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Why are my tomatoes still green?


Although the internet can do many things, it still can't make green tomatoes turn red so we can't offer you that sort of help. I can reassure you, though, that your tomatoes sound pretty normal to me. Waiting for a tomato to ripen is in the same league as waiting for a pot of water to boil: the more you watch it, the more time it seems to take. At this point in the process, the only things that will help are sun, warmth and patience. Next year, however, you can take another look at the varieties you're planting. If you didn't plant a cherry tomato this year, put that on your list for next year as smaller tomatoes ripen earlier and help you bide the time while waiting for your larger ones to ripen. You can also look into varieties that are known to ripen earlier. And if all else fails, there are some great ways of preparing of green tomatoes! Photo credit: Bob Franklin

Question details

I have green tomatoes still. Can anyone help me with this? I planted them outside on June 2 and still have nothing to show for it except tennis ball sized green tomatoes! Help!

Thank you! I did plant beefsteak tomatoes and they should be large....Patience! I really long for a good BLT! I had cherry tomatoes last year and by this time I would go out and pick some for dinner, then a night time snack! I just thought something might be wrong with them-the package says it should take a few months. :-)
Sophie, I'm in the same boat, still waiting.  I live in the mountain West and it was a long, cold spring, so tomatoes are late this year.  I'm reassured that there are very few vendors with red tomatoes at my local farmers market, so its not just me (or you) still waiting.  I agree with you, a juicy tomato sandwich sounds divine. -JG
Hi Sophie, Another way to get large vine ripened tomatoes early, is to start one or two plants 6-8 week before last frost. Plant seeds in small cups then pot them up in a 8"wide X 8" deep pot when the plant is 4"-6" high. Plant the seedling to the first true leaves, the stem will put out root & the plant will grow. If it is not warm enough to plant out side in two to three weeks. Then plant in a 10" wide X 12" deep or larger pot. this should hold the tomato plant until you can plant outside. You maybe the first one on your block to have ripe tomatoes. I do agree that the other tips posted here work well. I just wanted to add my 2cents worth in too.
Hi Joel! Would you believe I started my tomatoes in April inside? I did the "milk container green house" and planted my seeds. They were very small when I planted them outside, though. I had too many in a milk container, I think...I am cramped on space and my hubby doesn't like all that stuff Anyhow, I am going to give them more room next year. I just can't believe the plant that I cut back last year to one branch is producing tomatoes! It is the wackiest looking plant I have, but I enjoy it. Does anyone else give their veggies a "pep talk"? I am making Salsa Verde now with my jalapenos, a few green tomatoes and garlic. By the way, thank you for your 2 cents worth!! Always enjoy tips! Last year my tomatoes didn't grow inside, so this is a tied and true or tried and died method for me. My grandfather had a wonderful garden when I was growing up and somewhere along the way we became too busy for such wonderful things! Thank you! Sophie
"Does anyone else give their veggies a 'pep talk'? "There's a great example of the value of talking to vegetables in the book "The Secret Life of Plants," which you can find at a Library, or they can get it on inter-library loan. In a chapter by Marcel Vogel, a computer scientist from IBM, he describes his measured experiments with communicating both good & bad messages to plants. Plants definately, measureably  get the message! and even the intention! Not surprisingly, he found children were even better at communicating with plants than adults. Marcel Vogel filed many of the early computer device patents, including the basics of the hard drive.  
Here's a tomato ripening tip that came to me in my first gardening season here in the short-season mountains. The purveyor was Father Ellway, an Episcopal priest & seasoned organic gardener in the valley, who blessed a lot of gardens with his helpful visits. I had big, heavy-laden vines of Roma tomatoes rambling out of a large, raised bed & all of the full-sized Roma tomatoes were pale green - later in the year than this -- Father Ellway told me to cut the growing tips off all the vines & major branches - which sends the vine a message to stop putting energy into starting more growth & to put more energy into ripening what it's started. This tip is especially good for tomatoes with an "indeterminate" growth habit, such as your Beefsteak variety. "I" means the vine wants to keep growing indefinitely & will do so in a warm-winter climate or a greenhouse. So giving the vine a message to switch priorities from growth to ripening can help. He could see how reluctant I was to diminish that rampant growth - my summer success story! So he urged me firmly, I cut ~2" off all the tips & the ripening was satisfactory. Just the other day i was looking at the tomato vines in one of the public service gardens & thought of cutting the tips - but after more fruit is set. As Johanna says, we got a late start in this whole Rocky Mountain & high desert region. Because my Roma crop was so big, I also researched the art of ripening picked green tomatoes indoors - on into the winter. That can be another post --
Jessica, I read about that last year, and really pruned my cherry tomatoes. They went wild. I didn't have the larger variety last year, so this is my first time growing the larger ones, such as Beefsteak. I went out on Saturday and gave them a good trim, hoping that would work on them too. (What did I have to loose, really?) I basically clipped any branches that did not have tomatoes or blooms on them off. They did look funny for a few days! They have already grown, so I will do that again on Saturday. I have one plant that is about 5'6" and has tomatoes on the top only. Go figure, huh? It is one I kept indoors from last year and it is producing! Again, go figure, but those are the marvels of gardening! Thank you for the advice! Sophie
