Late-Season Tomatoes: Management, Season Extension and Preserving


Tomato plants before trimming 

Untrimmed tomatoes 

We can never grow enough tomatoes. It might be autumn by the calendar, but I’m not ready to give up on tomatoes just yet. They are my favorite vegetable and I will not let them go without a fight. Because we prefer the taste and productivity of heirloom indeterminate varieties, we typically grow 16 to 24 varieties, one plant of each. This gives us a great flavor mix for all the canning we do: salsa, stewed, sauce, soup, juice, catsup, and a long (for Wisconsin) tomato season to enjoy them fresh-picked from late July until early October.

By mid-September, the plants are huge and overgrowing their 5-foot concrete reinforcement wire cages, as seen in the first picture. Since any new flowers won’t have time to ripen before killing frost — which comes any time from mid-September to mid-October here in central Wisconsin — we give all of the plants a trimming and cut off the growing tips of each branch back to the last green fruits or to the top of the cage if there are no fruits beyond it. That makes it easier to cover the plants for the first few light frosts and let them continue to grow and ripen through Indian summer.

The tomatoes are shown with their haircuts in the photo below.

Tomato plants after trimming

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