How long will a tomato plant produce?

clevelandguy(6)April 24, 2006

This was brought up somewhat in another thread.

Just how long will a tomato plant produce fruit?

I live in a northern environment, its easy, start in spring, plant is killed by the first frost in the fall.

How about you hydroponics or Florida guys?

When do you determine the tomato plant is spent?

Does it stop flowering?

Does it get too big?

Does the plant just die of old age?

Some of the people on here live in climates that don't

ever see frost, how long do your plants last, and

just what determines when plants are no longer viable?

Us Northerners are curious, and yes, jealous!

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naturalstuff(Z6 / CT)

Excellent questions! Here's a picture of September and they are still producing but you can see them start getting yellow and thinning out.

Usually October I pull them up because no more flowers come out. Is it old age? Wow, great question which I would like to know. I thought it was the cold air but I never heard of 1 tomato plant producing all year round.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 8:02PM
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Yeah....that's what I mean.

Is it the light?

Is it the temperature?

Is it the age?

Just what determines the END of a Tomato plant?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 8:13PM
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barkeater(Z3b VT)

AS long as it is alive and absorbs nutrients it will try to produce tomatoes.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 8:32PM
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ckm3(midTN 7)

I would think that given appropriate heat and light and nutrition, the vine would grow and produce for a very long time.

In 2006, I began picking Amish Paste, Pink Ping Pong and Orange Banana during the first week of July and they were still bearing pretty well (and the PPP, prolificaly) when frost got them about November 10th. Most the rest of my varieties had slowly stopped producing in mid-October - victims of a retreating sun.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 12:27AM
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adrianag(AL z7)

In a hydroponic setting in a greenhouse a tomato plant can live for years. There are pictures in some of my hydro books of tomato vines that have been trained to go around and around the top perimeter of a greenhouse. These vines are typically pruned by removing suckers, leaving a single growing point.

As the lower part of the vine becomes non-productive leaves are stripped away. In a commercial greenhouse the vines are lowered to make the productive part accessible for pruning and harvest.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 2:52AM
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wampuscat(z9 fl)

Nothing to be jealous about the florida growing seasons. I am hydro and the spring crop is a hit and miss short season for me. Its too short and this year we had a march frost. I try and have my fall tomatoes ready to go out by mid august. I will not have any new fruit set from mid july thru mid sept on the old plants, so they have to go to make room.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 6:44AM
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bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)

We have several frost free years in a row in Southern California nearer to the coast. It's not unusual for an Early Girl tomato planted in late May to bear fruit till the rains and cold make them prone to disease around Super Bowl. I even plant tomatoes in late August for a fall crop. However, someone I know grew his Sungold on the side of his garage in May. By summers end, it was on top of the roof. It was fun he said to grab the ladder once a week or more and pick them. The rains came sporadically from November through Presiden't Day - and he picked inferior fruit a few times a month. By March, it grew clear to the other side of the garage. He said he didn't want to take it down because of the curiosity factor. Eventually, it was just long and spindly (25'-30'), and wasn't bearing much and yanked it. Now he religiously removes his plants around Thanksgiving.

And all season gardening means all season weeds and pests. Yes, we can grow tomatoes with limited success, but we can grow lettuce, cole crops, and root crops. It also means we've had Africanized bees that love the warmth, but can't survive constant freeze like you northerners get.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 8:50AM
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I have an Early Girl planted around this time last year that has overwintered, is bringing forth some really good tasting fruit and is still looking great. It has been cut back, and has overcome a lot of strange weather, including scorching hot weather and even a light frost. This is the "mother" plant that I will take cuttings from and carry on as long as I can.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 8:07PM
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I don't really know the answer, but interestingly, I planted a tomatoe plant in October 2005, hoping to get a few tomatoes before the colder, shorter days kicked in. Well, it didn't really happen, so i figured i lose the plant to a freeze. it turned out to be a mild winter and the plant survived. In early 2006 i started getting tomatoes and they are still popping up like crazy. I have some yellowing and brown leaves, but much of the plant still looks good and is producing.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 8:28PM
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That's what I mean!!!

Here in Cleveland,OH you plant after May 1st and you
are REALLY lucky to not have a HARD frost by November 1st.

During that time period tomatoes will grow to 8ft. plus.

The weather KILLS our plants!

I can't imagine a plant lasting for almost a YEAR!!!

