cut back the fruits that have been on the vine for about four to six weeks prior to pruning them.
Your tomato garden will be able to grow and set fruit until the first frost settles. Try planting your tomatoes in mid-august for the perfect fall tomato crop.
Tomato plants should be pruned only if they fall under the indeterminate variety. If this is the case, cut back the leaves in order to provide better airflow, produce larger fruit, and by removing dead flowers.
Your tomato plants should be watered every day in order to keep up a healthy diet of nutrients when temperatures are over 80 degrees.
Your tomato garden should live until it cannot survive any longer under the frosty climate.
Yes, you can grow tomatoes from old tomatoes. Especially if you are looking to harvest heirloom tomatoes; save the seeds and replant them. You will be surprised to see that you will soon have a brand new tomato plant blooming before your eyes.
Start Your Fall Tomato Garden Today
Whether you’re growing heirlooms or cherry tomatoes, start your tomato garden today so that your plants have time to flourish in the mid-August sunshine.
Now that you know you can definitely plant, grow, and harvest some tomatoes, what is stopping you from trying?
Pick up your Gardenuity Tomato Garden Kit today and get to gardening in order to receive your next big harvest.