If you’re a fan of tomato plants, you know the value of a fresh, home-grown tomato. And you’re probably all too familiar with the disappointing feeling that comes at the end of the growing season when it’s too cold to continue growing tomatoes.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? Is growing tomatoes in winter possible?
Read on to learn everything you need to know to successfully grow tomatoes in the winter.
Is Growing Tomatoes in Winter Possible?
Generally, tomatoes prefer warm, sunny weather. But the short answer is yes, growing tomatoes in the winter is possible if you take the necessary steps and give your plants the proper care they need.
Things to Keep in Mind if You’re Growing Tomatoes in Winter
Before you get started growing your tomatoes in the winter, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
Where to Grow Your Tomatoes
One of the first things you’ll need to decide when growing tomatoes in winter is where to grow your tomatoes in the winter.
In general, tomatoes need temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit to grow. If you live in a region where the weather stays consistently warm (such as southern California or Florida), you may be able to follow the usual tomato-growing process to grow tomatoes in the winter.
However, if you’re like most people, you probably live somewhere that gets colder than tomatoes can handle. If this is the case, you will probably need to grow your tomatoes indoors, where you can maintain the temperature yourself.
Some tomato varieties will do better in the winter than others. The size of the plant, how it grows fruit, and the variety’s ideal temperatures can vary and impact whether the plant will grow well in the wintertime.
For example, some varieties of tomatoes have a shorter growing season and are better suited for cooler climates. You should look for the following varieties to grow tomatoes in the winter:
- Cold Set
- Golden Nugget
- Northern Delight
- Oregon Spring
- Valencia Heirloom
Additionally, smaller tomato varieties are more suitable for indoor growing, which is the easiest way to grow tomatoes during the winter. Some smaller varieties I recommend for indoor growing include:
- Cherry Gold
- Red Robin
- Small Fry
- Tiny Tim
- Toy Boy
There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes out there, so you’re likely to run across many other types that you can grow indoors and in the winter. Just make sure to do your research on how big they grow and what conditions they need so that you can set yourself up for success.
Your Tomatoes May Not Be the Same
At the end of the day, you can only mess with Mother Nature so much. Tomatoes are summer plants that thrive in the warmer seasons.
If you do grow tomatoes in the winter, keep in mind that they may not be the same as tomatoes grown in the summertime. They might be smaller and produce fewer fruits than you’re used to.
What You’ll Need To Grow Tomatoes In the Winter
- Tomato seeds
- Starter tray
- Starter mix
- Desk lamp or light kit (optional)
Planting Your Tomatoes Indoors
Planting tomatoes indoors is the best option for growing tomatoes in winter if you don’t have a greenhouse. Keep reading to find all that you need to know about planting your tomatoes indoors.
As mentioned above, tomatoes do best in warmer weather and sunlight. Even when you’re growing them inside, keep them in a spot that gets full sun and ensure the temperature remains above 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
You should also use pots or containers that can breathe to ensure that the soil can drain properly. Make sure they have holes in the bottom, so the soil doesn’t become too soggy and damage your tomatoes’ roots.
Depending on the size of your tomatoes, choose a container between one and three gallons to give your plant’s roots plenty of room to grow.
If you’re unsure what size to choose, err on the side of a larger container, as it’s better to have a container with too much room than too little.
How to Plant Tomatoes Indoors
If you’re starting from seeds, fill a starting tray with starting mix. Plant seeds one-quarter of an inch deep. Keep soil moist.
At this point, your container does not need to be in the sunlight, but it should still be somewhere relatively warm.
After five to 10 days, seeds will germinate. This is when you should move your container to a sunny location. A west or south-facing window works best, as this will ensure your plant gets the most possible sunlight.
Once your seeds have sprouted seedlings, transfer them to a larger container, being careful not to damage the roots.
Plant new seeds and repeat the process every two weeks if you want to maintain a consistent tomato supply all winter long.
Caring for Your Tomatoes
Growing tomatoes indoors in the winter requires taking a few extra steps. Follow the guide below for the best outcomes when growing tomatoes in the winter.
