The ultimate goal of every tomato grower is to harvest fresh, juicy, red ripe tomatoes. However, homegrown tomatoes mostly ripen on the vine before they are harvested. That’s why you can always make a difference between homegrown tomatoes and store-bought tomatoes.
There are two simple methods to ripen your tomatoes. Firstly, ripen them on the vine or pick the tomatoes earlier due to season end and rip them off at room temperature.
Both ripening processes will give you the best flavorful tomatoes if you pick them at the right time with the correct method.
However, in this article, I will tell you how you ripen your tomatoes on the vine before the season ends.
What are Vine Ripe Tomatoes?
Some folks believe that only vine-ripe tomatoes ensure an authentic taste and flavor. And they believe vine-ripe tomatoes mean smooth skin with semi-firmness once fully ripe with perfect red color and flavor. Therefore, only picking those tomatoes from plants means vine-ripe tomatoes.
However, according to expert opinion, tomatoes are considered vine-ripe once picked up at the breaker or more advanced stages. At this stage, tomatoes physiologically develop their texture and flavor fully but firm enough. Besides, some external red color appears at the blossom end.
So, if you pick your tomatoes at the breaker stage and ripen them indoors, they will give an excellent taste and flavor as ripe red tomatoes.
Commercial growers pick tomatoes for long-way transport at the mature green or breaker stage. Nevertheless, you don’t need to ship your tomatoes as a home gardener. So, let them ripe on the vine for a few more days to enjoy more fresh juicy tomatoes.
19 Tips for Ripening Tomatoes on the Vine
Tips – 1: Know the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone
Knowing the plant’s hardiness zone is very important to ripen your tomatoes on the vine. It helps you to count the total frost-free sunny days you will get in a growing season in your local area according to the USDA plant hardiness zone map.
Besides, this zone map also tells you the approximate first frost date, which helps you to ripen your tomatoes on the vine before the frost comes.
Tips – 2: Understand the Tomato Variety
To ripen it on the vine, you must know two basic things about a particular tomato variety.
1: Tomato Maturity Date
Ensure how long it takes to mature your particular tomato varieties according to the tomato seed packet instructions or plant tags.
Then you must confirm your tomato variety will become mature before the approximate first frost date after planting them.
If your tomato maturity date crosses over the approximate first frost date or is very close to it, you must choose some early-ripening tomato varieties.
2: Determinate or Indeterminate Tomatoes
You might also confirm whether your tomatoes are determinate or indeterminate types.
Determinate tomatoes are easy to ripen on the vine because they all ripen at once. Therefore, you don’t have to wait long for the total harvest.
Then again, indeterminate tomatoes continue producing fruits until the first frost appears. So, you need extra care and effort to ripen your indeterminate tomatoes faster on the vine.
Tips – 3: Pruning Your Tomatoes
You may apply two pruning methods to ripen your tomatoes faster on the vine before the end of the season.
1: Topping or Top Pruning
Top pruning means cutting off the top growing tip of the main stem of your tomato plants. It would be best if you pruned your tomatoes four weeks before the approximate first frost date.
Topping stops producing new flowers and fruits. Besides, it also directs the plant’s energy to the existing tomatoes on the vine to ripen them faster.
2: Root Pruning
In this method, you should push a garden spade about 8-10 inches deep into the ground. Then make a circle around the plant base 8-12 inches away.
Do this root pruning after ripening a few fruit clusters on your plants.
This process will send a signal to the tomatoes to ripen earlier.
Tips – 4: Shifting Plant Roots
It works like root pruning. In this method, slightly pull up the tomato plant from the ground. It will loosen the plant roots inside the ground and signal the plants to end the ripening process faster.
Tips – 5: Continue Mild Pruning
Mild pruning will ensure a healthy harvest. So, regularly check your tomatoes and pick off the diseased leaves if you notice them.
Besides, remove the lower leaves and pinch off some suckers. As well as reduce the overdensity of leaves on the plants. This will ensure enough air circulation and provide more energy to develop fruits on the vine.
Tips – 6: Pinch Off New Flower Clusters
Usually, tomatoes take 20-30 days to reach their mature green stage from the blossom set. After that, they will take 20-30 days to become ripe from the mature green stage. Finally, it takes around 45-60 days to get vine-ripe (breaker or advanced stages) tomatoes.
