When to Pick

How to Tell When to Pick Your Tomatoes

Harvesting tomatoes is important for tomato plants to continue growing and producing. Knowing when to pick tomatoes when they are ripe and ready is not a natural skill for many people and it takes a few tries to really know when it is a good time to pick tomatoes off the vine.

Harvest season is usually during warm weather at an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and generally 60 to 85 days after seedlings have grown. The early varieties including Springset, Spring Giant, and Campbell can be harvested at 65 days. Main season tomatoes have larger fruits and include the Beefeater, Big Boy, and Manalucie, which can be harvested after 70 to 85 days. The ripening process of a tomato comes in various stages and tomatoes begin to ripen from the bottom or “blossom end.” It is important to check tomatoes on a daily basis for picking.

Depending on the variety that is planted, it is useful to know when to pick them. Not all tomatoes have to be red for them to be ripe and some varieties are mature enough to be picked when they are green because they will continue to ripen. Tomatoes come in different varieties including red, yellow and green.

One way of knowing how to tell when to pick your tomatoes is by looking at the bottom of a tomato because that is where it begins to ripen. Some tomatoes are ripe even before they reach their full color. When the skin of a tomato appears to be smooth and waxy and the texture is soft but durable, it is time to pick it off the vine.

A tomato is ready to be harvested when it has an even color, is glossy and is neither too soft nor too firm. To pick tomatoes, either cut off the top of the plant or remove the individual fruits off the vine. Once the harvest continues, you can pick tomatoes a day or two before they are fully ripe so that they can continue to mature in the kitchen.

When summer begins to fade and temperatures drop, there may be some green tomatoes left on the vine. Mature green tomatoes can be picked to continue their ripening process even during the fall. Tomatoes with a blush of color on their blossom end can be picked, washed, air dried and wrapped individually in newspaper and placed in a box in a cool and dark place to continue ripening. Green tomatoes can be used for a number dishes.

Testing for Ripeness

For beginner gardeners who want to make sure a green tomato is ripe, it is helpful to cut the first few in half to train the eye. If the knife is able to cut the seeds, then the tomato is still immature. Green and yellow tomatoes that are ripe have a white to yellow colored star shape on the end where the fruit blossoms. The overall color of these ripe tomatoes is usually yellow or has an amber colored blush.

It is better to test for a ripe tomato by touching and it should be soft to the touch. When the green tomato has a blossomed end that is pink, it is at a good stage for picking and will further ripen without gassing. This stage of the tomato occurs within 24 hours of a mature green stage. These tomatoes are generally known as “vine-ripe,” and if they are left on the vine for another 24 hours, color will begin to appear.


Tomatoes that are fully ripened should be stored at room temperature for the best flavor. For longer lasting tomatoes, store them in the refrigerator but in the warmest part. Picking tomatoes when they have reached their peak for ripeness will provide you with flavorful and nutritious tomatoes.

How To Grow Tomatoes

Tomatoes are not only one of the most popular foods in the world, but are among the healthiest as well. Many people enjoy growing their own tomatoes in their gardens considering that homegrown tomatoes are highly nutritious and flavorful right off the vine. One tomato plant can produce up to 10 pounds of fruit and there are different varieties of tomatoes to grow. Watering tomato plants frequently is very important for a bountiful harvest and healthy plants.

Conditions for Planting

When planting tomatoes, there are three major conditions to consider. A good location with Sunshine is essential. Next, the soil needs to be prepared at least two weeks before planting the tomato seeds. The best way to prepare soil is to dig it and add natural compost and organic matter and frequent watering for moisture. The third condition to consider is temperature because tomatoes cannot withstand frost and cold. When the weather gets cold, the plants should be covered. The temperature of the soil must stay above 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degree Fahrenheit. It is recommended that the best time to sow tomato seeds is late March or early April or 4 weeks after the last appearance of frost.

Planting the Seeds

Tomato seeds can be planted directly into the ground or sown indoors. Many people find that sowing indoors is the easiest and promising method, depending on preference and climate.

Tomatoes rely on warm weather conditions and grow best when the soil is above 60 degrees F. After the soil is prepare, dig holes that are about 1 inch deep and place 2 seeds in each hole and cover with the soil again. Water the soil enough that it becomes very moist and when the plant begins to grow up to about 7 inches in height, you may want to tie the stem to a support stake with twine.

Tomato Seedling Emerging
Tomato Seedling Emerging

Sowing seeds indoors tends to have a higher growth rate which is why many gardeners use this method. Fill containers that are about 3 inches deep below the rim with a seed starting mix, moisten the mix and let it drain. Plant one or two seeds per pot and cover the seeds with compost or potting mix and moisten lightly. You should place the container in a warm and dry location where the plants will not experience any drafts.

In about 7-10 days, the seedlings will begin to grow whether they are planted outdoors or indoors. For indoor plants, the containers should move to a place that gets a lot of light, but not direct sunlight. A windowsill is a very good location if the sunlight is blocked to prevent burning leaves. The roots of the indoor plants will begin to grow out of the bottom of the container within 4 weeks after planting. At this point, you should transfer the tomato seedlings to larger individual pots that are 5 inches deep.

Transplanting Pots

When the seedlings have their second set of “true leaves,” it is time to transplant them to larger individual pots that are filled with potting mix, moistened and drained. To transplant the seedlings, remove them by

Tomato Seedling True Leaves
Tomato Seedling True Leaves

squeezing the sides of the pots and turning them upside down. The soil ball needs to be pulled apart to separate the root-balls of the seedlings from one another very gently. The seedlings should be planted in the new containers with holes poked in the mix. Make sure the mix is firm around the seedling and water it quickly. These pots should be placed in bright light, but not direct sunlight. You should feed the seedlings each week with fertilizer and water frequently without overly watering them.

The tomato plants will be ready to transplant outside after 7 weeks of growing or when they’ve reached 6-7 inches in height. But first, they should be “hardened” by taking the plants outside during the day and gradually for long hours until ready to be left overnight.

To transplant, holes must be dug in the ground in a location that has a lot of light. The plants should be set 12 to 24 inches apart depending on the variety and should be planted deeply. When transplanting, do not disturb the roots and place the plant in the hole and fill with more soil. You may also loosely tie the stem of the plant to a stake with twine for added support or use cages for protection. Support stakes and cages should not harm the roots. Plants should be fertilized on a regular basis and watered frequently to avoid dryness, cracking and splitting of the fruits.

Pruning and Harvesting Tomato Plants

Pruning is important to maintain healthy plants. Tomato bush plants, or determinate varieties, do not need much pruning but dead yellow leaves should be clipped to prevent decay. Upright tomato plants, or indeterminate varieties, will require pruning when you first notice the fruits beginning to form. At this point, the plant will have small shoots or suckers in between the leaf stems and main stem.

The best amount of trusses to keep on your plant is 8-9 and you can remove the others. To remove these shoots, pinch them with your fingers because most of these do not produce tomato fruits. Some of them can remain to add shade. Once your plant has 8-9 trusses, you can break the growing tip of the plant for more growth.

When tomatoes are ripe enough with good color and are beginning to soften, you may pick them so your plant produces more tomatoes and you can enjoy the fruit eating

To ensure a successful harvest, always water the plants, control the temperatures and maintain any pest problems. Tomatoes have plenty of health benefits and are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in a garden.