Prune to force ripening?

dirt_poet(5)August 15, 2008

It's getting to that time, when I'm harvesting the first tomatoes to set, and I know that those which have recently set will never ripen, even if the growing season is unusually extended. I've read about topping tomato plants to channel energy into ripening existing fruits, what are people's thoughts on this? And is it worthwhile to cull some of the smaller fruits that are unlikely to ripen?

I have an abundance of tomato plants this year - 30 total, and if I harvest even 1/2 of the fruit that has already set, I'll have more than I expected. In case it matters, I'm growing Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Amish Paste, San Marzano, Costoluto Genovese, and Stupice. Also something Burpee's calls "Bloody Butcher" which it is definitely not (regular leaves, not early).

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I do this but like pruning in general, it probably has critics.

My avg. first frost, according to our state's extention page is Oct. 15th.

I don't see much point in allowing very many blossoms to remain much past Sept 1st. By Oct 1st, I'll be pulling most of the tiny fruits and making preparations to cover a few plants and bring a couple inside when its time. If we get an Indian Summer thats great but round here it can be be zero or 80F by mid Nov.

Gotta hedge your bets to allow for success but not make the plants work unreasonably hard on something that has no chance of maturing.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 1:15AM
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The easiest way to aid ripening without pruning or damage to the plant is-if you are satisfied that the tomatoes on each truss have reached full size, simply bend the truss at the base so that the tomatoes hang down on a kinked truss stem-ripening usually follows within a week as the sap flow to the truss is cut off partially.

Topping the plants should only be done during good growing weather, so that the plants recover quickly within a week or so, as topping them off during adverse weather conditions often results in a backward spiral that eventually ruins the plant.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 1:16AM
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spiced_ham(z5 OH)

I pinch back immature bud trusses and all tiny growth tips 8 weeks before average first frost date. That way the plant isn't putting energy into fruit that won't have time to ripen, or allocating nutrients into new leaf growth. It isn't forcing ripening, just preventing high numbers of immature fruit (energy sink) from delaying ripening. All of the plants energy production goes into into growing fruits that can ripen in time. There are enough unopened buds on the flowering trusses at that time (8 weeks) to provide for a prolonged season (indian summer). I don't bother doing this with weed tomatoes like cherrys, just the big fruited ones.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 12:24PM
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You can also withhold the watering, to force ripening. Wait until plants wilt, then water sparingly, repeat.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 5:18PM
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Root pruning. Take your shovel and about 6 inches from base of your plant, dig deep into the soil. Spade a few more times to make a half-circle (semi circle) cut around the plant. They'll be ripe inside a week. Be sure the green tomatoes are about as big as they are going to get before doing this. The plants will recoer from this root shock and continue to yield throughout the season.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 10:36PM
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How is the taste of the "forcefully-fipened" tomatoes? Is it as good as any other vine-ripened tomato or will it taste like ones that were picked early and ripened on the window sill?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 12:22PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! I'll give each of these methods a try on a few plants and see how it goes. Puttle raises a good point - how do these different methods affect flavor/texture?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 12:44PM
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