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Preserving & Propagating Tomatoes in Winter

 
Posts: 48
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Hey all,

Thought I'd post some pictures of an experiment I'm conducting in an attempt to keep my favorite variety alive through propagation over winter.

1 - Root cuttings in water. Takes 10-14 days.
2 - Plant cutting in potting mix and wait for new growth to start. Usually another week.
3 - Trim plant back to first leaf node. This removes of all the old foliage, which usually doesn't bounce back from the rooting stage.
4 - End result. Healthy, freshly propagated cutting of the parent plant.

I've found that this method is a good way to keep this variety (Sun Gold) of indeterminate tomato alive and healthy throughout the winter. It would be easy to continually cut and propagate multiple varieties all winter long in a small space and I've found it easier than starting seeds. The cutting, rooting and pruning all seems to slow down the normally vigorous habits of indeterminate tomatoes enabling me to keep more in less space.

I plant to cut ~12" plants into sections approximately 3 weeks prior to the last frost date, which should yield 4-6 plants for transplant. I'll take a cutting from each of the transplants by topping as soon as I finish planting them to ensure I have back-up in case a late frost zaps my first wave. Cuttings also seem to set fruit more quickly than plants of a similar size/age grown from seed so that certainly tips the scales even further in favour of managing cuttings throughout the winter.

I'm not sure how well this would work with other varieties but I'll be trying out a few more before spring - Cosmonaut Volkov & Hawkes Bay Yellow for sure.
tomtom.png
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I found this very interesting. When you cut the plant into 4-6 pieces do you have to include a node somewhere or just a length of stem. Could you post a pic of you doing that or even make a video for amateurs like me?
 
Jay Colli
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Amanda Launchbury-Rainey wrote:I found this very interesting. When you cut the plant into 4-6 pieces do you have to include a node somewhere or just a length of stem. Could you post a pic of you doing that or even make a video for amateurs like me?



Hi Amanda,

Cuttings will root anywhere along the stem so it isn't necessary to have a node below the waterline when rooting but you'll need to leave at least 1 node above ground after pruning with a little sucker (~1.5cms) already formed. I found that the smaller the sucker, the slower the cutting would take to recovered after pruning, which in my situation means that I aim for small suckers so I can delay the vigorous growth as long as possible.

I be taking more cutting soon and I'll try to take more pictures to better document how I take the cuttings.
 
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If you had a heated green house and grew indiscriminate varieties, they would be perennial growers.

Love the idea of rooting cuttings too.
Good post Jay

Redhawk
 
Jay Colli
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:If you had a heated green house and grew indiscriminate varieties, they would be perennial growers.

Love the idea of rooting cuttings too.
Good post Jay

Redhawk



Thanks Redhawk,

I'd love to have a heated greenhouse one day but for now I can be content with over-wintering and propagating a few varieties in the window. Indeterminate Tomatoes seem to be ideal for this as they'll grow well enough to survive even in an east-facing window at 45*N, trellis easily on a single piece of string and can even produce some fruit throughout the winter.

I have the original "mother" plant working on a few short trusses of tomatoes at the moment and 9 rooted cuttings all being pretty harshly pruned on a regular basis to keep them small (and ugly...) until May when they can go out into the greenhouse. I have noticed that the cuttings, if allowed to grow, are very quick to put out flowers. I could see myself collecting the first pint of SunGolds within 2-3 weeks of setting the plants out in the greenhouse.
 
pollinator
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Thanks for sharing, Jay.
I tried your method in the past winter, keeping a cutting of my favorite sun sugar cherry tomato in door. I put out transplants rooted from suckers in the garden after frost. Now I am already harvest tomatoes. So much easier and faster than growing from seeds.
 
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Tried "cloning" last Fall for first time - stunning success! Was gonna take pix and post ... We have very large S-facing, double-pane windows up here in Zone 3b/4.
Took cuttings when I topped them to force all to finish - set the cuttings in water right next to momma plant - rooted within a week or so.
Then the "fun" starts: pot them up before frost - only had 4 varieties and kept 2 of each.
Put them into larger pots, and take more cuttings ...
Repot the oldest ones AGAIN, and pot up the younger, use a little fish fertilizer ...
Put the oldest into 1-gal containers, take more cuttings, and re-pot the next oldest ... pollinate the flowers by hand or with a broomstick if you can't reach them ...
Decide what you want to keep ... try to give some away in March ... discard some ... figure out how in the devil you're going to be able to keep them alive/where to put them!!!
Eat DELICIOUS tomatoes in April ... don't forget to water them 'cause they're so gigantic ...
Cut the oldest, 7-ft ones back a little before putting all out to harden off with frost and wind protection on June 2 ...
Wait for rain to start and wind to stop so you can put them in their summer home ...
See them all freeze to death on the night of June 13, when we had a hard freeze out of a forecast for 38 ... cried my eyes out!!
BUT, the "cloning" was a huge success - I will do it again and recommend it if you have a good natural light situation with plenty of room.
From this "tutorial" and what the OP said, you can get the idea of not needing so many to start off with - just keep one of each variety going and take your cuttings late in the Winter.


 
May Lotito
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Mary Beth Alexander wrote:
See them all freeze to death on the night of June 13, when we had a hard freeze out of a forecast for 38 ... cried my eyes out!!
BUT, the "cloning" was a huge success - I will do it again and recommend it if you have a good natural light situation with plenty of room.
From this "tutorial" and what the OP said, you can get the idea of not needing so many to start off with - just keep one of each variety going and take your cuttings late in the Winter.




Oh, no! That was sad. I put transplants out too early too, I got too many seedlings starting and not enough room. Then we had a cold spring, freezing temperature 2 weeks after forecasted last frost day. I took a cutting the night before to avoid losing all my tomato plants. Good to have a backup.
 
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This...is an interesting idea. I have an unheated solar greenhouse with a documented "last frost date" of March 1st. Meaning that so far the temps in there do not fall below freezing after that date. If I can keep a few starts over the winter I can plant them in-ground in the greenhouse beginning of March and maybe have fruit by April. I currently have four tomatoes in there, but they were started from seed in February.
 
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