Part 4 of 4
University of Maryland Extension
Tips for early tomatoes
- Select early-season cultivars that are supposed to ripen 55-65 days after transplanting.
- Warm the soil where the roots grow and the air where the plant grows. Lay down black plastic or landscape fabric 2-3 weeks before planting to warm the soil.
- After planting, surround the transplants with some type of plastic enclosure open at the top. A tomato cage surrounded by clear plastic sheeting works well. Fill plastic soda bottles with water and line them up inside the cage close to the plants. The water will heat up during the day and release the heat at night. Be prepared to throw a quilt over the cage on nights when the temperature dips below 30⁰ F. Wall-O-Water is a commercially available plant protector that has produced good results for local tomato gardeners.
- Harvest as soon as fruit color begins to change. This prevents many fruit problems (cracking, splitting, insect feeding, diseases) and increases the yield of edible fruit.
- Tomatoes will finish ripening on your kitchen counter. You will not be able to tell the difference between fruits ripened indoors compared to fruits that ripen on the plant.
- Light is not necessary for ripening mature tomatoes.
Storage and preservation tips
- Don’t refrigerate tomatoes. Allow them to ripen fully indoors at room temperature.
- Pick green tomatoes before the first killing frost and store in medium cool (50°- 70°F), moist (90% RH) conditions for 1 to 3 weeks. When desired, ripen fruits at 70°F.
An excerpt from the article “Tomatoes“, courtesy of the University of Maryland.