In the Garden: Late Tomato Season

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It is late in the tomato growing season, but all is not lost just yet. OSU Master Gardener Jane Moyer shares some tips on what do you do to promote late ripening of tomatoes:

1. Pick off any flowers and fruit that is too small to mature before cold weather sets in.

2. Cut off branches that have no fruit. Leave leaves on the remaining branches to absorb sunlight, creating energy for tomatoes to ripen.

3. Reduce water.

4. Cooler September temperatures actually help fruit to ripe because the red tomato pigments, lycopene and carotene are not produced above 85 degrees nor lycopene below 50 degrees F.

5. As nighttime temperatures start getting down into the low 50’s, leave tomatoes that have started to turn red on the plant but pick any that are still green. Covering plants works well for nearly red tomatoes, but not as well for green ones.

6. Research shows that chilling injury on green fruit occurs at temperatures of 50 degrees and decay losses rise markedly on fruit exposed to 40 degrees F. Red ones well on their way to repining tolerate colder temperatures.

7. Keep only the tomatoes that have turned light green or white. Spread them out in cardboard boxes in a cool dry place. Don’t let them touch and check often.

8. Mature green tomatoes will ripen in 14 days at 70 degrees F and 28 days at 55 degrees F. Ripening enzymes and flavor are destroyed by colder temperatures.

The OSU Master Gardeners Hotlines:

Jackson County: 541-776-7371
Josephine County: 541-476-6613
Klamath County: 541-883-7131
Curry County: 541-247-6672