A common question after planting tomato plants in the garden is, when will they be ready to pick? This post focuses on how long it takes to get a harvest of tomatoes.
You’ve planned your garden for the upcoming growing season. You’ve either gone out and bought seedlings, or you decided to take a more challenging approach and start from seed. Once you’ve transplanted the seedlings the waiting game now begins. How long do you have to wait until you actually start seeing fruit on your plant?
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In general, how long does it take to grow tomatoes?
How long it takes to grow tomatoes depends on the variety. Tomato varieties’ days to harvest range from about 60 to 100 days.
Days to harvest is calculated from the transplanting date into your garden to the days the variety matures and produces ripe fruit that’s ready to eat. This is true for both tomato plants started from seeds and those purchased as seedlings. Another thing to keep in mind is that the days to harvest, or days to maturity, is a rough estimation. The maturity of a plant depends on a few conditions:
- The ambient and soil temperatures
- Time of year
- Soil fertility
- Moisture and sun exposure
How Long Does It Take for Tomatoes to Grow After the Plant Flowers?
Your tomato plant will eventually start producing flowers. The flowers indicate where potential future tomatoes will grow. Flowers need to be pollinated before fruit grows. If a flower doesn’t get pollinated, the flower will drop off of the plant.
After pollination, the petals and stamen drop off and a tomato begins to form. You’ll notice where the flower was that a little green ball begins to form. This is a little tomato! Tiny green tomatoes initially develop slowly within the first 2 to 3 weeks. By weeks 3 to 5, the fruit begins to grow quickly. Once the plant reaches its mature size, the fruit begins to ripen.
How to identify the ‘days to harvest’?
Each plant tag or seed packet notes the ‘days to harvest’ of that particular variety. For seed packets, it will either be mentioned on the front or the back, along with instructions for how to sow the seeds.
Determinate and Indeterminate Categories
There are two different types of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate. Knowing whether a tomato plant is determinate or indeterminate is a clue to estimating when to expect fruit.
Determinants, also known as bush varieties, grow to about 2 to 3 feet tall. They tend to produce fruit earlier in the growing season in comparison to vining varieties. They produce a lot of fruit all at one time over a brief period of time. Bush varieties are a good option for container gardening and for smaller space because of their more compact structure. They do not necessarily need any support system.
Indeterminants, or vining varieties, have a much longer growing season compared to bush varieties. They produce the largest mid to late growing season fruit. Their production is spread out more throughout the season and not all at once in a brief period of time like determinants do. Indeterminants are much larger in size and can grow 10 to 12 feet. These types of tomato plants will need some sort of support. This helps the plant stay healthy overall by keeping fruit off the ground, helping with air circulation, and reducing pests and diseases.
Early, Mid, and Late Season Varieties
Tomato plants are further categorized as to when they produce ripe fruit: early, mid, and late season. To have a long harvest that starts in the early summer and finishes in the fall, I recommend planting various tomatoes with different harvest periods.
Early Season Varieties
Early season varieties produce fruit in fewer than 70 days. These varieties may have less flavor than later season cultivars, but produce fruit 2 to 3 weeks sooner.
Early Season Varieties to try
- Subarctic: a determinate variety bred in Canada that is disease-resistant. It’s dubbed the “world’s earliest tomato” with an estimated harvest of 42 days! Subarctic produces 4 ounce red fruit that has a tangy flavor.
- Cherry Falls Bush Cherry: a determinate variety that produces bright red fruit that’s 1 inch to 1 ½ inches in size in 55 to 65 days. It has 18 inch long vines that provide an ornamental aspect to the garden with its bright red fruit and can even be grown in a hanging basket.
- Glacier Bush: is a semi-determinate that grows up to 30 inches tall and provides an early harvest at 55 days after transplant. It continues producing throughout the growing season into the fall. This variety is also good for container gardening.
- Bush Beefsteak: a determinate variety that produces 6 to 8 ounce deep red fruit in 62 days after transplanting. It’s a compact, bushy variety
Mid-season varieties are ready to harvest after transplant in 70 to 80 days. They provide a nice harvest for later in the summer. Buying seedlings in stores and transplanting in May, you’ll have fruit ready to harvest by late August, early September.
Mid-Season Varieties to try
- Golden Jubilee Pole Tomato: this indeterminate variety is a cross-breed between Tangerine and Rutgers tomatoes. It grows up to 6 feet or taller with long vines, so a good support system is key in growing this variety. The plant produces a harvest in 75 to 80 days with 6 to 8 ounce 3 inch golden fruit. The tomatoes have a mild flavor with low acidity.
Note: Yellow tomatoes in general have lower acidity in comparison to red tomatoes. They also tend to be on the sweeter side than red.
- Italian Roma Bush: is an heirloom determinate variety that’s known for its tomatoes for making tomato sauce and an excellent option for canning. They have very compact vines that are very productive, producing red, firm, meaty 3 inch oblong fruit. Harvest is ready in roughly 80 days.
- San Marzano Roma Pole: San Marzano are an extremely popular well-known indeterminate variety that produces harvest between 70 to 90 days from transplant. They produce 3 to 4 inch, 1 inch wide, oblong red fruit and are great for making tomato paste, sauce, or canning.
- Cherokee Purple Pole Tomato: is an heirloom indeterminate variety that is said to be from the late 1890s and passed on from Native American Cherokees to a gardener who kept this line of tomatoes intact. It takes 80 days to get a harvest of 10 to 12 ounce pinkish red and purple skinned fruit. When the fruit is cut open, it has a beautiful deep red color. The vines grow to 6 feet or longer so it will need to be well supported.
Late- season varieties will take the longest to see a harvest. It takes 80 or more days after transplant to get ripe fruit.
Late-Season Varieties to Try
- Amish Paste: is an indeterminate heirloom that produces large plum-sized fruit. The fruit is meaty and great for enjoying fresh in dishes like salad, but they’re also great for making sauces and canning.
- Brandywine: is an indeterminate heirloom tomato plant that has fruit that varies in color from pink to red. They grow large beefsteak that have a thick flesh and are ready to harvest in about 85 days. One tomato can grow to weigh 1 pound or more so be sure to provide ample support as you wait for the large fruit to ripen.