Grow at home: how to ripen green tomatoes
25th September 2020
Ripening tomatoes is something that most people growing tomatoes end up doing. Due to our climate it is not at all unusual to be left with tomatoes that haven't ripened.
Preparing for the end of the Season
From September on, any new flowers are very unlikely to come to anything. So, toward the end of the season remove any tiny tomatoes, flowers and foliage. This will allow the plant to concentrate its energy on the bigger fruits. It is best to leave the fruit on the vine for as long as possible. However, fruit will not ripen below 10° C (50°F). or above 29ºC (85ºF), as carotene and lycopene will not be produced and the tomato will not turn red. The high temperatures are generally not a problem in the UK. But when day time temperatures are low its time to step in and help them to ripen.
Ripening Tomatoes - How long does it take?
How long they'll take depends on how red they are already. Tomatoes ripen from inside out so when you see the skin turning colour, the inside is already well on the way to being ripe. As a guide:-
Half red tomatoes - 7 days
Red only on the ends - 14 days
Pale green - ripen if given the right conditions (see Methods below)
Dark green - if they haven't matured then they will not ripen. To test this cut one in half. if it has yellowish interiors and jelly-like or sticky tissue, then it could ripen. But if not then its better to use these for making chutney.
Did you know:?
This is just for info a there is not much you can do about the weather turning against you and being left with green tomatoes! But, there is a stage in ripening called the "breaker stage," when the tomato is half green and half red. Once the tomato reaches this stage it seals itself off from the vine stem. From this point on, the tomato can be picked and ripened indoors without losing flavour. Your green tomatoes will be sweeter if picked after the breaker stage.
Ripening tomatoes - top 5 methods
Method 1 : Newspaper & Cardboard box
If the tomatoes are dirty then wash them gently and air dry. Wrap the tomatoes individually in newspaper and store in a cardboard box at between 14° and 21°C. The lower you keep the temperature the longer they will take to ripen. So if you have a large number you may wish to store them in different boxes and places so that you don't get them all ripening at once. Check the box weekly to take out any ripe ones and get rid of any that are starting to go mangy.
If you are impatient then speed ripening by adding a couple of apples to your box. They will release ethylene which will help the tomatoes to ripen.
Method 2: Paper Bag
This one is probably better for cherry tomatoes. Who wants to wrap those little suckers individually - not me! For this method, place your tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripening banana (yellow with green ends). Loosely seal it to keep the gas in. As with the apples in Method 1, doing this should help ripen your tomatoes. If the banana really starts to rot before the tomatoes ripen then replace it with a new banana. You can also do this in a jar with a sealing lid instead of a paper bag but you can't cram the tomatoes in as they will bruise so unless you only have a few tomatoes it is probably better to use a paper bag.
Method 3: Hanging the plant
If you have room, simply cut off the leaves and dig up your tomato plant. Shake off the soil and hang it upside down in a cool dry place like a garage out of direct light and leave to ripen. Check regularly and bring a few into the warmer house to ripen quicker when needed.
Method 4: Bring on the Stress!
As you reach the end of the season, take off all the leaves and then make a cut through the roots with a shovel. This will stress the plant and make it react as if it is under attack (which it is!) and it should bring on rapid ripening. Some gardeners swear by this 'shock' method.
If this feels too violent for you then a careful pull upwards at the bottom of the stem will disturb the roots below and may also work to signal the plant to ripen the fruit.
Another way to stress the plant is to cut back on water - just make sure that the soil doesn’t get too dry or the next time you water, skins may split.
Avoid feeding late in the season as any feed with excess nitrogen will slow the ripening process.
Method 5: Socks!!
Place your unripened tomatoes in woolen socks and store in your wardrobe! And then do let us know if this works because we have no evidence that it does!
How to avoid this problem next year
The question is how do you avoid this happening next year? The answer is to get yourself a longer growing season with more "tomato friendly" conditions. Haxnicks can't control the weather but we do have a number of tools to help with this.
The Twist Up Tomato Cloche
Once your plants are ready to go out into the garden why not use the Twist Up Tomato Cloche to give them their perfect growing environment.
You can use it over plants in pots or in the ground. For both it will lengthen your growing season by allowing you to put your plants out earlier than you would if they were unprotected. The Cloche, evens out temperature changes and, apart from taking it off for a short spell for pollination, your plant will be happy in it all season. It really comes into its own at ripening though. Each ripening fruit releases ethylene which helps the other tomatoes to ripen. If its windy then this gas is blown away without affecting the other fruit. In a Twist up Tomato Cloche the gas is trapped and helps all of your fruit to turn a delicious red.
