How to Extend Your Tomato Growing Season

Do you want to get the most out of your tomato garden? Growing tomatoes is highly rewarding but watching the season end when your plants still have so much potential can be a sad situation.

The good news is there are a few things you can do to help extend your tomato growing season and enjoy fresh tomatoes after the first few touches of frost have rolled through already.

extend your tomato growing season

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What Tomato Varieties Can You Extend The Growing Season For?

Indeterminate tomatoes will continue to grow until the frost kills them off. These tomatoes will produce more and more from the point they hit maturity to when the cold kills them off.

These tomatoes are especially well suited to having their growing season extended with a few simple tricks. If you play your cards right you will have months of fresh tomatoes for your table.

Start Your Seeds Early To Extend Your Tomato Growing Season

You should always start your tomatoes indoors well before the last frost is expected. These tomato plants can be started in very large pots allowing you to start them 2 months or more in advance before moving outside. The larger your container the earlier you can start your seeds.

tomato seedling

If starting early you will want a grow light and to keep them in a room that hovers in the 70s to help them grow and survive before you move them outdoors to the garden.

How To Help Your Tomato Plants Handle The Summer Heat

To help extend your growing season you need to protect your tomatoes from damage in the summer heat. There are several great things you can do to help provide your plants with what they need to handle the summer heat.

Tomatoes love the sun and thrive in the summer sun and heat but the worst heat waves can still be a major issue for your tomato plants. When a massive heatwave is above the average your tomato plants are acclimated to rolls in you should prepare them to survive the heat and sun.

Shade cloth is a great way to help cool your tomatoes in a heatwave. And to get your tomatoes to start ripening on the vine you need to keep them from being too hot.

Try this trick for both of these situations; If you do not have a set up for shade cloth and need something in a hurry you can grab a light-colored bed sheet and toss it over your tomato cage leaving room for airflow on the underside in the afternoon to help provide some shade.

Mulch is vital for helping your vegetable garden survive the peak summer heat. When you add a nice thick layer of mulch to your garden you are helping to shade the roots and prevent the water you give your plants from evaporating before they can utilize it.

mulch tomato plants

Water your tomatoes more often during relentless heat. Your tomatoes will still need just as much water even when the sun is taking what it can from your plants. Watering more often and even a few times a day can help fight this issue.

Remember to always water at ground level and avoid getting your leaves wet as the sun can use the water to burn your plant’s leaves.

How To Help Your Tomatoes Handle The Early Cold

Tomatoes do not do well in the cold and will stop growing if the soil temperature drops too low.

There are a few things that you can do to help your tomatoes cope with the cold and extend your growing season an extra few weeks. Just because you have a frost warning doesn’t mean your tomato plants are done for.

Add mulch to your garden beds around your tomatoes. Consider adding black landscape fabric wrapped around your plants in the garden bed as well to help attract the heat of the sun to warm the soil around your tomato plants.

If growing your tomatoes in containers consider adding insulation to help keep the roots warm.

Cover your tomatoes in the evening to help trap the heat and keep them warmer overnight. While you can let your tomatoes breathe in the morning you should consider covering them when the day wears on to help trap some of the heat of the sun.

You can use hoop houses, portable greenhouses, or simply get creative with plastic sheeting over your tomato cages to help keep your plants warm for the first few touches of frost to extend your growing season.

tomatoes in portable greenhouse

Avoid watering your plants in the evening when frosts are expected to hit. This extra water can cool down your plants faster leaving damage when the cold sets in.

If you have adequate coverage for your tomatoes like a pop-up greenhouse consider adding a heat source to help your tomatoes handle a frost. Even bottles of hot water can help warm your plants up a bit.

For more support with growing tomatoes, check out the following guides: