During this time of year, I receive a lot of queries from readers concerning ripening tomatoes on the vine .
I’ve written a whole article about how to ripen tomatoes indoors. Now it’s time to see whether we can speed up the vine itself!
Nothing is more aggravating than tomato vines overflowing with green tomatoes that refuse to turn red. As irritating as the waiting for red tomatoes can be, there are actually some things that you can do to speed up this process.
Several factors, from appropriate growth conditions to the kind of tomato you planted and how well you trimmed the tomato plant, will influence when your tomatoes begin to ripen.
Is autumn swiftly coming, or are you planning a trip? So you’re probably thinking how to make green tomatoes red. Continue reading to discover 13 strategies and suggestions for ripening tomatoes on the vine.
Do you have an abundance of green tomatoes in your garden? The heat makes it difficult for tomatoes to mature on the vine. Find out why this happens and what to do about it on The Gardening Cook. #ripetomatoes #greentomatoes Click Here To Tweet
When do tomatoes turn red?
There are several variables that contribute to tomatoes not becoming red. In general, the fruit on your tomato plant should begin turning red about 6-8 weeks after the flowers are pollinated.
But, the tomato type you planted has a significant impact on when they begin to mature and become red. Varieties with small fruit, such as patio or cherry tomatoes, will begin to ripen sooner than the large variety such as a beefsteak tomato.
This is due to the fact that bigger tomatoes take longer to grow to the green stage, which is required for the later red stage.
This year, I planted both determinate patio tomatoes and indeterminate beef steak tomatoes, and my patio tomatoes are about finished, but the bigger beef steak tomatoes are just beginning to grow green.
Environmental temperatures also have a role in tomato ripening. Tomatoes produce carotene and lycopene (substances that make a tomato turn red) when the temperature range from 50° to 85° F.
Colder than 50°, the tomatoes will stay green, and warmer than 85°, the production of carotene and lycopene stops. This has also been confirmed in my garden. Yellow leaves on your tomato plants may also be caused by very high temperatures.
While tomatoes like direct sunshine, too much of a good thing may lead to problems such as tomato plant leaf bending and a lack of ripening.
The patio tomatoes were planted earlier and had a chance to remain in the appropriate temperature range, but the bigger tomatoes were planted later and are still green despite the fact that it is quite hot here right now.
A molecule called ethylene also causes tomato ripening. This chemical is odorless, tasteless and invisible to the eye but when the tomato reaches the green mature stage, it will start to produce ethylene and the tomato will start to turn red.
Ethylene is added by distributors of retail tomatoes to artificially turn green tomatoes red, but this results in the mealy tomatoes that we buy in the supermarket. Tomatoes matured on the vine naturally release ethylene, which is why they taste so wonderful.
Several methods for turning tomatoes red on the vine include placing them in a bag with a ripe banana to release ethylene gas!
Overworked tomato plants may also struggle to produce red tomatoes. When a plant is using too much of it’s energy into growing leaves and flowers, it won’t have much energy left to turn green tomatoes red.
Several of these concerns will be addressed in the following advice.
Tips for ripening tomatoes on the vine
Do tomatoes ripen faster on or off the vine?
The general answer is that tomatoes ripen faster on the vine – IF they have the optimal climate and growing conditions. But, there are instances when we wish they would do it even quicker.
While we can’t force tomatoes to ripen on the vine, there are a few things that will help to make this happen more quickly. Try one of these suggestions:
Topping a tomato plant is useful in ripening tomatoes on the vine
Most gardeners know about removing suckers from their tomato plants but may not be familiar with topping the plant. What does it mean to top a tomato plant?
Topping is the process of removing the main stem of your tomato plant. This will force your plant to stop wasting its energy on growing new leaves and setting new fruit, and will push the energy towards ripening green tomatoes still on the plant.
When a tomato plant is topped, all of its sugars are sent to the surviving fruit. The fruit will mature quicker this way. In addition, any green fruit picked before frost is more likely to mature inside.
Topping the tomato plant also prevents the plant from producing additional flowers that are unlikely to ripen into full fruit and keeps the plant’s energy concentrated.
