Peppers Tomatoes Winter Gardening

Tomatoes, Peppers – keeping 8 to 10 weeks past freeze

Keeping tomatoes and peppers 8 to 10 weeks past the first few frosts and freeze is important for me since I depend on my garden for most of what I eat.  The only organic vegetables I buy at the grocery store are cabbage and carrots since I’ve not yet grown enough to take me through the winter.

Covering to Keep 8 to 10 Weeks Past Frost/Freeze

Having so much variety during the growing season – most especially tomatoes and peppers make everything else taste better. Thus, long about October when the first frost or freeze is expected I start covering the most prolific or best looking of those plants to extend the season as long as possible.

I use remay (row cover cloth) and secure with  good quality clothespins. (The cheap ones fall apart.)

I’m usually eating peppers and tomatoes two months or more after the first frosts and freeze.

We had a few frosts and a freeze in October and everything covered was fine.

This is one of the pepper plants I covered. The lush green is arugula.

At the end of October I harvested a lot from the covered plants. Even then the plants were still loaded with fruit.

As expected November temperatures were colder. Plants under covers were fine and fruit was pristine.

Some of the peppers harvested on Nov. 22

Below shows  plants at the lower end of my garden on the outside of the fence.  In the middle is a tomato plant that I didn’t have time to cover. The white you see among the vines is a scrap piece of garden cloth that I quickly wrapped around a few tomatoes just to see if it would protect them.  A couple were ok.  As you can see the frost killed the foliage.

Picture was taken November 22. In the left corner is a covered pepper plant.  Top right is another covered tomato plant. 

These are some of  the tomatoes on my mud-room/porch on Nov. 22.  The green tomatoes were harvested that day.

Tree Barrier and Tarp Saved Another 100 Tomatoes.

Last spring I found a spot in one of my flower borders (that I’m closing down) that seemed perfect for a tomato plant. And it was.

Not only was it great looking, but was THE most prolific tomato plant I had.  It produced well over 200 tomatoes. AND when I harvested  for the last time on November 28th it still had over 100 tomatoes.  I only harvested the 80 that were a larger size.

Below is what the plant looked like on October 16.

This was what the plant looked like on October 16.

The tree barrier behind the plant and the tarp provided more protection from the freeze than other covered plants. Thus, these tomatoes were the last to be harvested. (November 28)

Tomato plant in the flower border I’m closing,  covered with tarp.

 

These are the tomatoes I harvested from the tarp covered plant on November 28.  In spite of several freezes, all were in perfect condition.  Also shown are peppers, lettuce, and parsley harvested the 28th.

This year I ate my last fresh pepper at the end of December.  Ate the last fresh tomato on Monday (Jan 17).

addendum: (Note that I previously had typed Dec] which was incorrect and am just seeing the error – and corrected to January.)

My only regret is that I left so many peppers and tomatoes on the vine due to time constraints the day of the last harvest (Nov28)  Otherwise I’m sure I would have had peppers through mid January and tomatoes until the end of January.

This picture shows the fresh tomatoes I had remaining on Dec. 28. These were the tomatoes harvested green on Nov. 28.

Storage Tip

Tomatoes keep a long time with good air circulation (24/7) and cool temperatures.  When the weather cooperates and my mud-room/porch stays at 55ºF  that’s close to perfect.  I still run a small fan.

Most of the time the temperature is closer to 60º F  even when in the house it might be 56ºF.

I open the door during the day to let outside air circulate even if outside temperatures are in the upper 30s or 40s.  The morning sun comes in and that also helps a lot.

If temperatures outside cause temperatures in the storage area to start inching above 60ºF, tomatoes will quickly deteriorate.  When you suddenly notice spots forming on the tomatoes, that’s what’s happening. This was the case for two days during December this year.  I was thrilled temperatures dropped again the third day.  (This might change in areas with drier air <like out West>).

I check the tomatoes everyday.  If I see a small spot has appeared on one, I use that one first.

Refrigerating tomatoes kills the flavor. (And yes, I realize some people still like them that way. I don’t.)

Final Thought

Having fresh tomatoes for use in December and January as winter gets into full swing is part of getting the most from your garden without much effort.

If you haven’t already, give it try.

If you do this already and have tips you think would be helpful, please comment and let me know.

And by the way, I apologize for not replying to the comments you left on the last few posts.  I still plan to do a post especially to answer those great comments.  To me, your comments are the best part of writing. Sorta like dessert.😊

I chop all my vegetables and then cut the tomatoes.  Add oil and vinegar and salt and pepper and toss.

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All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.

 

15 Comments

  • Thanks for sending. ‘I’ll try it this year. i’LL UNCOVER AND PICK A BUNCH TO KEEP INSIDE

  • Hi Theresa,
    I don’t have any tomatoes or peppers but I do have lettuce and scallions. This season my husband helped me build a hoop house over one of the raised beds. The hinges make it so easy.
    Always great to hear from you.