Just WHO has the LONGEST surviving/producing plant?

Anyone know of someone that has a plant for more than
1 year?

Southern guys....

Your plants, planted in spring, do they produce a crop
in the fall after the summer temperature drops, or do you
quit when the heat gets to them?

Any inside hydroponic guys.....

How old do your plants get before you chuck em....

How do you know when they are no longer viable?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 9:56PM
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Clevelandguy, I'm sure this isn't a record, but I have two cherry tomato plants that are approximaely one year old and are now going seriously downhill.

Don't know the variety, bought them as a hanging basket at a local nursery last June. In early November, when my greenhouse was completed, I potted them up in a larger pot and put it in the greenhouse. I kept GH temps at or above 50, but provided no supplemental lighting. They produced lightly through the winter. As the days began to lengthen - maybe about late February? - I noticed production increasing significantly. Taste has been excellent. For the past several weeks, production has slowed and the plants are not putting out new leaves, old ones are yellowing and dying off. There are now maybe 10-12 cherry tomatoes, total, at various stages on the two plants. There are two small new plants in the container; I'm not sure whether from seed or shoots from the roots (I didn't think tomatoes do the latter). I did notice that the bottoms of the stems of the old plants got increasingly tough and gnarly and had stubby protrusions above ground that looked almost like roots.

I'm very rusty on this, but believe that fruit-set on tomatoes is dependent upon temperature and number of daylight hours ... Perhaps someone can enlighten us on that?

My Celebrity and Roma vines kept producing well into October. The tomatoes were fewer and smaller, and many never got a chance to ripen, but the plants were still trying.

Hope this is helpful to you.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 10:21PM
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naturalstuff(Z6 / CT)

Great topic. Ok, so if weather is the biggest factor. Here in CT you can never have a tomato plant survive after October but what if I built a greenhouse for them? If the heat is what keeps then going, then anyone with a greenhouse can produce year round. No?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 10:32PM
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I'm in Glendora, CA, about 25 miles east of Los Angeles,
just in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains.

I had a cherry that I planted about June 1. It grew up and over
a 6 foot fence and hung down to the ground on the other side.

I was still picking tomatoes off of it in January.

Now they weren't the best tasting tomatoes, but they were better
than anything in the stores.

The bottom half was almost totally devoid of leaves and pretty brown.
Top half was quite lush, but you could tell it was struggling.

There was still quite a bit of fruit, but nothing like in the best
part of the summer. Still flowers too.

I pulled it because I had to start preparations for this year.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 10:38PM
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gflynn(z7 MD)

I had a habenaro plant one year that I grew from seed extacted from a habenero pepper I purchased at the grocery store. I started it in may and got only a few peppers the first year but then before the last frost I dug it up and brought it inside and put it under a light.

By early spring the next year it looked almost dead but I put it outside and it grew new leaves. The stem was thick and looked like it had bark on it and after I planted it in the ground it immediately began to produce large amounts of habeneros.

I was temped to dig it up again but it was just to big to fool around with for another year.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 10:53PM
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SirTanon(z9 AZ)

This plant here:

(Red cherry - large fruited)
was actually purchased as a seedling back in late January of 2005. At that time, I planted it in a 3-gal pot and let it grow and do its thing. It did okay, but never really got BIG. It did however, live through summer, and a relatively cold winter for Phoenix.

THIS Feb, I debated whether or not to just kill it, and decided to cut it back some, put it in a hanging pot, and train the existing branches to hang over the side.

As you can see, it's done quite well, at 1 year, 3 months. I expect it will live at least through this summer. Don't know if I'll overwinter it again or not.

- Eric

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 4:02PM
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nbutler5(z9 Indian Rocks, FL)

VERY cool subject so here goes:
I'm in west central Florida right on the Gulf coast & grow tomatoes, orchids, palms, & all sorts of other plants outdoors year round. I've grown several types of tomatoes & have had plants live well over a year, but they get to be totally unmanageable and they look horrible. Living on the beach is great but space is severly limited, so I always end up killing them off so I can re-compost that section of the garden & start new maters. Another note: I have a habenero plant that's 3 years old & still produces peppers, it drops almost all it's leaves in "winter" but doesn't die. The temp here rarely drops below 45, but it's the wind that's the killer as another 'cain season is about to start up. Out with the old & in with the new starts about Dec 15 with new maters in the ground by Jan 15, giving the soil a month to rest.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 4:58PM
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Maybe I enjoy gardening so much because I only
get to do it for 6 months a year here.

