Do Tomato Plants Bear Fruit More Than Once? It Depends On …


If you have tomato plants in your garden, you may be wondering if they can produce fruit more than once during a single growing season.  I was wondering the same thing, so I did some research to find out.

So, do tomato plants bear fruit more than once?  Yes – indeterminate varieties of tomato plants can bear fruit more than once, producing fruit until frost.  Determinate tomato varieties usually only produce one tomato harvest in a season.

Of course, an early fall frost can cut the season short even if you have indeterminate tomato varieties.  There are also diseases, pests, and growing conditions to worry about.  Let’s take a closer look at tomato varieties, when they flower and bear fruit, and what can hold them back.

Do Tomato Plants Bear Fruit More Than Once?

As mentioned above, indeterminate varieties of tomato plants can bear fruit more than once in a season.

Indeterminate tomato plants, also referred to as “vining”, can easily grow to 6 feet tall, with some reaching a height of 10 feet or more.  They will continue to produce fruit throughout the growing season after the first ripe tomatoes appear.

tomato stakes
Indeterminate tomato varieties are taller and often requires stakes or other support.

Determinate tomato plants, also known as “bush”, grow to 4 feet or so and then stop growing.  They usually only produce one harvest during a season, with all of the fruit ripening with a week or two.  Determinate varieties are preferable if you want to preserve all of your harvest at once.

plant cage
Determinate tomatoes are shorter, so a cage can provide good support.

If you don’t want all the fruit at once, you can stagger plantings of determinate tomato varieties.  That way, you can get fruit over a longer time period.  You can also plant varieties with different times to maturity to ensure a longer harvest period.

How Long Do Tomato Plants Take To Produce Tomatoes?

Tomato plants can take from 48 to 100 days (7 to 14 weeks) to produce tomatoes.  The time from planting to ripe tomatoes can vary quite a bit depending on the variety of tomato.

For example, at the low end, the Sweet ‘n’ Neat Cherry Tomato will mature in 48 days, giving you ripe fruit in about 7 weeks!

cherry tomatoes
Some cherry tomato varieties can produce fruit in as little as 7 weeks!

For more information, check out the Sweet ‘n’ Neat Cherry Tomato on the Bonnie Plants website.

On the high end, Brandywine tomatoes can take up to 100 days to ripen, meaning that it can take about twice as long (14 weeks) to get ripe fruit.

brandywine tomatoes
Brandywine tomatoes can take 14 weeks to produce fruit!

Keep in mind that if you plant tomatoes from seed, instead of transplanting seedlings, it will take even longer to get ripe tomatoes.

For more information, check out my article on when tomato plants produce fruit.

Why Are Your Tomato Plants Not Producing Fruit?

A lack of pollination is one possible reason that your tomato plant is not producing fruit.

For one thing, there may not be enough pollinators (such as bees) nearby.  This can happen if you or your neighbors use pesticides, or if a nearby business causes pollution that harms bees.

bee on blueberry flower
A lack of bees may be responsible for lack of fruit set on your tomato plants. In that case, you can use a toothbrush to help pollinate the tomato flowers!

If a lack of pollinators is a problem in your garden, you can hand-pollinate with an electric toothbrush.  For more information, check out my article on how to hand pollinate tomato plants.

Another potential problem that can prevent pollination is high or low humidity levels.  Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about this one!

High humidity means that the male part of the flower cannot release its pollen.  Low humidity means that the pollen will not stick to the female part of the flower.

There are several other environmental factors that can delay tomato production, including water, light, nutrient deficiencies, pests, and diseases.

For more information, check out my article on why your tomato plants are not producing fruit.

Do Tomato Plants Regrow Every Year?

Tomato plants are perennials, meaning that they can survive longer than one year or growing season.  However, they are often treated as annuals, which are plants that only last one year.

frost
Frost will kill tomato plants, but if kept warm enough, they can live longer than a year.

This means that gardeners will buy new tomato seeds or plants every year and dispose of the mature plants at the end of each season.

For more information, check out this article on Wikipedia about perennial plants and this article on Wikipedia about annual plants.

What Can Kill Tomato Plants?

Pests, diseases, improper watering, nutrient deficiencies, and extreme temperatures can all kill tomato plants.  You will need to take measures to protect your plants if you want them to have a chance at bearing fruit more than once in a season.

Pests

There are lots of pests that will hurt or kill your tomato plants if given the chance.  If you don’t take steps to deal with these pests, you will end up with fewer tomatoes, or you just might lose your whole harvest!