  • What kind of tomato plant was this. I have trouble with indeterminates getting too tall for their cages. Couldn’t see how your prize was caged. Stay safe, stay warm

  • Quite commendable that you can extend your tomato and pepper season to that extent! This will serve as encouragement to myself and hopefully many others. Blessings.

  • That is absolutely amazing to get such beautiful peppers and tomatoes so late in the year!! They are gorgeous. I really have to step up my game and get creative in prolonging my harvest. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Ruth,
    Thank you so much for your kind message.
    Glad you liked the post and found it encouraging.

    Don,
    You’ll love having tomatoes for Christmas and New Years.

    Carol y,
    Glad you could get a hoop house over one of your raised beds.
    I know you’ll enjoy that more and more as time passes. And those hinges on it will definitely make it even more enjoyable.

    Fresh lettuce and scallions taste especially wonderful in the middle of winter.

    Mary

    It’s Big Beef.  NOT the hybrid that is owned by Monsanto/Bayer but rather the open pollinated Big Beef that was dehybridized by Gary Ibsen and is available only through Tomato Fest,.

    So you can save the seed from it since it’s open pollinated.

    You might want to read these two posts for more information:

    https://tendingmygarden.com/tomatoes-favorite-varieties-reviews-great-source-for-heirloom-tomatoes/

    https://tendingmygarden.com/tomatoe-seeds-tomatofest-offers-600-varieties/

    Indeterminates always get too tall for their cages. This post will tell you how I stake them. Also has pictures.
    https://tendingmygarden.com/tomatoes-ways-to-stake-tip-to-help-prevent-splitting-and-no-taste-fruit-after-rain/

    I don’t go out when there’s ice on stuff. Have really lucked out with these storms we’ve had. They’ve not been too bad with just a little snow and quick melting. Sure appreciate your good wishes for staying safe and warm.

    Michele,
    Really glad to hear this post was encouragement for you. You can have tomatoes and peppers after the season as well. Hope you’ll let me know how you do.

    Toni,
    There is nothing like enjoying fresh peppers and tomatoes so late in the season. You’ll love it!

    Here are two more posts about storing tomatoes:
    https://tendingmygarden.com/more-about-storing-tomatoes/

    https://tendingmygarden.com/how-to-keep-tomatoes-through-december-for-eating-fresh/

    Thanks everyone for joining the conversation.
    Theresa

  • Hiya Theresa!!

    Well….. here’s something else I’ll be trying thanks to you. I love that we both live in zone7, so if something works for you it should also work for me if I just follow your directions. For too long I got internet gardening advice from all the wrong zones!!! Finding you has been a Godsend.

    Off topic.. I winter sowed onions around Christmas and inside the gallon jugs it’s starting to look like a little lawn with all the sprouting seedlings. Potato onions are going slower than the Australian browns, but they are sprouting!! Did lettuce and other greens almost 2 weeks ago and will do another batch Sunday or Monday. So something else I learned here is going well!! Thanks so much for all you share with us.

  • This is an exciting report Harold! Sounds like you’re doing a great job.
    Seeing onions come up definitely lifts the spirit and lets us know spring will soon be upon us even though temperatures are still cold.

    My first planting of onions (in containers) is also up. (Planted Jan1) I brought them in the mud-room night before last but they’ll go back out into the sunlight tomorrow.

    Will plant more between 22nd and 26th. (good planting days)
    Have you raised Australian Browns previously? I find them a great onion and an excellent keeper.

    Can you let me know where you found potato onion seed? (Thanks in advance)

    Makes me happy that you are benefiting from my experiences.
    Glad I could help pave the way for your success Harold.

    Thanks so much for taking time to let me know and share some of the details.
    Theresa

  • Hiya Theresa,

    I got potato onion seed from fullskyfarm on ebay. Paid $10 for 100 seeds. Just checked and they are still selling them. As I said, they are slow to sprout compared to the browns, but I figure even if only half germinate it’s still cheaper than buying them as bulbs, which are long gone for this year anyways.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/263865642386?hash=item3d6f9e2d92:g:ISUAAOSwndRbalXa

    Good news on the Australian Browns! Southern Exposure touted them as being great keepers, so glad for the confirmation. Have only ever grown potato onions before. When I took a hiatus from gardening I ate my planting stock.

    And you’re welcome! I can’t say enough how grateful I am to have found your site.

  • Thanks for the quick reply Harold.

    I totally relate to eating planting stock. Right now I’m so tempted by the potato onions that remain, but I dare not eat them. As you indicated (and correctly so) potato onions sell out very quickly. In spite of the fact that only a small percentage of gardeners grow them — they sell out just about instantly.

