Tomatoes are tender perennials. In a mild enough climate or warm enough greenhouse they can last for about two years. Some people dig up their tomatoes and bring them in and then out again each year. Others grow clones of their treasured tomato plants and grow them over the winter then put them out in the Spring for a headstart on the season. Read on for these methods in detail!
OtterJon from Tomatoville has been growing tomatoes as perennials for years. This is his summarized method.
- Digs up a healthy tomato plant in the fall. Cuts it back and then puts it in a clean 3-gallon pot with Promix BX.
- Grows and harvests from it throughout the winter. He keeps them in a spare bedroom under two big lights. The lights are 400w warehouse lights converted by swapping the ballast inside with a pulse start ballast. The bulbs used are Phillips Mastercolor CMH (Ceramic Metal Halide). The lights are on 12 hours a day. These lights generate enough heat to keep this room about 80 degrees F. He also takes suckers from them to clone for his summer garden. Fertilizers used are FoxFarms Grow Big, Big Bloom, and Epsoma's Tomato Tone. He harvests all winter long.
- Puts it in new soil in the springtime. It needs new soil to avoid salt buildup from fertilizers. It also needs its roots trimmed.
- Repeats the process year after year. He says that the tomatoes that have gone through the process take to the cycle better with each new year.
Varieties? Sounds like he chooses a variety that is one of his favorites to get him through the winter. Also needs to be an indeterminate. Small types are more prolific but bigger ones can be grown: Coyote Cherry (heirloom), Camp Joy Cherry (heirloom), Vesuvio (paste), Russian Pink 2, or Costoluto Genovese. Mr.Big46 chimed in to say that he grows a hybrid variety Philova F1 perennial style too.
Rare Perennial Everglades Tomato (small cherry) Grows all Year in South Florida. Seed can be obtained from Southern J Ranch.
Solar Flare (heirloom) is growing as a perennial with this youtuber that lives in SW Arizona.
This youtuber does an overwinter sucker harvest obtained from a cherry tomato plant in fall.
Blogger Mudflower also has extensive experience cloning indeterminate tomatoes and growing the suckers in pots over the winter for a 1-2 month headstart in the spring and also to propagate expensive hybrid varieties.
Another thing to consider is this experiment done in mid-July by Albopepper with 2 indeterminate cherry tomatoes that had been extremely prolific but also were overgrown with browning leaves and the plant had mites. So he cut them down just above nodes that had the potential for growth. And they grew back and by September they were ready to harvest again! Could this type of technique by useful for those who are wanting to grow tomatoes as perennials??? This article says:
However, once they’ve made it through the summer, it’s possible to see the second year of growth, even if it’s too cool for winter crops. As long as there is no frost to kill off the roots, you can cut your tomato plants back to the ground and there should be regrowth as things warm up in the spring!And what if these methods could extend to other tender perennials like bell peppers and eggplants?
Are you ready to experiment? I am! If you have any experience doing this, please comment.