I advise pruning only tips -  not whole branches - because the leaf structure of your tomato plants helps capture sun & manufacture the chlorophyl magic to complete the tomato ripening process. As you you may be aware, cutting just the tips removes the leading tip- growth-cells for new growth & directs the plant's energy elsewhere throughout the plant.  Last fall I had a good lesson from one of our best arborists here about valuing the overall leaf structure of plants. We had a big, early snow storm & many trees around town were broken. Pat Rainey came over to assess the damage on a medium-sized Box Elder tree by the street on my leased property. I thought his damage-cleanup would be a good chance to balance out the shape of the tree, which had a lot more growth at the front - north & toward the street light! Pat was not at all interested in reducing the size/shape of the tree & told me that the tree really needed all its leaves. It is still lop-sided.  :-)
Branches...those little "suckers" and small things like that that only suck energy from the plant...maybe I described it wrong, but it sure worked last year! I also read that it only takes a small number of leaves and the energy would be zapped toward the tomatoes. Lessons from way back in the day....!
You're right, snapping off new sprouts at the leaf nodes is standard good advice. My concern about cutting "branches" came when you said your plants "looked funny" after pruning - thought they might have lost an arm or a leg in the process.   :-)))
I'm so glad to see this subject being discussed. I built a greenhouse this year expressly for tomatoes. They have never been as successful as I wish so I did what I believed was the ultimate I could do to get good results=early red tomatoes. Boy am I disappointed. I have huge plants with lots of green fruit but as yet have "harvested" only 2 red cherry tomatoes. (Yeah, we can count on the cherry tomatoes, can't we?) But the other four plants have no red ones yet. And what really amazes me is that a volunteer tomato, outside the greenhouse, born after I planted inside the greenhouse, is robust and I am betting will get red fruit first. If so, I am not sure what to do with the greenhouse. If the little volunteer sets good fruit I will never plant another tomato. Where they pop up will be their home from now on. Waiting like the rest of you Patti
Patti, please tell us more about the season-length outside your greenhouse. And I'd love to know more about how it is constructed. We have a great community interest in greenhouse growing here in the Idaho mountains, zone 4 @ 6500'. I posted about my tomato hoop house in the Tomatoes Group & search shows me lines from the post but I cannot find it. I will ask Joel if he has a lead on finding it.  In your profile, you haven't entered anything about your gardening location or activities so I don't have any context in which to wonder about your green tomatoes. I haven't entered any gardening info on my Profile either. Let's trade info on why we haven't entered a gardening profile - because I think KGI is more interesting the more we know about different gardeners & gardens. What would KGI have to do to encourage/entice/force new members to log in with at least a minimal garden Profile?!  :-)
Jessica, I just entered my profile. The reason there was no profile is because I failed to hit "save". I was surprised to read your post about me having no profile because I remember pontificating in my usual way when I first found this site. It was just my ignorance about how things work. Now, about my greenhouse. It is constructed of 3/4 PVC and secured to the house. The first 2 I built blew over in the wind. Knowing what I know now I could build a secure greenhouse without securing it to the house. I have come to doubt the wisdom of using PVC, though. My understanding is that it breaks down in sunlight and reacts to plastic covering. So I think my greenhouse knowledge is pretty limited and probably not much help to others. But back to green tomatoes. I was going to post here today anyway about what I saw yesterday. At HomeDepot, inside, in a pot and neglected among the thousands of other pots, was an Early Girl tomato plant with 2 large red tomatoes!!!! My conclusion? Neglect them, ignore them, abuse them even LOL. The pot was a 2 gallon size. It was in their sale area because it was so sad looking. But it had red tomatoes!!!
So nice to read your short but in-depth Profile! Thank you!  You have 21 years experience as a gardener. Sophie also does not have a gardening Profile but we know from her posts that she's gardened in prior years. Two experienced gardeners have surprisingly green tomatoes. What's different this year? The cold spring that a lot of us experienced? Where did you get your transplants or seeds? I am always watching the space of "reliable seed supply."
Well, it is December 3, 2010. I am located South of Houston, Tx on the coast. My tomatoes are still green from being planted in early Sept. I have very sturdy support using concrete mest steel in a circle 5 feet tall. Question: How about me going to Lowe's and getting some painters clear plastic used for keeping paint off of the floor and covering the support rings from the ground to the top and leave the top open so as to not get the temp too hot inside. Think this will speed up the riping process? Not too many days left prior to a freeze here.
Hi, welcome to KGI. As long as the vine or fruit does not touch the plastic after sunrise or it will burn. You need to remove the plastic as soon as the temperature is above freezing. If you are trying to make a mini greenhouse then leave the bottom open & close the top. If you are going to remove the plastic covering as soon as the sun comes up, then it can be any color or clear.
