Yes, you really can grow tomatoes here during winter. Like many plants that are normally considered annuals, backyard tomato plants will live for a couple of years here; and they consistently re-seed themselves. I had one tomato plant and one bell pepper plant that lived three years until pests attacked them. I now have two tomato plants that recently came up as volunteers — one in my flower bed, and the other at the edge of my compost. The one in the flower bed now has tiny green tomatoes on it. Here they are:
Unfortunately, this nice tomato plant has come up within a couple of inches of an Easter lily (that is already about 6 inches tall) and among a group of Snow Drops. I’m wishing I had moved it while it was still very small. To move it now, may damage the roots of the Easter lily. I guess they will have to co-exist and as my mom used to say, “just get along together”.
The downside of growing them in my flower beds is that the grey water used by our sprinkler system will hit them. It’s fine for that water to hit the plant and the ground around the plant, but it’s definitely not good for it to be on fruits and vegetables. I’ll have to watch to see how high the sprinkler water goes, and I may need to remove the lowest hanging fruit.
While it’s true your tomato plants will produce fruit year-round here in central Florida, you may need to cover them in cold weather. We usually get our coldest nights in February. I’ve never covered mine, as I was too busy covering tropical flowering plants and shrubs, as well as the hydrangea and azaleas that I brought with me when we relocated. On those rare occasions, I did lose a few tomatoes, but the plants themselves recovered nicely.
How to Save Tomatoes From Damaging Weather
No matter where you live, if freezing temperatures or an early cold snap are predicted, you can go ahead and pick green or almost-ripe tomatoes. Wrap large ones in newspaper, and place them in a cool-to-warm (not too warm) dark place such as a basement or a closet. If you have a lot of little grape or cherry tomatoes, put them in a newspaper-lined basket or box, then cover them with newspaper. Forget about all these little guys for a few weeks, and soon you will have beauties like these:
Just for Fun
At farm stands in the South you may see signs for “Cukes, Maters, & Taters”. If you are from outside the Southern U.S., do you know what these are?