Temperature and Light
While your plant is in the window, you should rotate it regularly to keep sunlight even. This is crucial to growing tomatoes in the winter successfully.
Although tomatoes can grow at temperatures over 65 degrees Fahrenheit, they do even better when the environment is between 75 and 90 degrees.
To keep tomatoes this warm, consider using an overhead light or desk lamp with a fluorescent lightbulb. Just make sure to leave several inches of space between your plant and the light so it doesn’t get too hot.
Additionally, you’ll need to make sure your tomatoes have adequate water. Tomato plants are thirsty, but indoor plants don’t need as much water as outdoor plants do because they aren’t subject to as much evaporation.
Add water to your tomato plant until water runs through the holes in the bottom of your container to ensure that the soil is moist throughout.
You should add more water once the soil is dry an inch below the surface. Most likely, this means watering your tomatoes daily.
Keep your plant fertilized throughout its lifetime, in each stage of its growth. The plant needs support during growth, so this will help you successfully grow your tomatoes in the winter.
Generally, tomato plants do best with a fertilizer that has slightly more phosphorous than nitrogen. I recommend using 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer. If your plant receives too much nitrogen, it won’t produce many fruits.
Also, keep in mind that when you apply fertilizer, you should leave several inches of space between the tomato plant’s stem and the fertilizer.
For more information on keeping your tomatoes fertile, check out this Guide to Tomato Fertilizer.
As your plants grow, they will begin to produce flowers. Flowers eventually grow into fruit, but only under the right conditions. If you’re growing tomatoes in the winter, this means a few extra steps.
In general, tomatoes require pollination to grow. Outside, this is taken care of by wind, bees, and other pollinating animals. However, because you are unlikely to have these same conditions inside your home, you will need to rely on hand pollination to help your plants thrive.
When each flower blooms, use a cotton swab to gently tap its stem, or use an inexpensive electric toothbrush and hold it at the top of the stem for a few seconds. This helps loosen the pollen so it can spread.
You can also insert the cotton swab inside the flowers to help spread the pollen even further.
As your tomato plant starts to bear fruit, you may find that the heavy fruits are beginning to weigh down its limbs.
If this case, it’s essential to stake the plant to give it support in order to grow your tomatoes in the winter successfully. To do so, insert the stake in the soil next to the tomato plant and tie the two together. Ensure it is tied tight enough for proper support but not so tight that it damages the plant.
Check the plant regularly as it continues to grow and adjust the ties and stakes as needed.
Looking for more information about growing tomatoes indoors? Check out our guide on How to Start an Indoor Tomato Garden for more guidance and care tips!
Keeping Your Existing Tomato Plant Alive in Winter
What if you’ve already poured your blood, sweat, and tears into growing tomatoes outdoors, and you don’t want to see all that hard work go to waste over the winter?
That’s where overwintering comes in.
Overwintering is another way to grow tomatoes in the winter. Although it may be tough to bring your entire tomato plant inside, you can take clippings from your outdoor plant and re-plant those indoors.
To do so, you will first need to identify “suckers” on your tomato plant. These are parts of the plant that sprout from where the stem and another branch meet. They have small stems of their own and may have some leaves, too.
Clip the sucker from its base. Remove extra shoots and leaves from its main stem, so the plant can focus its energy on growing new roots.
Place the clippings in a glass or vase with water. After several weeks, you should notice roots beginning to form.
Once your clipping has roots, plant it in a container and follow the care instructions above to grow it indoors and help it produce beautiful, delicious tomatoes.
Delicious Tomatoes All Year Round
Although tomatoes are traditionally a summer fruit, you can in fact grow them year-round. All you need is a little bit of patience and care, and you’ll be growing tomatoes in winter in no time.
We hope all the information will help you to grow your tomatoes in the winter successfully.
Ready for more tomato tips and tricks? Visit our tomato plants page to find information about different tomato varieties, how to use them, growing guides, and more!