    I think you’ll enjoy Australian Browns. They’re a medium size (sometimes small) onion but the fact that they keep so well makes them definitely worth growing. And — the taste is good too — which is important.

    Sure makes me feel good that you have benefited from TMG. Since my husband died I’ve had one thing after another to deal with. Thus, I’ve not written as much for TMG as I wanted to. But hopefully I’ll be back on track soon. Lots of information to share that is long over due.

    When my TMG family shares with me how much I’ve helped them, it encourages me to write more.
    So, thank you Harold!!
    So glad you’re now part of the TMG family!
    Theresa

  • I love your posts, Theresa. I have better conditions in my front garden also and it’s a much shorter walk than down a slope toward my vegetable garden. So! I have planted herbs in an empty spot in my front garden, southern sunny exposure and they’re doing great. If I had my way, I would plant more vegetables there. I’ll see if I can add more little by little.

    I have a question about my mache sections. Some of the seeds from last year floated into the paths near it and they are doing tremendously! even better than the ones on the vegetable plot. I’m not sure of the best way to pick. I lose some of them when I pick just the leaves as they are still quite small. Any suggestions as to how to harvest and keep them until I get them into the house?
    Thanks.
    Susan

  • Hi again, Theresa. I had another question about your seed saving/starting ebook. I have difficulty understanding how to get pdf materials. Is there any time you might publish a paperback book of the Secrets to Seed Starting Success?

    Thanks for all you do to teach us.

    Susan

  • Hi Theresa,

    Such a useful post!
    If everything goes well I’ll be moving soon and (I think) I will be in zone 9 (now I’m on the border of 10-11). As you know, I’m still kind of new at gardening and I’ve never gardened in a place with a ‘proper’ winter. It will be interesting! This post appeared exactly when I was thinking about all of the new ‘tricks’ I’ll have to learn to ‘survive’ winter 🙂

    Thank you so much for your wonderful pictures – they make everything clearer.

    I know I have already asked you this, but how far apart do you plant your tomatoes? More than 3 feet?

    Regarding staking, I have to say that I struggle staking my tomatoes too. Where I am now I can’t find anything vaguely half as good as those metal stakes you have (or concrete reinforced wire or cattle panels for that matter). I hope that going more rural, I’ll be able to source something like that. What I have been using so far are just a lot of bamboo poles. I keep adding bamboo poles as the plants grow. When I was using twine to tie the branches to these stakes, I used to get a lot of damage to the branches: either the twine would ‘cut into’ them or some of the branches would snap. This problem was completely resolved when, as per your advice, last year I started using ties made of a pair of old nylon tights cut into strings. These ties are super soft on the branches and so strong. I actually use them for everything else too now. I love that when I’m finished I can just add them to the washing and use them again and again.

    I know my comment is getting long now, but I’d like to share that my tomatoes have been doing so much better since I started using what I call the ‘Theresa method’ two years ago (when I finally prepared the soil of 4 beds properly and started mulching for real). Last year they were the best I ever had, but I wasn’t careful enough on pruning the lower suckers and leaves, and quite a few branches were running along the ground. The plants got ‘sick’ relatively early. At this point last year (the equivalent to the end of July for the northern hemisphere) I was already seeing yellow leaves and dark patches on the branches. Also, it was a very dry summer (after a very dry spring and winter) and my mulch wasn’t actually thick enough to endure that.
    This year I’ve been more consistent with my pruning and mulching. As you suggest in your post about early blight, I made sure that (almost) no leaves touches the ground. I have no branches running on the ground. I also cut the odd leave here and there that is too much on the way of something else to improve ventilation. I try not to go crazy and avoid to cut anything too big unless it’s really necessary. It’s been a relatively dry and hot summer but all of the plants look way healthier and with more tomatoes than last year. When I move the mulch, the soil is still dark and moist. I can’t believe it! I will be moving out at the end of March, I really hope they’ll keep producing well until then. I would be curious to know how long after that they could go for, but that will be the challenge for another year!

    I’ll stop ranting now.

    Thank you Theresa for all of your teachings, you make gardening hassle free and so enjoyable!

    Love,

    Giulia

  • REPLY to SUSAN:
    So glad you enjoy my posts Susan. Good to get your update and I hope you can work in more veggies in that spot where things are doing so well.

    I answered your question about mache in a post. Here’s the link:
    https://tendingmygarden.com/is-there-a-best-way-to-harvest-mache-it-depends/
    Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful.

    Regarding my seed starting ebook – Although I would love to publish the Seed Starting book as a “hard copy” it’s not possible at this time. And there are no plans to do so.

    I’m not a tech person but I believe all you need to read a pdf is the Acrobat Reader which can be downloaded for free.
    I think you’ll find it very easy.

    All my best,
    Theresa

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