The advantages of topping tomato plants extend beyond just accelerating the ripening of green tomatoes. Allowing the plant to become really overgrown not only weakens the stem, but it stresses the plant which can lead to low productivity, unripe fruit, and disease.
After the tomato plant has grown to the top of its cage or supporting stake, it is time to top it off.
To top the tomato plant, use shears to cut the vertical stem approximately 1/4 inch above a location where a side shoot emerges from the main vertical stem.
You may even grow new tomato plants using the topped off portion of the stem. This will give you a tomato plant to grow indoors over the winter months if you have a very sunny window sill.
Add some shade for your tomato plants in hot temperatures
Tomato plants normally reach the green mature stage by midsummer when temperatures rise over the ripening temperature range.
This is the time that gardeners start asking me “why won’t my tomatoes turn red?” The reason is simple: it’s mostly because of the high temperatures!
Beyond 85° F, the production of carotene and lycopene ceases, which is required for tomatoes to ripen.
We can’t control the temperature in the yard, but providing some shade over your tomato plants may assist to reduce the temperature and may enable the plant to continue ripening.
Ideally, place your plants in an area that gets sunlight early in the morning and shade later in the afternoon. Tomato plants need sunlight, but not 10 hours of it at 100 degrees!
If you can’t do this, place a plant umbrella over the plants when the temperatures are higher. Row coverings put over tomato cages are also effective.
Harvesting tomatoes regularly will help to ripen tomatoes on the vine
Pick any existing fruit as soon as it begins to turn color. This causes the other fruit to grow bigger and more colorful faster. Any marginally ripe fruit will readily continue to mature inside.
Cut off the fruits’ supporting vines at the same time you chop off the fruits.
Overripe fruit should not be left on the vine. Doing so decreases productivity, attracts critters, and encourages disease.
Pinching off the suckers will give you a better crop of tomatoes
Tomato suckers are tiny shoots that emerge from the junction of a tomato plant’s stem and branch. These suckers won’t harm the plant but they don’t serve much of a purpose, other than making the plant larger, in general.
Pinching out tomato suckers should be a part of normal tomato pruning tasks that you do all season long, but if you haven’t been doing this, start now. Suckers receive their name from the fact that they “suck” energy from the plant.
Tomato suckers grow new stems that compete for nutrients on the tomato plant with the existing branches. If you leave them on the plant, you may get more fruit, but the tomatoes will be smaller and the plant more top heavy, requiring more efforts to stake it as the summer progresses.
If you keep the suckers clipped, your fruit will get more of that energy and mature sooner and bigger.
To trim the suckers, use shears if the suckers are big, or use your finger tips for young suckers. Just pinch them off at the shoot’s root.
Remove tomato plant flowers to send energy to green tomatoes
Once their blooms have been pollinated, tomatoes take many months to mature, as we have learnt. If it’s getting later in the summer, it’s a given that the flowers won’t produce mature fruit, so trimming them off makes sense.
Plucking all of the remaining blossoms from the tomato plant may hasten the ripening of the fruit that is currently on it.
Curiously, early flower removal is also advised. Remove all blooms until the plants are 12-18 inches tall so that the energy may be sent to the roots. As we’ve seen, the energy of a tomato plant is simply directed!
Slow down on watering the tomato plant to encourage ripening
If you stop watering the plant, it will send it a message to ripen the fruit that is present. When you pinch off the blooms, the same thing occurs.
When the tomato plant’s fruit is grown and ready to turn red, reducing the quantity of water accessible to it directs the plant’s energy into ripening the fruit rather than utilizing that moisture to promote new growth.
The quantity of water required by a tomato plant is determined by its stage of development. During periods of rapid grow, the plant will wilt quickly if there is a lack of water.
However, when the temperatures are higher, the plant growth slows and the need for water also reduces. You may utilize this to your advantage while attempting to get tomatoes to become red.
Cut off any diseased leaves
My tomato plant had a lot of yellow leaves, so I pruned them so the plant could focus its energy on the healthy ones.
It is a good idea to check your plant regularly to see if there are any yellowed leaves, or leaves with mold or spots on them. When you find them, remove them as quickly as possible.
