The cherry tomato plants were looking really sad, half-dead, leggy and non-productive. With a good two months until first frost, it’s time to start new plants. So, whack them off just right above where new shoots are starting, about 8 inches from the ground. These will now grow quickly and have new cherry tomatoes in probably about six weeks since they have huge root systems.
To replace the determinate variety that is long gone, snip some cuttings from the top growth to root. Because shoving them all into a single jar makes for tangled roots that rip when separated, try this little system: Put each cutting into a test tube filled with filtered water. If there’s more than one variety, you can easily label the tubes.
A very economical set of 25 tubes with a cardboard rack can be found on Amazon for just $6.99 with Prime shipping. Set this “rooting rack” in a window with good light and expect roots within a few days. Tomatoes love to make roots. The cuttings drink, so check the water level daily.
When the cuttings are well rooted, you can pot them up to set out when they show good growth or put them right into a garden area they you can tend and keep evenly watered at least until they put on strong growth.
This works equally well for cherries and full-sized tomato varieties. If there are still green tomatoes when frost hits, go ahead and pick them. Those with just a bit of color will slowly ripen on a windowsill and the ones still hard green make wonderful relishes and pickles. No work to speak of, a bonus tomato crop and it’s free.
The test tubes are an inexpensive investment. Scrub out them out and store them away for next year. Before re-using, give them a quick swish with white vinegar, just in case.
Before you store them for next year, consider rooting some herbs to grow out during the winter. Lemon verbena comes first to mind, then rosemary and lavender.
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.