Your summer crop of homegrown tomatoes may not be ready for picking quite yet, but believe it or not, now’s the time to think about a second crop, or fall crop of tomatoes, if you’d like to have homegrown goodness all the way up to our first frost.
In Middle Tennessee, the first frost usually occurs around October 15th every year. It is not uncommon in our area to have a second abundance of tomatoes after your summer crop has flourished and ended.
The summer crop and fall crop are thought of differently. In the summer months, tomatoes are usually abundant on the vine and thought of for enjoying at the dinner table, as well as canning and preserving for the winter months.
A fall crop of tomatoes is much smaller and is just for enjoying with meals, as you will not typically see the vast results of a summer crop.
There are a few steps to achieve a fall crop of tomatoes.
First, you will need to look into which varieties take the least time to mature. Cherry tomatoes, such as varieties Super Sweet 100 and Yellow Pear, take approximately 70 days to ripen and are therefore great choices for a fall crop. For mid- size tomatoes, Celebrity and Better Boy take 70-72 days to ripen and are good choices for larger tomatoes. Days to ripen means the number of days the plant is in the ground (not the day it is started from seed, etc.). Burpee and Gurneys both have great seeds for purchase.
After choosing the varieties you want with shorter time to mature, next you will want to either start seeds of these or cut existing suckers off of your tomato plants you have currently growing and root them.
You want to start growing your seeds about three months prior to the frost date of October 15th- a few weeks less for bought seedlings or cuttings. You want to give the new plants time enough to get established before placing them outside in the hot summer sun. And then plants will want to be set in the ground by around the end of July.
When planting the new seedlings/cuttings outside, you will want to be careful that they are babied well in the hot, dry summer we usually have. Their root system will still be young, and you will want to keep a close eye on them every day to check if they need watering and see how they’re growing.
Be ready to enjoy a second round of homegrown, fresh tomatoes.
If you like fresh tomatoes as much as my family does, this just makes you giddy with excitement! The fall crop should be ready to be picked around the end of September or so. We will be growing a fall crop of tomatoes this year in our garden, and I hope both you and I have a successful go at it!