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How to Get Early Ripe Tomatoes in Your Garden

By Edited Sep 21, 2016 4 7

A trick to get ripe tomatoes early.

   There is a trick to getting tomatoes to ripen early. It's called root pruning. It won't harm your plants and you can do it 2 or 3 times in a season. You'll have fresh vine ripened tomatoes before anyone on the block.

   Some years ago while traveling through Tennessee I stopped at a roadside vendor selling homegrown vegetables. Business was brisk around the baskets of tomatoes. I complimented him on how good they looked, and said I had a question. He said, "Go ahead and ask it," Well, the other growers around here don't have many tomatoes yet, and they just don't look as good as yours, how are you getting them so early?" He laughed and said "Come on out back and I'll show you."

   As we passed his barn he picked up a round pointed shovel and carried it along. We stopped in front of a tomato plant loaded with clusters of large green tomatoes. "Watch", he said. He dug deep into soil about 6 inches from the plant. He spaded a few more times to make a half circle around the plant. "They'll be ripe inside of a week", he said. He called it root pruning and that he did it 2 or 3 times a season. "The plants don't know what's happening, they just figure its high time to ripen those green tomatoes, and they do it quickly too", he said.

   Each year I try this trick in my own garden on a few plants, especially the early ones. My soil is rich and I can use a long bread knife to cut a semicircle around the plant in a jiffy. If you try it, be sure the green tomatoes are about as large as they're going to get. Root pruning at that point will bring the quickest results. The plants recover from this root shock and continue to yield throughout the season.

   As the season ends and frost is soon approaching, you may find and abundance of green tomatoes of all sizes still on your plants. There are many things that can done with this green fruit, but you can also root prune them to make them ripen on the vine.

Tip; After, doing this, remulch your plants well.



May 3, 2011 3:45pm
Thanks for this article. I am a complete black thumb. I'm going to try what you said, and see how it goes. Wish me luck! :)
May 5, 2011 3:19pm
VERY interesting. My senior mom is a gardening wiz and she would love this tip. I'll definitely pass this on. One question - do you actually touch the roots on the tomatos or just draw the "circle" around them. Thanks for the great tip and the sweet visit. :)
May 5, 2011 3:31pm
Oh, thank you for this! Never heard of it and at best, hum, my tomatoes....well thank you!
May 6, 2011 9:21am
SandwichINK, cut a half circle around the plant, go out 6 inches, go about spade deep.
May 10, 2011 12:10am
We'll have to try this in our garden if we get it going due to the rain. We get so impatient waiting for ripe tomatoes.
Feb 11, 2012 5:01pm
Great information. There is nothing like the taste of fresh grown tomatoes!
Feb 11, 2012 6:51pm
I've never heard of this technique before; thanks so much for sharing it with us.
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