And if you are trying to ripen tomatoes on the vine, be on a special look-out for diseased leaves. You will assist the plant in directing its energy into making the tomatoes red rather than battling illness.
Remove any tiny tomatoes
It is hard for me to throw away any tomatoes from my plants, but that is just what I did today. Since little tomatoes do not have enough time to grow, chopping them off favors mature green tomatoes.
The plant may now concentrate on ripening bigger tomatoes that have reached the mature green stage.
Prune some of the leaves
It is not just diseased leaves that should be pruned to encourage tomato ripening. Trimming part of the healthy leaves also helps the tomatoes mature faster.
Trimming off the robust growth can assist if your plant is full of healthy green leaves and you want the tomatoes to mature faster on the vine.
Note: You should never remove all of the leaves. Removing them entirely is never a good idea, even when you are at the end of the season.
Cutting off some healthy leaves also enhances air flow, which helps to keep fruits and the plant disease-free.
Too much fruit? Pick it now!
If you have a large crop still on the vine but autumn is coming, select a few of the pink tomatoes to enable the remainder to mature more rapidly on the vine.
Bring the almost-ripe tomatoes indoors and set them on a sunny window ledge (or in a brown paper bag on the counter.) They will ripen indoors and you’ll also help those left on the vine to hurry up and get red.
Cover the plants at night
As previously stated, tomatoes that are cultivated in temperatures below 50° F will remain green.
Pick any tomatoes that are glossy green, greenish white, or beginning to turn pink and bring them inside to ripen when the temperature is forecast to go below 50° F and shows no evidence of warming up.
If you foresee lower weather in your location, you may cover your tomato plants to keep them in the optimal temperature range and enable the fruit to continue ripening.
As previously stated, covering the plants with row covers has the reverse effect of lowering the temperature in hot climes.
Move the roots a little
As odd as it sounds, one of my readers suggested pulling slightly on the root ball can encourage fruit to ripen. According to legend, the shock of the pull signals to the tomato that it’s time to finish up with the fruit on the vine.
Shifting the root ball is supposed to transport nutrients and moisture from the root to the fruit and leaves, allowing the plant to complete ripening fruit and go to seed.
This is something we tried this year, but I haven’t had a chance to check whether it helps tomatoes become red, but I’d love any input from readers if it has worked for you.
Hang the plant upside down to ripen the green tomatoes
What if fall is approaching and you have tried all of the tips for ripening tomatoes on the vine and the fruit is still green? You may remove the whole plant and hang it upside down in a garage, greenhouse, or shed to shelter it from the elements and colder temperatures.
You may also bring green tomato branches inside to ripen by hanging them upside down, however this can be a messy operation.
The warmer the location where the tomato plants are hung, the faster the fruit will mature.
Except for the very newest fruit that has set on the plant, the majority of the fruit on the vine will ripen. They may not taste as good as the tomatoes that have ripened on the vine in the sun, but it’s better than throwing them on the compost pile!
However, if you wind up with more green tomatoes than you can manage, fried green tomatoes are a fantastic use for them.
When is it time for trying to ripen tomatoes on the vine more quickly?
Six weeks before your expected first frost is the time to maximize your tomato harvest. Other occasions include when you are leaving for a vacation and will not be there when the fruit naturally ripens.
If you use these ideas at the proper time, your plant will be able to concentrate its energy on ripening fruit rather than creating additional leaves and immature fruit.
Pin this post for ripening tomatoes on the vine
Do you want a reminder of how to ripen green tomatoes while they are still growing? Just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
This article on how to make tomatoes become red initially published on the site in August of 2014. I have updated the post to add all new photos, more tips, a printable for your gardening journal, and a video for you to enjoy.
Tomato ripening printable
Print and save the tomato ripening printable on the card below in your gardening diary.
Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Estimated Cost $1
- Heavy card stock or glossy photo paper
- Fill your computer printer with hefty card stock or glossy picture paper.
- Choose portrait and, if feasible, “fit to page” in your options.
- Print the calendar and save it in your garden diary.