Root Pruning Ripens Green Tomatoes

comments (4) September 21st, 2015

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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These San Marzano tomatoes looked like theyd never turn to ripe-red in the vegetable garden.
A garden spade or hand trowel can cut through tomato plant roots to help speed ripening.
It took about five days to see the root pruning results with tomatoes starting to ripen.
These San Marzano tomatoes looked like theyd never turn to ripe-red in the vegetable garden.Click To Enlarge

These San Marzano tomatoes looked like they'd never turn to ripe-red in the vegetable garden.

Photo: Jodi Torpey

Every year it seems like there are still plenty of green tomatoes on my tomato plants when fall rolls around. Once the weather starts to cool, it takes even longer for those green tomatoes to turn ripe-red and ready for picking.

Sure, there are many ways to use green tomatoes so they don't go to waste. After harvest, some will turn red on their own with time, while others can be made into breads, cakes, relishes and dozens of other recipes.

Because this vegetable gardening season got a slow start due to unusually cold spring weather, I planned ahead for a bigger-than-usual bounty of green tomatoes in September.

First, I started removing tomato blossoms that formed in late August. Those flowers wouldn't have time to mature into fruit and they were taking energy away from the plant. It's against my nature to pinch off tomato flowers, but I knew it would help plants get busy with ripening, instead of trying to set more fruit.

Second, I stopped fertilizing the tomato garden in August and started slowing down with the watering, too. It makes little sense to keep encouraging tomato plants to grow when I know the weather can turn cold any minute in September. The earliest snow I've seen in my garden happened on September 5, although sometimes the season can stay warm through October.

Third, I sliced through the roots around plants to help speed the tomato ripening. This kind of root pruning is easy to do with a garden spade or even a hand trowel. Simply dig around the plant, cutting the roots about 8-10 inches from the stem. Leave the soil in place.

Root pruning sends a signal to the plant that it's time to ripen the fruit. It took about five days for the first tomato to start to turn red. The others will soon follow.

If you live in a gardening region where the weather stays warmer longer, lucky you! But for gardeners in short-season, cooler climates, root pruning is a nice alternative to harvesting a bushel of green tomatoes that may ripen someday.

posted in: tomatoes, fall

Comments (4)

Ericthomas21 writes: This is soo beautiful.
Posted: 12:32 am on October 25th
Eorgeurton writes: I see this type of tomatoes first time
Posted: 2:17 am on August 30th
JamelFlower writes: Its amazing...Sou lovely
Posted: 1:06 am on January 26th
mariotroy writes: wow lovely ...
Posted: 5:32 am on November 20th
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