Tomato Crop Booster
If you really love your tomatoes then this is a great way to grow them. The Crop Booster Poly cover gives all the advantages of the Tomato Cloches when it comes to ripening but the main advantage is how the Crop booster Frame supports the plants. Properly supported plants are able to concentrate their energy into fruit production leading to a much greater yield of tomatoes. Giving them the conditions they need throughout the season should mean far less green tomatoes to deal with at this time of year.
Watch this helpful video to see it 'in action' How to Grow Juicy Tomatoes
Grower Frame with Poly Cover
The Grower Frame is a quick, easy and affordable way to make the perfect, low maintenance, ‘grow your own’ space in any sized garden. And tomatoes love it.
Especially useful if you don't have a greenhouse as you can start your tomatoes off in it using the Grower Frame Poly cover to give them the warmth they need to start well. You can then use the frame and cover over them in the final planting position. There should be enough space to grow all your other salad ingredients alongside them too and there is also the option of an ultra fine Micromesh cover if the weather gets too hot but you still need to protect from pests.
Grow at Home: The 'No Dig' method of gardening
13th September 2020
Put simply ‘No dig’ is exactly that - a means of gardening without digging over the plot each year.
It is a a gardening method that is gaining popularity in sustainable gardening and farming communities around the world. It is the passion of award winning expert and writer Charles Dowding who runs courses on his farm in Somerset. In these he shares the technique with hundreds of new gardeners every year.
The basic principle of ‘No Dig is that rather than seeking to cultivate soil we should leave it to manage this process on its own. By simply weeding at surface level, minimising disruption to the soil and keeping the structure intact you can achieve a perfectly balanced medium for gardening. This will allow you to enjoy fantastic results, with a lot less back breaking work!
For years we have been told the secret to success is to dig over your soil and ‘improve’ it. The basis of this is that this promotes healthy soil and discourages weeds.
In fact, Charles Dowding’s research suggests the opposite is true. His work shows that intensive ‘dig’ cultivation is actually harmful to the soil. It promotes weed growth and leads to a reduction in crop production. And of course, it uses a lot of time and energy!
With a ‘No dig’ garden you only disturb the soil to plant seedlings and undertake some light hoeing. A Speedhoe or SpeedHoe Precision depending on the size of your bed will give you that light touch across the surface. The only extra work is to add a compost mulch once a year and that’s it!
How to Start 'No Dig'
Careful preparation of your growing area is the key. Starting with the removal/smothering of weeds, followed by a thick mulch of cardboard then compost. Your bed might be out of action for 6 months to a year so it might be best to do this one bed or portion of the garden at a time so you can carry on growing.
For those new to gardening - mulches are loose coverings or sheets of material placed on the surface of soil. They can be biodegradable matter such as compost, bark or cardboard. Or they can be non biodegradable matter such as gravel, sheets of cardboard, lino or landscaping weed barrier fabrics.
Whatever mulch you use, the purpose of mulching is to save water, suppress weeds and improve the soil around plants. It also gives your garden a neat, tidy appearance and can reduce the amount of time spent on tasks such as watering and weeding.
The key steps are:
- Clear the site a little if needed - there is no need to remove weeds, with the exception of tough woody species such as brambles which should be cut out as much as possible so that it is flat enough to lay your cardboard.
- We recommend cardboard as it will decompose. Avoid plastic as they may break down into microplastics which will stay in your soil. Carpet is often used but these days most carpet has been treated with chemicals which will poison the soil so its not a good option.
- Lay your thick layer of cardboard and cover with mulch. The mulch could be one or more of: homemade compost, fully-rotted manure, leaves or grass mowings. You need about a 15 - 20 cms (6" - 8") layer. The aim is to exclude the light so the weds can't grow.
- Most perennial weeds will be weakened and then killed off with the cardboard and mulch. Ground Elder, Bindweed and Mares Tail might need some additional hoeing, but all will be weakened over time.
- Now all you have to do is wait! It can take 6 months to a year for all the weeds to die off.
The focus is on feeding and looking after the soil, rather than the plants – the No Dig principle is that organic matter is all you need to provide all the nutrients for a healthy crop, fed by the soil.
- The mulch needs topping up each year to enrich the soil.. So, lay a layer of compost about 8cm (3") thick (laid on top - no digging in)
- Keep a clean and tidy plot - remove damaged leaves and hoe regularly to reduce the chances of pests
- Plant closely and harvest regularly leaving less space for weeds to grow and maximise your crop.
Whether you’re new to gardening and have always been put off by tales of backbreaking work or have been working your plot for years and keen to try something new – give No Dig a go!
Find out more about Charles Dowding and his work on his website https://charlesdowding.co.uk/