So, pinch off all the new flower clusters one month before the first frost date. It directs all the plant’s energy intent to develop green tomatoes that ripen earlier on the vine.
Tips – 7: Remove the Young Fruits
Remove the young fruit sets that cannot mature green before the frost. The minimum nighttime temperature range for setting flowers and fruits is 55° F to 68° F. If the temperature goes down below that range, no fruits will form newly.
So, pinch off the new fruit sets. It will help to ripen faster the existing large tomatoes on the vine.
You must remove the immature fruits at least 3-4 weeks before the expected first frost date.
Tips – 8: Cut Off Watering
Once your tomatoes reach their mature green level, they gradually reduce the water supply. Therefore, it will encourage them to ripen before the season end.
Tips – 9: Stop Fertilizing
Stop fertilizing your tomatoes about four weeks before the expected first frost date. This will stop the plant’s growth and produce new flowers and fruits.
Before stopping fertilizing, give your tomatoes one last feed of compost tea or fish emulsion. This will increase the plant’s energy to wrap up the season.
Tips – 10: Pick Some Ripen Fruits
Plenty of fruits are on the vine a few weeks before the approximate first frost date.
In that case, pick some ripened tomatoes from the plants which have already reached the breaker or more advanced stages.
This will help the other fruits become mature.
Tips – 11: Cover the Plants with Net
Birds and other natural critters attract vine-ripe tomatoes. So, cover your plants with a net to protect your tomatoes from birds.
Tips – 12: Cover Your Tomatoes at Night
At the end of the season, the nighttime temperature may drop below 55°F, which can stop the ripening process of tomatoes on the vine.
In that case, cover your tomatoes with clear plastic to make them warm and dry throughout the night. Then again, remove the plastic cover in the daytime to get sunlight.
Tips – 13: Protect Your Plants from Extreme Heat
Tomatoes also stop maturing fruits if the temperature rises above 86°F. In that case, provide a temporary shade over the plants to protect them from the sun’s extreme heat during day time.
If the temperature doesn’t drop within a few days, pick the mature green tomatoes and ripen them indoors at room temperature.
Tips –14: Provide Plastic Mulch
During the end of the season, the soil temperature goes lower. So, you can apply black or red plastic mulch for your tomatoes to retain the soil moisture and keep the soil warm. This will help you to develop your fruit.
Tips- 15: Ensure Proper Pollination
Improper pollination may lead to blossom drop. Tomatoes are self-pollinated plants, but cool, wet, or hot, dry weather conditions can stop normal pollination of the tomato plants.
So, give the plants a little shake on warm days to help pollinate them efficiently. Besides, poor pollination produces poor fruit sets, and they don’t get enough time to ripen on the vine.
Tips- 16: Plant on Time
Early planting doesn’t ensure your early harvest. So, prepare your seedbed indoors 4-6 weeks before the expected last frost date. Then transplant your seedlings outdoors when the nighttime temperature is constantly above 55° F.
So, plant your tomatoes just in time, and don’t waste a day when the weather is perfect. This will help you to ripen tomatoes in time on the vine.
Tips- 17: Pull Up the Entire Tomato Plants
There are a lot of tomatoes that may remain in a mature green stage on the vine during the season’s end. Don’t worry; you still have one last option to ripen your tomatoes, keeping them on the vine.
In this method, you can lift the whole tomato plant by its roots and hang them upside down in your garage or basement at room temperature. And your tomatoes will still get some sugar from the plants to develop their fruits.
Tips – 18: Ensure Proper Plant Care
Late-season tomatoes are susceptible to late blight and other fungal diseases. In addition, it can destroy the entire fruit production during the ripening of your tomatoes on the vine. So, you should take the following steps to protect your tomatoes from unexpected problems.
- Never water over the plants. Rather, water on the soil surrounding the tomato plants.
- Water early in the morning so the soil can soak the water before evening.
- Prune the lower older leaves which touch the ground.
- Provide support (staking or caging) to stand the plants off the ground.
- Ensure none of your fruits touch the ground.
- Confirm enough spacing among plants for good air circulation.
Tips- 19: Pick Tomatoes Regularly
Check your tomatoes every day to pick them up instantly once they show any sign of ripeness. This will help the other green tomatoes ripen earlier that those left on the vine.