Getting Tomatoes to Ripen

Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)August 13, 2006

OK, I know there's a tomato forum, but their culture in the PNW is quite different than most of the country. I also know this subject comes up about this time every let me be the one to get it rolling this time!

Anyone have any cultural practices to prompt their tomatoes to start ripening? I'm growing only 4 plants (well, there are also a few volunteers I didn't pull out) this year: Navidad and Sun Sugar. I've picked 4-5 Sun Sugars, but don't see any more ripening. Does anyone start to withhold water to signal the plants that it's time to get on with the ripening process?


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What I did in the past is pinch off the tips where there are blossoms to get the plants to put their energy into ripening the fruit and stop growing taller. Then if they go too long, when it starts to get cold, I'd just pull up the whole plant and hang them up somewhere like the garage and let them finish ripening up.

Worked for me.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 11:37AM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

I work on getting them started sooner to ripen sooner. I started them under lights 4 per Jiffy 7 peat pot Feb. 15 then transplanted into individual 2.25" pots when they had true leaves. After they reached the lights at about 11" I hardened them off and planted outside. I use a TunLCover tunnel to set plants out April 1-15, which has 30 year lows of 29-32* F.

But like you the ripe tomatoes are just now trickling in, but I have a lot of green ones that will start soon. I hope we don't get the early rains this year that trigger blight. We went several years without any blight but I had it the last 2 years.

I got one ripe 15 oz tomato, Wes, and a couple of 8 oz Verna's Orange Oxhearts, a couple of Clear Pink, and some smaller tomatoes- Juliet, Principe Borghese, Rousich, and a Taxi, Kharborovsky, and Persey so far. I should try the picking blossoms off on one plant and not on another and see if it makes a difference. Another thing I do is to try to grow mainly tomatoes with DTM of 60-75 days, though I try some others too.

What are you growing?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 12:45PM
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I get great results from the cherry types, especially yellow-pear, so I tend to lean that way since they're very good performers here. This year I also tried some variegated-leaf tomatoes as a novelty (fun white-striped fruit that turns red when ripe). Those I kept in a container to build up as much heat as possible.

A neighbor just pinched the tips and then stipped off all the foliage on his plants--has anyone tried this and what do you think of it?

Take care,

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 7:50PM
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keithaxis(z4 Wash State)

if you take off all foilage then you are basically almost killing the plant. Foilage is photosynthesis and without it you will not have much of a growing plant..

It is all in the warmth that makes em ripen. Just look at how they ripen when it is 85 out. We have a real nice week coming up of warm weather again...I grow mostly OP late season varieties so I have to just be patient...all things that make us wait are usually worth it..

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 3:04PM
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I use red plastic mulch, prune the lower leaves and pinch off all new growth beginning in August. As soon as the nights turn cool (ah, the nights are always cool where I am; I mean as soon as the nights turn even cooler) I spray the plants with soluble copper once a week to ward off the dreaded blight.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 4:43PM
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Keith, you said what I'm thinking, heh heh. I'm definitely keeping my eye on these now-defoliated tomato plants. I imagine he's thinking he's increasing their exposure to sunlight in exhange for the lost photosynthesis. I'll keep you all posted.

If anyone else has tried his technique, feel free to chime in. And keep those other techniques coming too.

Take care,

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 7:00PM
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The reason to remove the lower leaves off the plants is to prevent soil-borne fungi from infecting the plant and to increase air circulation "down there" as the victorian lady would have said. If your neighbor stripped off the top leaves to increase sunlight exposure that is a bit odd, although a tomato grower I talked to at the farmers market last year said he strips his brandywine plants way back this time of year. His tomatoes tasted just fine, by the way.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 7:27PM
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Well, I've altered my walk to my bus stop to keep an eye on these denuded tomato plants, heh heh. Everyone seems to have a different technique and this guy's may be as good, or bad, as any. I bet those Brandywines taste good!

When it comes to tomatoes, I'm pretty lazy. I just plant seeds of small fruited types and plop them in the garden and hope for the best. Though all of this discussion is giving me a craving for some of the big types.

Take care,

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 12:21PM
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I raise my tomatoes in the self-watering containers from Gardeners since it seems to be the only way I can get any tomatoes. For additional heat I have them sitting on a section of my concrete driveway.

Like others mentioned, during the month of August I remove about 25% of the leaves since 2 plants in one container becomes pretty crowded and shady. I find the tomatoes ripen faster instead of staying green forever!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 6:59PM
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irmaS(Pacific NW)

This may be a little out of line--at least it changes the subject. I am trying to find a copy of "The Plant Hunters" by Alice Coats. Does anyone have a copy or know who does? I have tried all the used-book dealers that I know about, including one in New York who said he sold one in 2003 but hasn't seen a copy since. It was published in 1960, which, I am told, makes it an old book.
I will appreciate any trail toward finding a copy.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 10:57PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

Irma...I don't know why you feel the subject needs to be changed. Further, you greatly limit your chances of success by adding your off-topic post to a thread about ripening tomatoes. Do you need help in posting a thread of your own?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 2:07AM
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sometimes, a tomato that needs quite a bit of time to get big, then red, (brandywine), I nip out any branches w/ flowers but no set fruit by August 15. On a smaller, faster type like Juliette,I leave more longer, but by Sept 1, Id do the same way. Mainly because they dont have time to get ripe, here in the northern willamett valley, at the valley floor, there is frequently a killing frost around halloween and it just takes the plants energy for something that is not going to amount to a ripe tomato. I start trimming out some of the bigger fruitless leafy branches at the same time, but not all, or even most. People have told me that you can get sun scald, I dont know if thats true, but why tempt fate. I usually plant 3 early girl, 2 brandy wine, and 3 juliette, and have tons. This year they are more shaded by my ever taller bamboo grove, so not quite as heavy on the crop, but Im about to pick a huge brandywine in a day or so, and the bushes are loaded. I have found that they do the best for me if I put them in a bed in full sun that I hae just finnished composting directly into. (dump compost there for a year or better, cooking and turning.) Never fertilze, but have used epsom salts.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 2:29AM
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irmaS(Pacific NW)

I didn't intend for my query to end up in the tomato patch. I just didn't do the right thing to get it in properly. But don't tomato growers sometimes buy books too? I do. And I, too, am waiting impatiently for my Better boys to ripen.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 5:53PM
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