Tomatoes are among the most satisfying plants to grow, both for first-time gardeners and expert cultivators. Aside from enabling you to refine your gardening skills, tomatoes bring delicious fruits to your table throughout summer. Yet, growing them might need you to have a little bit of patience!
How long does it take to grow tomatoes? Generally, tomato seeds take up to 15 days to germinate. The seedlings then take between two and four months to produce fruits from the day of transplanting. However, this can change depending on environmental conditions and your expertise.
After all, three months to sink your teeth in home-grown, juicy tomatoes is not too long! Let’s find out what the development phases of tomato plants and how long they take to grow. Don’t miss out on the tips to speed up the process a little!
From Seed to Harvest
The first days of the life of a tomato are when your plant is at its most vulnerable and delicate. However, you will soon be able to see it developing into a mature, healthy, and blooming plant. The time frame you are dealing with can range from under three months to over four months. These guidelines, however, can vary depending on environmental factors and how refined your gardening skills are!
In the sections below, we will have a look at how long each stage of your tomato plant’s life will last. However, let’s start with the bigger picture! Tomatoes grow and produce fruits during the summer months, so the seeds should already be in the potting mix before the last frost of winter is over. After transplanting the seedlings outdoors, you will notice flowers within a few months and fruits around two to three weeks after that.
As a reference, you can use this breakdown:
- From seeds to seedlings – 5 to 12 days
- From seedlings to flowers – 30 to 45 days
- From flowers to bulge – 9 to 14 days
- From bump to ripe fruit – 20 to 30 days
Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes
These timings are only a rough indication of what to expect after settling your seeds in the potting mix. Indeed, different varieties of tomatoes have different developing times and life stages.
- Determinate tomatoes, also called bush tomatoes, tend to grow to a uniform height of 1.2 to 1.5 meters. These types of plants stop growing as soon as the fruits start to set. If you have a determinate variety, you will notice all the fruits to ripe within a timeframe of one to two weeks. As soon as the ripening process ends, towards the end of the season, the tomato plant will die.
- Indeterminate tomato varieties, instead, will continue to produce flowers and fruits throughout the season. These plants grow better outdoors, and they require significant staking to develop correctly. As the first frost of the year comes, indeterminate tomatoes will stop producing flowers and die.
Fast-growing tomatoes varieties
If you are in an inpatient cultivator, some tomato varieties allow you to enjoy the fruits in much shorter time frames. Here is a rundown of the most tasteful types you could introduce into your garden.
- Stupice – this sweet and tangy variety produces fruits within 60 days of transplanting it outdoors. Stupice is one of the most versatile of tomato plants.
- Bloody butcher – if you love cherry tomatoes, you should look into this variety! The small fruits ripe faster thanks to their size, and you can harvest them within 50 to 55 days.
- Glacier – if the colder temperatures in your area are responsible for the slow growth of your tomatoes, opt to plant Glaciers. These tangy tomatoes are ready in just over 55 days!
- Sub Arctic Tomatoes – the fastest-growing tomato variety is also one of the juiciest and most versatile! These hardy fruits reach maturity in around 45 days and stand colder temperatures well.
- Moskvich – another great option if the climate in your area does not allow you to eat your tomatoes before the end of the season. Developing times for Moskvich tomatoes range between 50 and 60 days.
When does a tomato plant grow?
Tomato plants are highly seasonal creatures that will offer their fruits only a determinate season of the year, summer! To encourage proper growth and maturation of your plants, you should plant the seeds into a small pot during the last weeks of winter, or the first days of spring. Of course, this varies depending on your climate zone.
After the plants are transplanted outdoors or moved into your garden, they will continue to grow throughout summer. You should be able to see the fruits starting to mature towards July or August. The tomatoes will ripe within a month of that date.
Seeds to Seedlings
The first stage of your tomato plant’s life is also one of the most important ones. Indeed, while your plant is still a seedling, it is incredibly vulnerable and susceptible to environmental changes. If you have decided to ferment your seeds at home, you should do so well in advance, as the process can take up to a week. In any case, the seeds should be in the ground before the last frost of the year.
Germination will then happen within 5 to 12 days of planting the seeds. To aid this process, ensure to cover the pot with a plastic dome that will help you regulate temperature and humidity levels. You will not need to water your plant if the moisture stays stable throughout the day.
Transplanting the seedlings
Once your seedlings have started to sprout and grow, you can remove the plastic dome. As they begin to show the first set of leaves, it is time to transplant them into a bigger pot. You should do so as they reach a height of 7 to 10 centimeters (3 to 4 inches), which allows them to have access to more nutrients from the floor and continue to grow faster.
After a month, once they have reached the height of 15 to 25 centimeters (6 to 10 inches), it is now time to move them into their final pot or plant them into the ground. To do so, you should ensure that the last frost of the year is over, the temperatures stay stable above 14 degrees both during the day and night, and the soil is warm.
From Flower to Fruit
Transplanting the growing seedlings outside can be a tricky process, and your plant might require hardening for a few days. However, once they are set in the ground and can access unlimited nutrients and sunlight, your plants will start to grow faster. Within 30 to 45 days, as the plant reaches the height of 30 to 45 centimeters (12 to 16 inches), they will begin to show yellowish flowers. These flowers are a sign that the plant has started the process of producing tomatoes!
After 9 to 14 days, the tomato flowers will start to produce bulges or oval bumps in the center. That’s your first tomato! During this phase, the plant will enter a slow-growing period. Indeed, the nutrients that it can gather from the ground, as well as fertilizer, are directed to the flowers.
However, it is important to notice some variations that might occur due to the differences in varieties. For example, the bulge in cherry tomatoes will appear sooner than nine days and will develop quickly due to the ripening fruit’s smaller size.