I mean NOTHING grows here for 6 months of the year.
By the time spring starts I am chomping at the bit,
and just can't wait to start planting and gardening.

That's why I started raising tomatoes from seed, I had
nothing better to do and couldn't wait to get back outside.

But boy....what I wouldn't do for an opertunity to garden
year round. (Or at least 9 months!)

Wife and I have been SERIOUSLY talking about moving
to Florida. Tampa Bay area.

I'm tired of long cold winters and shoveling snow!

Maybe I'll get a tomato plant to grow for a YEAR!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 9:29PM
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nbutler5(z9 Indian Rocks, FL)

clevelandguy: MOVE TO FLORIDA!! I did 10+ years ago, just west of Tampa, I'll never leave. Container gardening is fantastic down here - everything thrives (that loves heat/humidity) - some tomatoes can't handle the heat in the middle of summer = shade cloth. Temps here aren't hotter than the rest of the country, it's just hot MUCH longer. Starting around 3/1 80/60, 4/1 85/65, 6/1 90/70........10/1 80/60, 11/1 75/55. Most neighbors are plant fanatics too, it's really cool sharing tips, visiting other gardens, trading plants, etc. My next step is to buy/build a greenhouse on the roof. LOL

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 9:28AM
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Indeterminates should live until frost or disease kills them and produce as long as the conditions are right. I have read that determinates produce and than thats it. It is not true in my experience. I usually get several flushes before they decline and that very well could be due to high temps, not the plant itself. My grandmother often will cut back her tomatoes (hybird determinates) in mid July and get a fall crop from them as well. I prefer to just plant new ones at that time. Last yr I started plants in late february (Indet.) and cut them to the ground several times and got them to produce till mid November. After all the cuttings, I would say they reached 25 ft total growth for the yr. I did however, run into bacterial diseases with them towards the end. One person commented on peppers. Yes, peppers will do this easily and mine do it with no help at all. Chiletepins down here in texas will die to the ground and come back for yrs if given a winter without a severe ground freeze. Mine outside in pots took several nights down to 24 degrees and bounced back without me ever doing anything to them.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 3:10PM
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anyone have any luck leaving plants in the ground in San Francisco?
[My boyfriend's garden is in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, so it's not quite as warm as the mission and not as cold as the sunset.]

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 7:51PM
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I have a Roma and a Giant Dwarf that I bought from HD a year ago August that I planted in an 18 gal container and nursed it thru the winter in an plastic shrouded 10X10 shade frame. I got tomatoes thru may and the heat stoppeed production. I now have started picking ripe ones daily. As one of the other posters mentioned the stems are brown and gnarled but when it cooled off, it started new shoots from the lower stem that is now the branches that are now setting and producing nice tomatoes. Yes I trimed off brown leaves and shoots that died but the plants would continue to produce new folage, and when it started cooling down the flowers started and the fruite seem to be the same size. The plants that I started this spring and stopped due to heat are also putting on fruite but they seem to be smaller than the early tomatoes. The stems of these plants are also brown and garley but new folage and flowers keep comming.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 8:41PM
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Rather than moving south, a greenhouse with a little help can get you by for 9 months of the year. I typically put plants in the ground in mid March( Mar.13 this year) and almost all my plants are still cranking out tomatoes, at a lesser rate than during the summer. Cold nights run in spurts and often you can gain a few weeks to months by getting them through a few frosty nights. Haven't needed any overnight heat source for the last week and a warming trend is now forcast for the Thanksgiving weekend for the Northeast.

A few year ago I traveled to Florada and they had a killing frost in Disney Center the night before my visit. A few weeks later in January they got much colder weather. You might need to keep going south if you expect to grow tomatoes year round outside.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 12:23PM
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Hey, Cleveland guy. Might noy be too bad an idea moving down there around Tampa, or even Jacksonville or Miami. In addition to growing tomatoes almost year round it'd be a whole lot more fun watching football games, don't you know!

Oh my, forgive me but I could not resist!

On a more serious note. I used to have an 8 x 12 heated greenhouse that faced due south. It was well insulated below the benches, had polycarbonate plastic roofing to
conserve the heat, and plate glass side windows from roof down to the benches. The location was about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. I used it primarily to grow my
garden plants for spring planting then shut it down till the following year.

