How long does the Tomato season last in Zone 5?

sumilea2008(Marlborough MA Zone 5)July 9, 2008

Being my first year in MA, i would like to know how long does the season last before the productivity of the plants stop?

Our Tomato Balcony Garden

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I, too, am interested in this - Great pictures by the way! Did you ever decide what to do to extend the stakes as it appears your toms are abouts to outgrow the current stakes? I am having the same problem here and have not decided on a remedy yet.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 10:22AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Productivity goes down when nights start getting cooler and in my experience the fruits get watery and lousy tasting.

But the absolute end of the season ends with the first hard frost, and the timing on that is very variable from year to year.

With light frost many folks will cover up their plants if they have just a few plants and hope, and often they come thru OK.

I've been frosted out as early as the first week in Septemeber and as late as late October.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 10:23AM
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Unfortunately not all Zone 5's are created equally. Your best bet would be to ask your gardening neighbors or people at a local farmer's market about when the first frost is in your area. Local advice trumps internet people any day. Also remember that every year is different, and even gardens right next to each other have slightly different micro-climates based on shelter, altitude, heat-absorbing properties, etc. So if it's a light frost, your neighbor's garden might get it, and yours might not.

I'm in Zone 5, but right next to Lake Michigan. That keeps me cooler in the spring and summer, but warmer in the fall and winter. Last year my first frost wasn't until early November. But my production had fallen off before then due to cooler temps (40s and 50s) in October. A few days before the frost I cleaned all the green tomatoes off of my plants and put them inside to either ripen or rot. I think I ate the last one around the first of December. So be aware when the day is getting close if you want to extend your season that way.

Excellent garden pics!


    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 10:53AM
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October is an optional month you can take or leave typically. I notice that October can be quite cool but is often very sunny here so any king of green house effect is very possible and the season can be considered to end in November or even mid November for cooler crops.
I run into village ordinance issues where I grow much of my stuff so I can't do it in those spots but I was growing okra, peppers and tomatoes in October with a $150 portable green house. I will try this again in a another spot at some point.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 1:30PM
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windclimber(z5 KS,close to KCMO)

Given the climate doing it's thing sumilia, this season very well could be the same as last year or radically different as it goes thru it's natural phases.

The posters closer to your geographic area might have a better answer to your question.
I think that as the season progresses into fall weather.....cooler night ..and day temps and the light changing signals a slow down in your production.

Some people suggest topping plants....supposedly to divert energy to the remaining fruit. I don't really believe that is the case.
If they are still producing and ripening fruit several weeks before the average frost date for your area,.... great, but sooer or later you have to grab the green ones and ripen them in a brown paper sack in the closet, under the sink.. somewhere dark and check for ripe ones every once and a while. They are good for sauce etc.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 7:03PM
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With as much resources as you have invested in your balcony garden you may as well invest just a little more in a sheet of Agribon 50 row cover big enough to throw over the entire balcony. I had cut off a sheet of my roll for a neighbor with houseplants on a balcony for that purpose. Wether in the field or on a balcony it usually will gain you another month,give or take.

With my high tunnel tomatoes I do what it takes to get the extra month on both ends of the season but there are many other season extension stratagies that will buy you more time.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 8:41PM
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I live near Albany, at the foot of a mountain range, in an area that has a slightly warmer microclimate, being in a valley and near a big river (no, not "denial" river,lol).

Generally, the end of tomato season is mid-September. I agree with Dr. Carolyn -- after that, the days are shortening rapidly and the nighttime temps are lower, and the taste and texture of the tomatoes diminish equally as quickly.

The tomatoes will continue to produce quite nicely, well until the first hard frost. In my microclimate, that's usually around the third week of October, although you can experience frost earlier if there's a freaky cold front. At any rate, the tomatoes will not taste like anything enjoyable. They're tasteless, bloated with water, loaded with cracks, and have a mealy texture in the mouth. If you get a tasty tomato after mid-September or so, consider yourself lucky.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 6:18PM
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triple_b(BC 5b)

for the real season extender die hards I read somewhere that giving a timely foliar feeding of seaweed spray can give you a couple degrees of protection against frost. (or maybe it was a snake-oil salesman trying to sell his product.)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 10:05PM
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I live in Franklin, MA which is pretty close to you. I plant usually the last week of May, and I get toms usually until the last week of September. The best tomatoes are those picked in July and August. I doubt I will have any ripe tomatoes until August this year. Painfully slow growing this year.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 10:20AM
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