Planting Fall Tomatoes

I have mentioned before that I keep my vegetable garden growing year round. If your love gardening, it is easy to do. If you get to August and are sick of the garden, it is perfectly understandable. This is alot of work, and the heat of summer really makes it tough to get out there and work on the garden. Once the summer heat fries the garden in August, I get it when people are happy that the garden is done for the year. I, however, get excited this time of year when plants reach their end… not because I get a break from gardening, but because it is time to start planning for another season in the garden.

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One of the first things I plant for fall is tomatoes. A couple weeks ago, I posted this picture on my Facebook page. This is one of my cherry tomato plants. It is a huge, enormous vine that had taken over, and is now succumbing to the summer heat. This plant gave me more tomatoes than I could have expected, but now it is winding down. I could try to nurse this plant through August and hope it bounces back in cooler weather, but I have tried that in the past with limited success.

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I cut down all my tomatoes, and have re-planted for the fall. The growing season in our part of the Carolinas is long enough to plant two rounds of tomatoes. The average growing season in Florence is 232 days, in Conway it is 244 days, and in Georgetown 255. Our average first fall freeze is in November, so tomatoes planted on August 1st will have 3-4 months before the first freeze. Tomatoes take 80-100 days to mature, so there is time!

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There are a few ways to get fall tomatoes growing. 1) You can start plants fresh from seed. This is tough, because you need to start them at the peak of summer heat, and the small seedlings are especially sensitive to our hot weather. Plus, when small these seedlings are irresistible to bugs. Starting from seed is tough in the fall. 2) You can buy plants already started from a nursery. By this time of the year, most tomato plants are already off the shelf. Not too many places re-stock in the fall, since not many people grow tomatoes this late in the year. Also, I hate paying dollars for a plant when seeds are only pennies. 3) The third option is what I am doing this year….

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You can cut healthy branches from your old plants, stick them in soil, and they will sprout roots and grow! Tomatoes are very easy to root… all those hairs on the branches will become roots when buried.

I actually had small plants scattered through my yard that I put into pots. Last spring, I had so many extra tomato plants that I just planted them anywhere I could fit them. I felt like Johnny Appleseed, except with tomato plants. I had them growing in the flower beds, near the mailbox, in the ditch across the street… everywhere. Well, lots of these “free” plants did not grow much. The ones in the flower beds were quickly swallowed by the faster growing flowers, and never took off. This was a great find for me, because I had several small tomato plants that I cut into a few pieces each, and planted in my pots. So far after 4 days, they are all still growing. If all goes well, I will have another round of tomatoes by Halloween!

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