the fallacy of fall tomatoes?

daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)December 8, 2011

OK, I was pretty energized about getting a fall crop from my Sweet 100s that were (as usual) hugely abundant in the spring. You just have to wait until it gets cool enough for the flowers to set, right? Well, the frost last night took them out completely. I managed to get a few tomatoes before that happened, but nowhere near the number I had in the spring (five hundred or so from six plants).

The reason is that I can put my tomatoes in in late February, and harvest through June and even July. Flowers appear in late March. Maybe 4 months. But after that, fruit won't start setting until October, and then you get a hard freeze in December. Maybe 2 months. So the growing and fruit-setting season is very asymmetric spring/fall.

I tried to cover the plants during the freeze but, as I said in a previous post, the had gotten very long, so I had a tarp all the way over the five-foot fence they were growing on. With that tall a tent, the heat of the ground isn't going to protect them much.

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brit_n_rick(8b -- East Texas)

We were able to get a very good fall crop this year. We normally plant transplants in July or August - either starting seeds in seed trays or rooting clippings from our summer plants. By the time the flowers set, the weather has already started to cool enough.

The summer drought was horrible this year so our fall tomato plants actually did better than the summer ones did. Perhaps you are planting too late in the fall?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 9:05PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Well, no, these were spring indeterminate plants that I managed to keep alive during the summer. I saw lots of flowers in late August, but they never started to set until late October. Once the weather turned cold, everything slowed down.

I've thought about rooting clippings from summer plants, and will probably try it next year. I recall once putting clippings in water, and waiting for the roots to come out, but that never happened. The cuttings just keeled over and died. Never did figure out why. Got any hints about doing that?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 9:18PM
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Dan, are you in the DFW area, or south? I'm in Carrollton and can NEVER seem to get a crop; I must plant too late, would late February be too early for this area?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 9:36PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

We are just about over trying to grow tomatoes! We used too much water all summer and never got anything viable for the fall!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 10:09PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

ogrose, I'm in the Austin area. I *always* plant my cherries (a couple of 6-packs) in late February (and I cross my fingers about the possibility of frost, though of course they're small plants when they go in and easy to cover if a freeze is likely.

Over the last decade they have been by far my most productive crop. Those dozen plants, properly tied up, turn into a huge bush about six feet high. I'm giving away baskets, hand over fist.

They get only afternoon sun, but I've been working on that soil for a decade, and it's loose and wonderful now.

Every few years I get an invasion of leaf-footed bugs. Last year they were bad. Not a single one this year.

But I've aspired to keep them alive over the summer (this summer was a real challenge!) and get more in the fall. Still trying ...

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 10:33PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

I've never had really good results in the D/FW area unless I planted a determinate variety. You really only have April and May to grow and set tomatoes. That means those 80-100 day varieties are going to be tough. If we have a warm and wet spring you can really make a haul but you never know when that is going to happen.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 10:33PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

I have an unknown indeterminate tomato from seed given to me by a friend. I had a tiny spring crop and a decent fall crop. My cherry 100's have volunteered everywhere. I had a vine in my flowerbed and in my hellstrip! My friend next door had Romas, Early girl, and Celeste(?). She got a huge spring and fall crop with about 18 plants.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 8:42AM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

I had few summer tomatoes due to hail damage to the plants, but I kept them alive all summer, and had a pretty decent fall crop from them. We are still eating tomatoes that I harvested before the first freeze.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 9:34AM
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We're still eating our fall tomatoes harvested before the freeze. We got next to none in the spring and summer.
I kept our plants alive through the summer. These are all small round red tomatoes. I'm not sure what kind.

Just before the freeze a few weeks ago hubby and I went out and pulled all that were at least showing signs of starting to turn. Then I uprooted the smallest plant and we hung it upside down in the garage. We've been harvesting those tomatoes as they ripen.

We also wrapped in newspaper a box full of unripe but starting to turn very light green on the bottom tomatoes. I haven't had time to take a peek and see how they're doing.
My reading says that method takes several weeks, so maybe we'll have ripe tomatoes for Christmas and New Years Dinner!

The laying them out on the counter only takes a few days. As soon as they're red I put them in the fridge.
We can't eat them fast enough!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 10:49AM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

Yours on the counter must be in a warmer location than mine on the counter in the pool kitchen. They have been in there since sometime before the middle of November and they ripen a few at a time. Just brought into the house for use a half dozen slicers and a double hand full of small ones. We are really enjoying them.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 1:02PM
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Last weekend, I was still picking cherry tomatoes. Unless we get a freeze, we have tomotoes thru February. Our place in Rockport use to be a tomato farm. We have dill coming up like weeds right now. Barbra

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 6:34PM
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Yesterday I took a quick peek at the newspaper wrapped tomatoes in the garage. The one bundle I opened had ripe tomatoes in it!!!

Just in time for Christmas Dinner!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 6:54PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Time to recapitulate on this "fallacy". I nursed my cherry plants though the summer heat, and come late September, when it was starting to get cool enough for fruit set, there were ZERO flowers. After trimming off the dead parts of vines, the plants were doing quite well. Pretty lush. The vines were 7-8 feet long, thick and woody at the base. The flowers finally started to appear in October, but they never set. We had a few nights with temps in the low 30s in the last few weeks, but otherwise the weather was quite mild.

