Have you ever grown tomatoes in your vegetable garden or perhaps in tubs on a balcony? If you haven’t, I guess I have to ask; why not?
There are two undeniable facts about growing tomatoes - they are one of the most commonly grown plants in backyard vegetable gardens and while easy to grow in the right conditions, they are not easy to grow well. One problem often confronted by gardeners is the tomato fruit ripening slower than is desirable. Often, tomato plants fruit extremely heavily and then become laden with many large green fruit, but do not ripen before the season changes; potentially damaging the fruit before they are ready to be picked - within the garden, there is little more frustrating than watching a nearly ripe crop of tomatoes being damaged by frost.
The other issue is that tomatoes that ripen naturally on the vine before being picked will nearly always produce the most flavoursome fruit. So, you want them to ripen naturally, but not to stay on the vine too long. So how can you encourage the fruit to ripen more quickly and produce those beautiful rich red and juicy fruit; all before seasonal changes occur?
Here are a number of practices that will encourage your tomatoes to ripen on the vine naturally:
Prune Vigorous Growth
Once the plant is mature, prune the excess vigorous growth. Don’t remove all the leaves, but do remove quite a few - please note, it is important that you do not do this before the crop of fruit has set. Pruning too early will result in a poor crop. This pruning will encourage the plant to put its energy into maturing the fruit rather than further leaf growth.
Remove Shoots From Leaf Junctions
This is actually necessary to help control and direct the growth of the plant throughout its growth. But, like pruning the vigorous growth, once the fruit has set, it will encourage the plant to direct its energy into the maturing of the fruit, rather than leaf and branch growth.
Prune the New Growth
New growth requires energy to be directed in to growth rather than the fruit. Remove this new growth in order to direct the plant’s energy into the fruit more quickly than would otherwise happen.
Pinch or Cut off Flowers
If you have got to the point of considering forcing the ripening of your fruit, it is already too late for flowers to set new fruit that you can expect to mature. Therefore, remove the flowers. As with the other points, this will prevent more energy being directed away from the existing fruit.
Remove Small Tomatoes
As with the flowers, it is probably already too late for these, so remove them.
With each of these practices, it is mainly about ensuring that the plant directs all available energy into the maturing and ripening of the existing fruit. There is no need for further growth of the plant itself, the development of new fruit, or the growth of existing but small fruit.
Hopefully, these late season tactics will help you reap as much harvest as you can from your tomato plants before the change in season gets the better of them.
Happy gardening :)