One year I tried to operate it through the winter. The propane cost about put me into the poor house, though I did have some nice peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and radishes to eat--probably at about $20 a pound! We just don't get enough sunshine in this area to be able to depend on it much for heat in the winter, and I'd think Cleveland would be about the same or even worse.

We are beginning to see a few homes built around here using
a new technology where heat is pumped via refrigeration techniques from deep wells where the earth (and ground water) stays at about 55 F year round. The systems work and if the installation costs could be brought down I think it might be a good system for a greenhouse.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 9:46AM
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frenchy_fl(Z10 FL)

My record is a native Florida Everglade cherry tomato plant. I planted it Sep 2004, and it kept producing tomatoes until May 2006 when I pulled it out of the pot for a new plant. I live on the water's edge, Gulf of Mexico, and I never get a frost. I counted each tomato for a total of 756 tomatoes off one plant.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 12:00PM
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I'm in southern cal (Long Beach) and my Black Cherries are still producing.

I also have a "Desert Glory" cherry plant (those cherry tomatoes in the red fishnet sleeve at the supermarket) that I grew out, and it's still producing. Covered in new blossoms, in fact. It's getting down to the high-40's tonight and Friday is forecast for 39.

(By the way, if you use Firefox, there's a great little free Firefox plug-in that puts constantly updated Accuweather forecasts on the bottom of your screen.)

About Desert Glory, by the way... I only know the cultivar name because that's what Sunsweet stamps on the label. I suspect the store tomatoes are some commercial F1 hybrid. Thus whatever I am growing right now is an F2, i.e., not likely to be necessarily reproducible. They were tastier in September than they are now.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 3:06AM
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big_mike(z6 SEKS)

I wonder how much the length of day has to do with production. I plant in mid to late April, pick my first maters about July 4, depending on variety and I'm done at the first frost in late October to early November. The later tomatoes never get very large and it takes at least half again as long to ripen as the ones in July. The taste isn't as good either. The vines were doing fine until our first cold snap, they still had blossoms, but the fruit was just really slow about maturing.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 11:26PM
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Hi I just learned and really am getting into gardening this yer and I LOVE IT! I live in central Illinois and I love starting my plants from seed(call me cheap) I just love seeing they grow from scratch. My kids 2 and 4 are really loving it and an added plus is that they eat their veggies when we get them from there. Only had lettuce radishes from a neighbor and 1 cucumber but they really love showing it off. I love the site BTW!!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 7:00PM
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Originally from the Chicago area, I now live in the San Fernando Valley in California. My Roma, cherry, big boy tomatoes are still alive and producing tomatoes. The Roma's are the only ones that are actually ripening. The others end up turning purple on top and rotting on the vine if I don't pick them and bring them inside to ripen. It's the end of December and they are actually starting to grow more rapidly than they were in October. I cut back some of the branches and this seemed to help.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 3:15PM
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In a greenhouse setting, your tomato plants can be perpetuated indefinitely. I have 8 year old brandywine.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 7:53AM
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What kinds of nutrient could you add to make a tomato continue to produce good fruit all year long? Can you add fertilizer, compost, miracle-gro?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 11:23AM
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To make it produce fruit all year long? Well, it's in the lighting, temperature and nutrients. You will notice after a while the plant will probably stop making fruit. If I can't coax it with the bloom nutrient alone (And yes, miracle grow makes a bloom nutrient, so if you prefer miracle grow, use it's "bloom" version.), then I have to play "tricks" on it with lights and temp. 12 hours of light is what tomatoes prefer to flower and fruit. So, what I do is give it 2 weeks at 15 degrees cooler temperature than it is at fruiting stage and increase the lighting for about 16 hours light on. This moves the plant back into vegetative stage for a while, sorta to give it "amnesia" about it's fruiting stage. I do this for 2 weeks and then I reduce the lighting back to 12 hours lights on and increase the temperature back to where it was at fruiting. Then add a few bloom nutrient to the water. Make sure you do this temp change gradually or it will shock the plant. Unless you have 2 or more tomato plants you can alternate the time you play this trick, you will be out of fresh tomatoes for about 3 weeks, maybe once or twice a year.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 11:04PM
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