So my experience with fall charry tomatoes has not been encouraging at all. Time to pull the buggers, put in my peas, and look forward to March. Peas are dynamite here in December-March.

I had some decent success with bush beans planted in August, so I think my strategy henceforth will be to pull the tomatoes in August, and put in pole beans for the fall.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 6:06PM
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I agree with you Dan. Sad but true. I even got a few new plants that were supposed to be good in the heat and I ended up with 1 tiny green tomato. I had flowers, but 1 tiny green fruit out of 4 plants. Deep sigh.....I give up! At least until next year when I am seduced by the promise again...c

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 10:53PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Well, several people here swear some measure of success, but I've never seen a recipe to make it happen. It's possible that I should have trimmed them mercilessly in July (cut off at least half the vine) such that new growth ended up closer to the soil and better hydrated. I'll keep an open mind but henceforth fall cherries aren't something I'm going to waste my time on.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 11:06PM
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I started with new plants for the fall and some I kept alive through the summer and the new fresh plants had over double the tomatoes. I wasn't trying to experiment but it just worked out like that.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 7:16AM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

My experience is just the opposite.................the hold over Spring tomatoes just supplied me with a very large bucket of green tomatoes to ripen over the next few weeks. The August plants had only a few tomatoes on them.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 12:17PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I should add that my spring-planted Costalutos gave me a nice fall crop, but the spring-planted cherries were a fall bust. The issue for me is what I do with my veggie trellises. Those are devoted to cherries in the spring. The question is whether they should continue to occupy those trellises in the fall.

I'm writing here in Texas Gardening, by the way, because (as per another recent post), non-southern gardeners don't have a clue what we're talking about.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 12:40PM
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Perylene(7b TX)

I had a long row of spring tomatoes that were excellent this spring and summer (Black from Tula, Champion II, Cherokee Purple, Goliath, Sun Gold, and Yellow Pear). Mid summer the Black from Tula looked like it was getting some sort of leaf disease, so I pulled it. Once the temperatures got too hot, I eventually chopped down everything but the Champion II and Sun Gold, trimmed those back for shaping, and I waited to see how they'd do for fall. Champion II only started to produce some small (marble-size) tomatoes in late October, but the vines and leaves still looked hacked back. Sun Gold made a full recovery, lots of foliage and vines again, and it finally produced a ton of green cherries and a handful of yellow ones, but it melted from the freeze this week. I could have wrapped them for protection for another week or two, but it's honestly late in the season and I want to prepare the soil for next year.

I've been growing tomatoes for a long time, but... I don't usually try to keep them through the fall, and I'm thinking for me that it probably isn't worth the effort. I had the quintessential perfect fall tomato crop three years ago (I think they were Celebrity), but since then it's been hit and miss. A couple of months ago I started some pole beans and bush beans in the empty spaces from the old tomatoes; I feel like I got better results from that hands-off experiment than I did from trimming and fertilizing the remaining cherry and mid-size plants. Next year I'll pull the tomatoes when we hit the high temperatures and plan for something else (beans!) for fall.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 3:28PM
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hit or miss here, if we have our usual winter it`s warm, muggy and an occassional cold front, tomatoes seem to love it. I`ve had better luck in fall with the heirloom tomatoes but right now early girl has buds and tiny maters.
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 11:04AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I have to assume that the success of fall tomatoes might have something to do with the extent to which they've been stressed during the summer. I'm in HZ10 (which my "Garden Zone" here used to show, but seems not to anymore), such that we have several weeks of over-100F temps in mid-summer. That hits em' pretty hard. It may well be that in coastal regions, where the heat zone number is lower, tomatoes come through mid-summer less reluctant to fruit.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 11:25AM
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never had a tomato make it through the summer. Heat, humidity and spider mites do them in.
Tally Ho!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 3:40PM
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I grew Sweet 100's, Yellow Pears, and Super Sioux this past summer. I must also state that I started my garden super late in the spring. During the hottest part of the summer I did get some of my Sweet 100's to pollinate, but not the other two varieties. The tomatoes I did get took a lifetime to get to full red color, and had horrible taste and little liquid content. The sugar content was almost non-existent as well. In the fall, the Sweet 100 was bearing pretty heavily, and the others started to produce as well, however the first freeze killed off about 300 or more of my little Cherries, pears, and the 3-4 Green super sioux's that finally developed after it cooled off. These are all 70-90 Day indeterminate tomatoes. I have recently aquired a greenhouse, So i have already started my indeterminates for the spring. I am planting the same as last year, with the addition of a 2 Big Rainbow Tomato plants. 4x Sweet 100, 4x Yellow Pear, 4x Super Sioux, 2x Big Rainbow for a total of 14 plants for the spring. I also saved some cuttings from last fall from my Sweet 100.

I'm hoping with this early of a start that I can have a bumper spring tomato crop.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 11:27AM
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