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How hard is it to become self-sufficient in tomatoes all year long?

 
pollinator
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I’m now self-sufficient with a few easy vegetables like spinach and lettuce all year-round. Tomatoes would be a huge leap forward in skill requirement and equipment because it requires a greenhouse.

How hard is it for a suburban family in a non-tropical climate to manage to eat their own fresh tomatoes all year long? I can’t imagine it working without heating but we have among the world’s highest electricity prices here so using electricity isn’t an option. My neighbours’ houses are right on the fence line so I can’t annoy them with wood smoke either.

Maybe it’s not possible in my situation, but I’d still love to know if people manage. I love homegrown tomatoes as the store ones are so bland and watery.
 
pollinator
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Depending where you are you are going to need light as well as heat, think what tomatoes need outside/in a greenhouse in the summer and then think if you can do that all winter long. So for the types I grow, they want 20+C in the day and 15C at night. they stop growing around 10C at night and 15C daytime which in my greenhouses comes around late september. In the UK they have just (2017) started growing tomatoes year round in commercial greenhouses using LED lights and waste heat. I cannot see it being practical on a home scale.

There's a huge difference between stopping plants freezing with passive heating and trying to get a greenhouse up to summer temperatures.
 
pollinator
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Why not grow them seasonally and preserve them?
 
Tim Kivi
pollinator
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Michael Cox wrote:Why not grow them seasonally and preserve them?



Because my family keep buying fresh ones anyway and I prefer fresh tomatoes. By relying on nature I can only have tomatoes for a few months a year.
 
Michael Cox
pollinator
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Tim Kivi wrote:
Because my family keep buying fresh ones anyway and I prefer fresh tomatoes. By relying on nature I can only have tomatoes for a few months a year.



Fair enough. Maybe you need to look at the varieties you grow, to try and find ones with a better shelf life and longer growing period? Have your read Carol Deppe's books (The Resilient Gardener, and Breed your own Vegetable Varieties)?
 
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That won't be easy.  I wouldn't even attempt it outside with all of your restrictions.  You could try a small indoor aquaponics set up.  Cherry tomatoes usually grow best in these types of systems.  
 
Mother Tree
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Have you explored some of the old varieties of tomatoes that store all winter?  The spanish have ones called tomates de colgar which ripen late, have a low water content, and can be hung up in a frost free place for using fresh.
 
Michael Cox
pollinator
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I'd also add... is year round self sufficiency in fresh tomatoes permaculture? It wouldn't fit with my approach, certainly - I would view a permaculture approach here as being based on raising crops seasonally, rather than forcing a crop year round. It might be possible, but as others have said you will likely need grow lights and heat.

Near me in the UK we have "Thanet-Earth" - an enormous industrialised greenhouse systems. The grow something like 30% of the UK's fresh salad vegetables (including tomatoes) under growlights. It's incredibly efficient, but it heavily dependent on industrial and chemical processes.
 
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Good morning. I have been producing tomatoes throughout the year for the past 2 seasons for personal consumption. You will need a greenhouse, but there are alternatives to using electricity to heat the greenhouse.

I am currently breaking ground on my greenhouse project, which I will share at a later date. I am digging the greenhouse several feet down into the ground as well as building it against the brick wall of my house to help regulate heat. I will use vents to pull the warmer air from under my house in winter, and cooler air in summer. I also plan to build a rocket mass heater for emergencies.

There are many creative solutions to building efficient greenhouses that other folks are more well versed on than I am.

 
gardener
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hau Tim, Growing tomatoes year round is doable for the home owner, as you have determined you will need a green house, lights and heat (preferably soil heat, this is as or more important than ambient air heat).
Air temps need to be above 65 degrees for survival of the plants, 70's is where the plants will flower and set fruits.

Double glazing for winter growing in a traditional green house helps keep the air warmer inside and a well built and positioned RMH can keep the air temps high enough for most plants to fruit, including citrus trees.
AS Hamilton mentioned, you can also have a partly sunken greenhouse (works great in Alaska) with heat sinks to help with ambient temps.

Wolf is wanting a conservatory/green house built for all winter long vegetable growing. I'll be setting a foundation then using 2x4's for most of the framework, which I'll rout glazing channels into for plexiglass or a similar product to be the glazing.
I'll have to build in a smallish RMH which will most likely be centered in the building for winter heating an option for me would be solar powering a conventional heater but I'd rather not go that route.
Our green house will have double glazing with an inch between the panels and It will need lower and upper venting windows since our summers get over 100 f.

It is possible to have your tomatoes all year round growing in the soil.

By the way that watery taste of grocery store tomatoes is what you get from hydroponic grown foods.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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Thank you very much Burra Maluca, i found some Tomates de Colgar seeds online in Germany. Non-organic, but the next generation will be! I saw they sell them in USA as well. They claim they keep for three month! That would be so great. Weird how much this prospect excites me...
My greenhouse just last week caught a major freeze, all tomato plants died and dropped a lot of tomatoes. Been making green tomato chutney, my parents green tomato jam and my neighbor green tomato ketchup.
 
Tim Kivi
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Burra Maluca wrote:Have you explored some of the old varieties of tomatoes that store all winter?  The spanish have ones called tomates de colgar which ripen late, have a low water content, and can be hung up in a frost free place for using fresh.



I’ve never heard of that. That’s very cool. When I sometimes buy a 15kg (7lbd.) box of tomatoes from the fruit shop the tomatoes sometimes last a month at room temperature. I didn’t imagine tomatoes last three months though.
 
pollinator
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Does anyone know the names of varieties that will go through the winter even if in a greenhouse?

I'm in Hawaii and this year is the first time I've successfully gotten slicing tomatoes. Had to grow them in a high tunnel (like a greenhouse without the heat) with both ends screened to keep out the fruit fly. Now that winter is approaching, the plants are showing signs of maturity and dying off. The plants were sown back in June. I don't know yet whether it's just their physical age or the shortening daylight that is resulting in them dying back. So I'll try to figure that out by doing staggered plantings. But if anyone already knows of varieties that grow and produce in the winter, that would be a good start for me.

Little cherry and grape tomatoes are the only ones I can grow outdoors.....because of the fruit fly. So I'm looking for big slicers and plum types. This year I grew Black Beauty (slicer), Orange Icicle (plum), and Black Icicle(plum).
 
steward
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Su Ba wrote:Does anyone know the names of varieties that will go through the winter even if in a greenhouse?



Jagodka has done well for me in a winter greenhouse. It was the winner of my cold tolerance trials, and the earliest tomato that I grow.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Thanks Joseph!
 
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