Many different types of worms (moth larvae) eat tomato plants, including tomato hornworms and cutworms.

tomato hornworm
Tomato hornworms are one type of pest that feeds on tomatoes.

For more information, check out my article on what kinds of worms eat tomato plants, and my article on how to get rid of cutworms with natural methods.

Aphids are another pest that can damage your tomato plants.  They are small, but they can multiply quickly and spread from plant to plant.

aphids
Aphids can spread quickly and take over multiple plants in a short time.

For more information, check out my article on how to get rid of aphids.

Diseases

Sadly, there are many diseases that can foil your efforts to grow a bountiful crop of tomatoes.  Some of the most common diseases that affect tomatoes are fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, and blight (early or late).

One of the best ways to prevent diseases is to choose tomato varieties that are resistant to these diseases.  For example, a “V” in the description of a tomato plant variety means that it is resistant to verticillium wilt, while an “F” means that it is resistant to fusarium wilt.

fusarium wilt on tobacco plant
Here we can see symptoms of fusarium wilt on a tobacco plant. Picture from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fusarium_wilt_symptom_tobacco.jpg

Many tomato varieties are also resistant to either early blight, late blight, or both.  Late blight is the more devastating of the two diseases, and can destroy an entire tomato crop for the year.

late blight on tomato stem
Late blight has infected this tomato plant, as we can see from the brown stem.

For more information, check out my article on the top 10 blight resistant tomatoes and my article on how tomatoes get blight.

Another good practice is to prevent the leaves and vines of your tomatoes from getting wet.  This prevents rot from taking hold, and prevents the spread of diseases that need moist conditions to thrive.

You should also stake or cage your tomatoes to provide support as they grow.  This will prevent soil-borne diseases from spreading to your plants, and it will also make it easier to care for your plants.

For more information, check out my article on how to support tomato plants.

Improper Watering

Both over watering and under watering can kill your tomato plants.

When you over water, the soil stays moist for too long, and the roots rot.  This prevents the plant from absorbing water and nutrients from the soil, leading to death.

garden hose
Be careful not to over water or under water your tomato plants!

For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.

When you under water, the plant’s leaves may curl or become dry and brittle, with a “crispy” appearance.  This is more likely if you have dry soil.

For more information, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies (or pH imbalances) in your soil can lead to stunted growth, poor production, or even death of your tomato plants.

The best way to tell is to do a soil test, either with a do-it-yourself kit or by sending a soil sample to the lab at your local agricultural extension office.

For more information, check out my article on how to do a soil test.

Extreme Temperatures

Finally, extreme temperatures can kill your tomato plants or prevent them from producing the harvest you desire.

Extreme heat can prevent fruit set or kill your plants, especially in drought conditions.

Extreme cold and frost can kill all of your plants outright in a single night, unless you take measures to protect them.

One of the best ways to do this is to be aware of frost dates in your area and plant accordingly.  For more information, check out this article on frost dates from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

You can also use cloches to protect young tomato plants from cold, or row covers to protect more mature plants from early fall frosts.  For more information, check out my article on how to protect tomato plants from cold and frost.

Can You Keep Tomatoes Alive In The Winter?

Yes, you can keep tomatoes alive in the winter.  If you are growing smaller determinate varieties in pots or grow bags, you can bring them indoors before fall frosts kill them.

For more information on containers for your indoor determinate tomato plants, check out my article on clay vs plastic pots and my article on using grow bags indoors.

You also have the option of using vegetative cloning to give a tomato plant a second chance at life.  This can be done for both determinate and indeterminate varieties.

Simply cut off a sucker from the tomato plant, submerge it halfway in water.  After some time has passed, the cutting will form roots.

At that point, take the rooted cutting and plant it in a container with potting soil, and raise it as you normally would.

Of course, if you are growing heirloom tomato varieties, you can also collect seeds from the fruit and plant them to produce seedlings.  Collecting seeds may not work as expected with hybrid tomato varieties, since the seeds may be sterile, or they may not produce plants that are similar to the parent plant.

For more information, check out my article on heirloom tomatoes and my article on the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid seeds.

Conclusion

By now, you know that indeterminate tomato varieties can bear fruit more than once in a season, producing until frost (or something else) stops them.  You also know that some tomato varieties can be treated as perennials if the climate is warm enough.

As long as you avoid some of the most common growing mistakes, your tomatoes should be able to produce plenty of fruit for you.

For more information, check out my article on common mistakes when growing tomatoes.

You can also check out this tomato growing guide from the University of New Hampshire Extension.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.  If you have any questions about when tomato plants can bear fruit, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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