This is a past midsummer task in the garden. I LOVE tomatoes, and am not ready to see them go away at the end of July. No one carries tomato plants here in this area as no one seems to have utilized the really long growing season (Zone 7B according to the latest maps). However, I always push the season, so this will work for you where ever you are.
First off, tomatoes! They are VINES. However, we treat them as plants. Vines will naturally root, but since we normally have them in cages or some sort of support, then they act like “tomato plants”.
There are two types of branches on each tomato vine. Growing branches, and flowering branches–and sometime mid summer, the growing branches will begin to die. They are not needed. The base of the plant is spent and looks old, and brittle. There is always some hardy green parts way up at the top of the tomato cage, really trying to produce more tomatoes. This is your “Frankenstein”.
The first thing to do is evalute each plant. Look at each as an individual. Trim all dead “wood” off the vine. I will keep referring to it as a vine, as it helps to understand. Again, some branches will already be brown, and look dead. This leads to many Southerners to abandon ship. Take heart. If you do this next step, you can have tomatoes until November.
Trim each vine. Take off all dead branches. Now evaluate your vine. The bottom is brittle and old, but the top is lively, and probably still producing blossoms. Slide each part of the vine into your cage or containment structure. Trim, and leave all active blossoming parts of the plant at the top. GENTLY (I can not stress this enough), slide the live part of the vine down. Figure out where it can land on the ground. If your tomato vine is almost dead, then take off the containment structure and actually have it about 18″ away, and bury it, as you would a new tomato plant.
However, DO NOT prune it off the parent plant, as if it does not root, it will die. Some of my tomato plants are still producing heavily, so I take only parts of them, and bury them–leaving the other parts to continue to put out fruit.
Each plant has to be individually evaluated, and look for it’s Frankenstein potential. I am enclosing a picture of a full fledged Frankenstein. However, of the 8 plants that I did this morning, I foudn one that had nothing more to give, three full fledged Frankenstein vines that I could plant as adjuncts to the parent (and still be attached–very important), and 4 that I did a hybrid of running parts of the vines into the ground, burying them, and leaving the still producing plant.
This may be complicated, but it WORKS! You can have tomatoes until frost or after. I have had fresh tomatoes in December, and that made it so worth a little pruning and burying. OK..write for questions, but I am enclosing a picture of a full fledged Frankenstein. The old brittle wine is still attached, and the new one is re-caged. It will take about 2 weeks for the new plant to completely be on it’s own, and then you can pull up the vine from the old one.
Have fun…this makes you feel like a scientist! Plus late season tomatoes! Adjust this for your zone, but it really works.