With more and more gardeners looking to have permanent gardens that grow back year after year, it makes sense that some people are hoping they can make their tomato plants last more than one year.
Going dormant for the winter is one excellent survival strategy for plants, but that doesn’t mean that your average fruit or vegetable will do it. Generally, plants that produce many seeds don’t need to survive for more than one season to ensure their offspring continue growing into the new year.
So, do tomato plants go dormant, or do they produce enough seeds that they don’t have to?
Tomato plants are annual vegetables, meaning they die back when it gets too cold every year. Most won’t survive the winter chill, except in seed form, so the seeds are what you rely on for next year’s growth.
Of course, not all tomato plants are planted outside, so let’s talk about what you need to know about caring for tomatoes, getting ready for winter, and how you can ensure next year’s harvest is good.
Can You Keep A Tomato Plant Alive All Year?
Yes! Surprisingly for an annual, tomato plants can thrive indoors or in a warm greenhouse all year round. They can live for years at a time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want them to.
For one thing, as tomato plants age, they can be more prone to disease and other problems. They can also become more difficult to trim and train. The leaves on tomato plants are also full of toxins that aren’t good for you, so you can’t harvest and use them. Plus, they can attract flies and other insects that might cause problems for your other fruits and vegetables.
So, while you can keep tomatoes alive for a long time, it’s not always in your best interest.
Do Tomato Plants Have More Than One Harvest?
The main reason people grow tomato plants is to harvest the tomato fruits. So it’s natural to wonder if your tomato plants will keep producing fruit if you keep them alive for longer.
The thing is, plants don’t necessarily grow the way we want them to, which means that plenty of plants only grow fruit once or twice.
Are tomatoes a multi-harvest vegetable?
Nope!Tomato plants are one of the vegetables that are only harvestable once. Still, they can have a more extended harvest if you grow them indoors or in a greenhouse, but they will eventually stop producing fruit.
Once tomatoes stop producing flowers, they will produce the last few fruits from those flowers, but they won’t go into a new fruiting phase and produce more flowers.
So, if you’re not getting new flowers on your tomato plants, you probably have a couple of weeks for the last few fruits to develop before the plant stops being productive.
How To Get Your Tomato Plants To Flower Again?
To be clear, not all tomato plants can be coaxed to flower again. Tomato plants have a flowering part of their life cycle, and when they stop flowering, they aren’t supposed to flower a second time, even if temperatures don’t kill them.
However, in some cases, you can trick tomatoes into flowering a second time by giving them the right conditions and providing fertilizer with the right combination of nutrients.
Balanced fertilizers and fertilizers that prioritize potassium and phosphorous can trick your tomatoes into flowering a second and very rarely a third time.
However, you should be prepared that tomatoes grown indoors almost always have smaller harvests than outdoor tomato plants and that each additional flowering and harvest will produce fewer fruits.
Will Tomato Plants Grow Back After Winter?
Yes and no. Will the tomato plants you planted last spring grow back after the winter? No. But will your tomato plants drop enough fruits and seeds to reseed themselves and plant more? Possibly, if you allow a few ripe fruits to reach the ground and you don’t let the squirrels and other local herbivores steal all of the fruit.
Tomatoes aren’t prolific re-seeders, though some varieties do reseed better than others. However, they do a reasonably good job of it if you’re willing to sacrifice more than one mature fruit for reseeding.
Tomatoes are also fantastic vegetables for seed saving and grow well from the seeds out of mature fruits. Seed saving 1-2 fruits from your most prolific and successful plants is a good way to get seeds perfectly suited to your garden’s soil, light, and water conditions.
No tomato plant is going to survive winter without being brought indoors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use tomato’s natural growth cycles to help create the kind of permaculture garden you’ve been dreaming of.
Do You Cut Tomato Plants To The Ground For Winter?
No. Some plants benefit from cutting the stems back to the ground over the winter, so the roots are protected and have more resources to re-grow the stems and leaves.
However, tomatoes have shallower thinner roots than many perennial plants and are annual vegetables, not perennial vegetables, so there’s no growth advantage from cutting tomato plants back.
Your tomato plants will die back on their own.
However, some tomato gardeners will cut back their tomato plants not because it helps the tomatoes but because it helps make their gardens neat and easy to prep the next year.
Tomato plants can also be a fantastic addition to compost piles that are getting a little hot and need to be slowed down. They contain a lot of helpful nutrients and are woody stemmed enough that they can help keep your compost pile from heating up too much with Nitrogen.
Hi there, my name is Allie and welcome to my blog; GareningWithAllie!
Much of what you see written here is just our personal experiences with gardening. Along with the content I write here, there is also a unique collection of gardening topics covered by some of our close friends. I hope you find everything you read here to be helpful, informative, and something that can make your gardening journey the most lovely experience ever! With that said, Happy Gardening!