How to encourage tomatoes to ripen on the plant.

At this time of the season, you probably have some wonderful looking trusses of tomatoes on your plants … the only thing is, the tomatoes are still green!

Here are a few tips to help ripen them before temperatures drop and they have to be picked and brought indoors.

Reduce work load and give them a shock!
It’s time to tell your plants that the season is coming to an end and they had better “get a move on”. Ways to do this are by reducing their work load and creating a little stress that will encourage them to fulfill their destiny, which is, to make ripe tomatoes that make seeds that make tomatoes for next season!

Branch Trimming
A great way to reduce the work load and stress plants slightly at the same time, is to give the leaf branches a trim.

Steve from North Shields, a good friend of the TG Newsletter, has a friend who prunes leaf branches back to two leaves per branch, see photo below.

Leaf Pruning
Leaf trimming helps ripen fruit – the energy goes where it’s needed … into ripening the tomatoes

The results he gets are excellent and show that tomato plants don’t need as many leaves as they produce, especially at this time of the season, and that leaf trimming works.

Shirley F1 – taste as good as they look!

Removing Leaf Branches
It’s important to remove branches up to two thirds of a tall variety. So if you have a plant with six trusses, remove leaf branches below the fifth truss.

Being realistic
Fruit that are under-size are not going to mature in time, so it’s best to remove them to help the tomatoes that are full size to ripen.
All flowers should also be removed of course!

Reducing the amount of tomatoes on each truss will improve fruit quality - especially on beefsteak tomatoes.
Reducing the amount of tomatoes on each truss will improve fruit size and quality – especially on beefsteak tomatoes.

Reduce Water and Nitrogen
Cutting back on water can also stress plants slightly and encourage ripening – just make sure that the soil doesn’t get too dry or the next time you water, skins may split. But then, all ripe tomatoes should be already picked.

Any feed with excess nitrogen will slow the ripening process.

Root Pruning
Push a trowel into the soil at the edge of a pot or container and cut through the roots. This will send the plant into a state of mild shock and encourage ripening.

Root Lifting
A careful pull upwards at the bottom of the stem will disturb the roots below and send a signal to the plant to ripen the fruit.
Pick fruit that are turning colour – they will still ripen and taste great. Tomatoes ripen from inside out so when you see the skin turning colour, the inside is already well on the way to being ripe.

Cover Outside Plants with Fleece
As temperatures drop and autumn approaches, cover outside plants with garden fleece to help keep them slightly above air temperature and keep fruit ripening.

By the way, tomatoes that are picked before reaching full size, won’t normally ripen after picking. But they are still good for chutney or fried green tomatoes!

If you have any tips that you would like to share, please leave them below in the comments.

Thanks to Steve for the photos!