Hi Joel, Thanks for your prompt reply. Yes, I am trying to make a make-shift green house in hopes of "hurrying along" the riping process. I'm running out of time before the first freeze hits here in South Texas. It just seemed to make sense that this might help. So, you think I need to close the top. This being to keep in the heat?? thanks again, Jim This is my first post. Can you upload pictures for folks to see and better understand a problem or really even a solution.
Hi, Can you see text formatting tools in your comment box? If so, the image icon on the upper right leads to photos you've uploaded into your browser. There is a Photographs Group where how-to explanations are posted. I just checked & see that possibly the explanations should be consolidated at this point.  One thing I have found useful is to name all my photos before I upload them into the Browser, so that they do not appear there as an unreadable list of numbers.
Hi Jessica, no formaing icon at all in the comment box. such is life. thanks, Jim
If you see no formatting tools, then you "need" to sign up for a Mentor role on the home page & they will appear. Being a Mentor does not involve any requirements beyond the communication you intended anyway. :-)  Are you familiar with uploading photos on other websites? Several new Members have found that David's explanation in the Photographs Group worked well. I have several meetings today but will at least intend to consolidate the several instructions posts today. The KGI website is getting a usability update & I thought an email came out saying that formatting tools were now available to new Members! Was that a dream?  :-)
Looks like I figured it out.  Dave's comment about sending it to the check editor worked. So, here are my tomato cages from a shot in the spring.  I was thinking about getting some painters clear plastic cloth and draping it over the cages from the top to the bottom to retain some heat and let my tomatoes ripen. thanks for your help. Jim  
Hi Joel, I figured out how to post pictures.  Here are my tomatoes as of yesterday.  I have one more problem now:  a pest has discovered my green tomatoes and has started eating them.  This happened in the spring and decimated my intire tomato crop. Jim  
Hi, Sounds like a tomato fruitworm/corn ear worm. Go the groups find "Garden Pest" for more information & please leave a post about your pest so other can comment & learn from you. Under "Garden Pest" look for topic "Tomato fruit worm not Horn worm".                                  Joel
Thanks, but it is not a worm.    
Excellent documentary photos! Congratulations! and thanks again, David! First of all, do you have any guesses or further observations about the identity & methods of this hungry pest?! Time of day? It looks like the beak-eating damage birds make on fruit such as Pears, Apricots & Apples. And I have heard of dogs that help themselves to strawberries ...
Hi, I do not think it is beak eating damage.  I think it is either teeth or claws. My cameras will tell me hopefully.  I will post the pictures when they strike again. thanks for your help. Jim Time of day is really night time.
Nocturnal is a great clue! I so look forward to your predator-cam experiments! Lucky you to be so well equipped & experienced with cam-eras!
Hi Jim.  You're a fast study, because your photographs are excellent.  I've had big problems with birds damaging my tomatoes, but rarely until they get some red color.  Since they are caged dogs couldn't get to them.  I'll search my resources to try and help identify this damage.  I did a post on the group Garden Pests about birds and squirrels in suburban/urban settings. I did a lot of fishing out of Freeport years ago so I know a little about Lake Jackson.  Come to think about it, The pest may be your famous mosquito for which you have the only festival to the mosquito that I know. Seriously I'm curious and will do all i can to help identify the culprit. Stay natural, David
Hi David, During the time that my tomatoes were eaten by something, all of my game cameras were at my ranch in west texas looking for deer. Now that my season has drawn to a close I brought back 3 cameras and have them pointed at my tomatoes. I have the flash activated so that I will be better able to determine the varmit.  I did catch 5 coons last may and june, but I don't really think that they are the culprits.  Someone mention Rats to me and it might be rats; however, i have never seen one here. We will see. Getting pictures posted is not really very straight forward.  But your post helped. It is really simple if one knows what buttons to punch (trial and error does work!).  The Webmaster could put this on the web site in a one, two, three format and make it easy for the novice.   thanks again for your advice.   Jim
Finally got pictures of what is eating my green tomatoes. RATS !!! At first, on several other pictures, I thought that it was squirels, as the look similar in a frontal shot. Put out a lot of cayenne pepper yesterday. nothing was eaten, but they were in the tomato bushes looking around. I will set out some rat traps tonigh in hopes of minimizing their population.   These pictures were taken by my IR camera at around midnight last night.  
How satisfying to know you have gourmet rats! Now - what role do rats play in the ecology where you live? What contributes to their proliferation? or creates a rewarding environment - beyond your green tomatoes? Is there any place in your life or garden for a cat that's a great hunter? or a ratting dog, such as a Jack Russell Terrier?
Great sleuthing!  Mystery solved!  Sherlock Holmes couldn't have done better.  In my many years of hunting I never had such a camera, although I sat up many nights, without a gun, trying to spot bucks by moonlight.  This has been one if the most interesting documentaries I've watched, and feel as if we all participated.  I'm looking forward to uour continued input with KGI. Stay natural, David
Hi, I posted, before I saw your photo's. You are right no worm does that kind of damage. It looks like a lot for one bird, maybe a flock. It looks like chicken damage, but they like red tomatoes.



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