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Quote of the Day: Amy Goldman

September 22nd, 2010

At the end of September, about two months after the appearance of the first vine-ripened homegrown tomato of summer the time has come to dismantle the garden before the cover crop is sown. Frost is coming: fermentation and decay are in the air. Plants have fallen down, top heavy, and many tomatoes look like sad sacks, flaccid and drained.

-Amy Goldman (The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit)

I’ve been clearing out some of my tomato vines. They’ve reached the end of their productive lives and they will make room for cover crops, and winter greens. I used to try to keep the tomatoes going until frost, but I have found that I’d rather have fresh spinach in February than a few extra tomatoes in October.

I still have a few tomatoes that are going strong, most of them were seeded later in the spring. Among them are some tiny yellow cherries, a ‘Lemon Boy’ tomato, a ‘White Beauty’, a few ‘Goldman Italian Americans’, and a few ‘Principe Borghese’ tomato plants.

My ‘Winter Keepers’ are coming into their own as this is their time to shine. I’m hoping that these will last well into the winter on shelves in the basement as the name implies. My mom is growing some ‘Long Keepers’ and they look exactly like my ‘Winter Keepers’.

When do you clear out your tomato plants? Do you keep them going until frost?

16 Comments to “Quote of the Day: Amy Goldman”
  1. megan on September 22, 2010 at 8:23 am

    We have such a long season that I keep mine going. Early this month, I cut back every sucker but the youngest one closest to the bottom, and now they are back to about 6 ft. tall and setting fruit. I can keep them through October, but then the garlic will need to go in. Next year, they will have their own space and a nice winter cover crop.

    I bought some Green Skin Long Keeper seed this year, but never got around to planting it. I’m very curious to see how well yours keep.

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  2. Sense of Home on September 22, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Depends how early frost hits, some years that can be the beginning to middle of September for us. Most years I clear out the garden as soon as the daytime temperatures are in the 50s and evenings dipping into the upper 30s low 40s. Around that time, with shortening days the tomatoes are too slow to ripen anyway.

    My tomatoes came into the house last week and they are ripening nicely. I also have several green tomato recipes we will be making this week.


    Reply to Sense of Home's comment

  3. Kaytee on September 22, 2010 at 8:51 am

    I’m keeping my tomatoes until frost since I already have a space for my fall garden. I’ll be pulling a few out next week once they either die completely or all the tomatoes have ripened. I do what to get a cover crop planted though. What do you plant for a cover crop, and when do you plant it?

    Reply to Kaytee's comment

    • Susy on September 22, 2010 at 8:58 am

      Generally I undersow the tomatoes with clover about mid august, then when I pull them out it’s going nicely already. In the front garden I’ll be planting winter rye and hairy vetch this week for overwintering since I won’t be growing any fall/winter crops up there. It will be tilled in in late spring to make way to summer crops, the soil is so bad up there a nice cover crop is more important than fall crops or early spring crops.

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  4. MAYBELLINE on September 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

    “Tomatoes, you are out.” ala Heidi Klum.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  5. Kelly on September 22, 2010 at 9:21 am

    This weekend we’ll be pulling all the tomatoes – they’ve still got some green fruit but I doubt it’ll ripen on the vine before frost. I’ve never planted a cover crop – what do you plant and is it too late to do it now?

    Reply to Kelly's comment

  6. Caroline on September 22, 2010 at 9:23 am

    I just picked all the green tomatoes last night; they can ripen on the kitchen steps. This is my first year doing fall/winter crops, and I’m eager to get some things in the ground.

    Reply to Caroline's comment

  7. Mary W on September 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Normally, I keep the tomatoes going as long as I’m getting something from them. This year the hornworms decimated the plants and fruit, so they were cut down more than a month ago. I like the idea of undersowing them–I’ll put that on my list for next year.

    Reply to Mary W's comment

  8. Tommy on September 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I just cleared them all out, except for my last 2 Green Zebra plants. They are still going strong. Had to make way for my Fall/Winter sowing of greens, radishes, broccoli and beets.

    Reply to Tommy's comment

  9. KimP on September 22, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Our season is so short, I keep the tomatoes going until I can’t protect them any longer. I generally have room somewhere for the fall crops I’d like to plant, though.

    I wait and plant a cover crop until it’s freezing pretty steadily. I believe the rototilling turns up most hornworm pupae(?), which then very helpfully freeze so I don’t have to deal with them the next year. I can plant winter rye as long as the ground isn’t frozen (according to a farmer friend), but I usually try to get it in by the end of October.

    Reply to KimP's comment

  10. sue on September 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    We cleared out all tomatoes we could the weekend before last, and moved the pigs onto the plot. They have completely cleared everything, nothing left, not even roots. They will have to be moved this weekend onto the squash plot.

    Reply to sue's comment

  11. Laura on September 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I cleaned mine out last week when I was feeling up to it, although I did leave in my grape tomatoes. I suspect I’ll pull it next week when the weather breaks. I’m still working on cleaning out the whole garden but have no idea what to plant as a cover crop.

    Reply to Laura's comment

    • Susy on September 22, 2010 at 8:20 pm

      I’d recommend crimson clover, it will winter kill, buckwheat will also winter kill or you could do an overwintering to protect the soil, like winter rye.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  12. Marlyn on September 23, 2010 at 2:03 am

    I have so little sunny space and need the tomato bed for the onions! BUT I can pick beautiful vine ripened toms thru November at least. Last year we were away and never pulled our vines and our housesitters had fresh tomatoes, from the vine, in JANUARY! I don’t know what to do. I’m waiting for a heat wave to ripen what’s on the vines. I need one more rush at least. Onion transplants don’t go in for another month anyway…

    I have cleared my lower, shadier beds, from their summer crops. The Fall planting will go in Friday (peas, carrots, broccoli, kale, lettuce, etc) and I also need to get my garlic in. My onion seeds have sprouted!

    Reply to Marlyn's comment

  13. Jackie on September 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    It’s tough for me to clear out the tomatoes when they still have a few fruits left. I become attached to them, since I always start the plants from seed at the end of January. By the time that Oct/Nov rolls around, we’ve become friends… ;)

    Reply to Jackie's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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