Why do some flowers not have a bulge?
Not all flowers on a tomato plant will successfully turn into a fruit. Tomato plants can self-pollinate since each flower boasts both a stamen and a stigma. However, the reality is that they are not very good at it! Indeed, tomato plants need the help of bees and airflow to complete pollination.
If this process does not happen properly, or in the case of greenhouse tomatoes, many cultivators proceed to hand pollinate the flowers for increased production. While you won’t need to do so to see vegetables growing on the branches of your plant, ensure that there is enough space between the vines to allow for airflow. Keep in mind that some flowers will just fall off the plant!
From Fruit to Ripe
As the bulge at the flower’s center begins to expand, you know that your tomatoes are on their way! However, the ripening process can take up to 30 days, depending on the variety of plant you are cultivating. To check the progress of your fruits, check the chart below!
- Green tomatoes – this is the first stage of your plants. While fully grown, those fruits are still completely green, and the ripening process has not begun yet. The hues of the green color can vary, but there is still no red shade on the surface of your tomato.
- Breakers – have you noticed a soft pink shade on the surface of your tomatoes? This color change means that the ripening process started. From here, the fruit will not stop growing until maturity. However, it can still take up to 20 days to see entirely red tomatoes on your plant!
- Turning/Pink – your tomatoes have started to change color now, and their surface is already 30% to 60% red. They are already edible during these two stages, but they boast a hard consistency.
- Light red/Red – these are the last two stages of the development of the fruit. Their surfaces are turning entirely red, and they are ready to go!
Ripening inside vs. outside
As we have seen, the ripening process can take up to 30 days. However, we also know that your plants will start to decay at the first signs of autumn! So how can you guarantee to have ripe tomatoes on your table after all this hard work?
Understanding the process through which tomatoes turn red is essential. Indeed, once the plant reaches its “Green” stage, it is at its mature size. At this point, it will start to produce ethylene gas, the chemical responsible for the red color, juicy consistency, and full development. This gas is odorless and colorless, and, once created, the maturation process will not stop until the tomatoes have reached their ultimate form.
Many cultivators decide to pick the tomatoes during their breakers stage because, at this point, the plant is producing ethylene. They will then continue the ripening of the fruit indoors, avoiding the risk of missing the last stage of the maturing phase and letting the tomatoes fall on the ground.
You can also opt for this process at home: not only will it speed up the ripening process, but it will also ensure that you are not wasting the fruits of such hard work! To do so, pick the tomatoes during their breakers stage, remove the stem, and place them with ripe bananas or other tomatoes. These fruits will also produce ethylene, which, in turn, will get them to be red and tasty in no time.
Tips to Speed up the Process
The perfect conditions to grow a tomato plant
As we have seen above, the time a tomato plant takes to develop changes depending on a multitude of factors. Below we have listed the ones that you should consider to ensure the proper development of your plants. For a complete guide to growing your tomato plants, check out this article!
Water requirements change through the life of your plant. On average, they need between 25 and 50 milliliters (1 to 2 ounces) of water per week. However, you should always take into consideration climate and weather conditions. For example, after a rainfall, you should avoid watering them altogether. To check the level of moisture in the soil, insert your finger about 2 centimeters below the surface. Proper watering is essential for speedy development.
Especially if you are growing your plants in colder climates, your tomatoes should receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. while these hours do not need to be consecutive, they are essential for the development of leaves and flowers. If possible, move the plants indoors during the hottest hours of the day!
Pruning is the key to seeing your tomatoes grow faster! By cutting off the new leaves and branches, your plant can focus the nutrients absorbed from the grounds into the maturing fruits.
The perfect temperature for the tomato plant’s growth ranges between 14 and 30 degrees celsius (57 to 86 degrees fahrenheit). However, any daytime or nighttime temperatures outside of this bracket can stunt the growth of the plant or cause the fruits to turn pale.
Tomato plants are easy to grow in a variety of soil types. However, the ground needs to be warm and well-drained at all times. Indeed a frost, as well as overwatering, can kill your plant within hours.
What to look out for
If you have decided to grow and plant tomatoes a little too late, but you don’t want to miss out on their juicy fruits, some techniques can help you grow them faster and safer!
Once your seedlings have reached the right height and strength to live outdoors, you should transplant them only if the climate conditions are right for it. However, this step is also the trickiest one, and one mistake could kill your young plants. To ensure that your hard work does not go to waste, opt to harden them.
This process consists of moving your plants outdoors only during the day for a few hours at a time. Repeat it each day for a week, increasing the number of hours outdoors. Hardening will get your plant ready to live outdoors in just over a week!
Independently on whether you have planted determinate or indeterminate tomato plants, staking or caging them can help speed along the development process. Indeed, tomato plants need airflow and sunlight to thrive. Encouraging them to grow upwards can help them receive enough warmth and fresh air to develop quicker.
We have already seen that tomato plants love to live outdoors. However, especially while they are still young, they do not cope well with temperature changes and natural elements. Planting them or moving them in a spot that is not too exposed to strong winds, direct sunlight, and rainfalls offers them more chances to focus on the development of the fruits.
Picking the right tomato variety makes all the difference!
While we have been exploring the timeframes and growing tips for generic tomato plants, the variety you have picked makes a difference. If you have just decided to plant tomatoes, but you feel like it is already too late to see them bloom, select seeds of a variety that fits your space and climate.
Tomato plants are among the best ones to grow in your garden and can offer you tremendous satisfaction. While they might not need as much care as other plants, you might have to be patient while growing them.
Indeed, the process from seeds to harvest can take up to four months, depending on the tomato variety. However, the juicy, home-grown tomatoes will make the wait worthwhile!
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