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If you’d like refreshing salads, sandwiches, and side dishes made with juicy, flavorful fresh tomatoes in the dead of winter, I’ve got good news. You can grow winter tomatoes. The idea is not as far-fetched as it seems.
With a bit of effort and planning, you can enjoy tomatoes year-round. Consider these three options for growing winter tomatoes.
If you live in climate with cold winters, growing winter tomatoes indoors is the most logical option. Inside, plants have protection. They are not exposed to cold and harsh elements.
Indoors, your main task is to replicate the best outdoor growing conditions.
Set aside a small area in your home for your plants. Naturally, you need to follow the usual tomato growing tips for watering, repotting, and fertilizing.
In particular, when you grow winter tomatoes indoors, pay attention to these factors:
What are the best tomatoes to grow in winter indoors?
Choose smaller varieties. Because small fruit have less skin to ripen than large tomatoes, they ripen faster. Small size and quick ripening are helpful indoors where there may be limited light.
Choose short-season varieties. Tomatoes can mature in 55 days or up to 100 days, depending on the variety. Determinate tomatoes set their fruit earlier than indeterminates, which leads many gardeners to choose determinates to grow indoors. Indeterminates, on the other hand, produce steadily until frost. There are plenty of short-season indeterminates tomato varieties that reach maturity early. You could grow indeterminates indoors in winter and then transfer them into your garden. Bottom line: you have the best success growing indoor tomatoes in winter when you choose varieties that mature in 55-70 days, whether they are determinates or indeterminates.
If you have access to a greenhouse or cold frame, you have an excellent option for growing winter tomatoes. A greenhouse or cold frame’s walls let in plenty of light. But if you live in an area that receives less than 7-8 hours of sunlight a day during the winter, you need to get supplemental lighting so tomato plants can get their 8-hour quota.
Temperature is another matter. As with indoor plants, you should keep the greenhouse above 60 degrees but below 90 degrees F. Use a thermometer to track the temperature. If air dips below 60 degrees, then you can supplement heat. You can choose from many options – some low-cost or no-cost – including:
If you grow winter tomatoes in a cold frame, be sure it has enough height enough to allow plants to mature.
What are the best tomatoes to grow in a winter greenhouse?
You can grow any type of tomato in a greenhouse. Bush tomato varieties tend to grow outward and take up a lot of valuable floor space. They are a good choice for shorter cold frames. Indeterminate varieties, when staked, grow upward, and make best use of the vertical space. They are favored for winter greenhouse tomatoes.
Some gardeners have no worries about frost or freezes. You have a year-round gardening window. And to be honest, the rest of us are a bit envious.
You know that you’re among them when your overnight temperatures rarely fall below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C). If that’s the case for you, then growing tomatoes in winter outdoors becomes an exercise in choosing the best varieties.
But you need to have frost protection on hand in the event that temperatures go rogue. Individual plant covers, row covers, self-standing water tubes (like Wall-O-Water) – even sheets, blankets, and tarps – can safeguard your outdoor tomato plants in winter during a cold snap.
What are the best tomato varieties to grow in winter outdoors?
Choose tomatoes for cold climates
The best tomatoes for cold climates are short- to mid-season tomatoes. That’s to say, they set fruit in cooler temperatures – and in many cases, their fruits reach maturity in the shortest number of days possible.
Choose small-fruited tomato varieties
Even if your weather is mild during winter, chances are good that temperatures are cooler than regular growing season. Large tomatoes often turn watery and mealy in cool weather. That’s why it’s a good idea to choose small-fruited varieties – like cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, and patio tomatoes – to grow outdoors during winter.
Plan ahead. Few nurseries, garden centers, and online vendors offer tomato plants or seedlings for sale during the off season. You can take cuttings from your indeterminate tomato plants at the end of the regular growing season, root them, and plant them indoors in the winter. Or you can order seeds and start winter tomatoes indoor just as your regular summer season ends.
More on growing indoor tomatoes
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