Late Fall Tomatoes in Zone 5

jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)September 17, 2011

I posted this over on the Market Farming page, but I thought I would share it here with all the tomato lovers.

I decided early on this year that I was going to have tomatoes as long as possible. My tomatoes have great flavor and it seems that I can keep a strong demand all season. To me they taste like my tomatoes. I guess when you don't try anyone else's tomatoes, it is really hard to compare.

I started seeds in late May/early June for this late project. I wanted to start them sooner, but I had to order the seeds.

I was aiming for planting them around July 4th. I had problems with germination and the heat was so bad, I didn't get them out until July 17th.

So here we sit, 60 days out. How are they doing? I think they are doing great. I haven't picked any, yet, but that day is coming. When it does, I hope people appreciate all the work it has taken to get them here.

Also these are in one of my movable tunnels. I added a third growing spot to them this year. So now each 512 square foot building will cover 2,048 feet in one year. I also have carrots growing outside. Once these tomatoes freeze, I will move the building over the carrots to protect them for the winter.

The carrots came up spotty. I wish they had germinated better, but when you are planting them and it is 95-105, what can you expect.

Carrots outside:

Outside picture of hoop building:

View of inside:

Florida 91's (majority)

Taxi (yellow, just a few)

Cherokee Purple (Just one row)

I am hoping I will get to pick them by the end of the month. I know I can keep them going until Thanksgiving, with minimal heat.


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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I am very impressed. But I have a question about flavor. I am in southwest Ohio in Zone 5 and growing five kinds of heirloom tomatoes outside. They tasted fantastic up until a couple weeks ago. Night temps have been cold for the last couple weeks, and I notice a significant decline in flavor. I have tasted greenhouse tomatoes grown out of season in this area, and they are always disappointing. Do your late tomatoes taste as good as your summer tomatoes?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 10:44AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I have discussed this before with other producers, and in our opinion (and mine) fall tomatoes will never have as good of flavor as the summer ones. I think it is because they get less hours of sunlight. However, these tomatoes taste better than the ones from the grocery store.

Just an FYI, this isn't a greenhouse, it is a high tunnel. No heat or mechanical ventilation. Plants planted directly in the ground. The sides pull up and door opens up to allow ventilation.

I grow all my tomatoes in high tunnels. I can achieve an earlier harvest, larger harvest and perfect fruit with out cracking by growing inside these structures. I regret every year, but I don't stop doing it, planting a few plants outside.

My large first planting of tomatoes.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 12:27AM
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The tunnels don't really look portable. Do you take them apart to move them?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 11:12AM
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Wow, looks great. We are in the planning stage for a high tunnel. Your success is an inspiration.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 7:27AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)


The smaller ones slide on rails. The bigger ones are stationary.

Defrost, Good luck, they are well worth the time if you are serious about it!


Here is a link that might be useful: Jay's Jellies website

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 11:21AM
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I still call my structures High tunnels although I never could understand the restriction of heat or other ammenities so every year I add a few bells ans whistles. Without the thermostatically controlled intake louvers and exhaust fans I'd be spending days watching temperatures in those structures.

But the reason I posted was to ask why you want to start late. I start early and end late every year. Plants transplanted in early March have potential to Keep producing through November, December with a little heat.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 10:45PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

bmoser, Are you talking about why I started these so late? It was as much of an experiment than anything. So far I have found that they need to be planted by July 1.

I do plant early, in fact, I keep moving back my early planted tomatoes, I am now planting them 2 weeks earlier than I was just 3 years ago. I have learned new ways to maintain the low temps without adding additional heat.

While my tomatoes do keep producing, I would prefer to tear them out and get my late fall/winter crops in my big high tunnels. These crops will bring in more dollars than the last of the tomatoes will. I usually try to have the tomatoes out by Labor Day. I planned to have these tomatoes picked by the time I tore out the other tomatoes.

Now my big tunnel with tomatoes now looks like this.

It has carrots, kale, lettuce, green onions, bok choy, napa cabbage, spinach and Swiss Chard and some hanging baskets of tomatoes.

Here is another tunnel loaded full of winter crops of broccoli, cauliflower, napa cabbage, bok choy, Red Cabbage, Green Cabbage, Swiss Chard

Now with having the late tomatoes in one of my movable buildings, I can have them for a while then move the building, when they are froze and protect the winter carrots, leeks, green onions, and radishes.

Here is another building with spinach, radishes and turnips planted.

The last building will be finished planting this week(we hope!)


    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 11:22PM
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Jay, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy the pictures. Tall, healthy tomato plants alone,even without fruit, is something I have fell in love with.

Take care,

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 12:03PM
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