Every year many gardeners and some of those hobbyists ask me about Tomatoes Not Ripening. Slow ripening of tomatoes in late fall is natural. Tomato plants lose their vigor and strength in the late season. This situation puts the plants under stress and they stop feeding the fruits. Slow or late Ripening can be a problem especially if you are late with the plantation. Usually, early tomato plantations don’t face problems with late ripening.
It happens if the plant is under stress. Excess temperature, too much sunlight, water, or anything similar can slow down the ripening of Tomatoes. There is not much to do if the tomato plant loses its strength to support fruit growth. Although we can speed up the ripening of mature green tomatoes. This can be done before or after harvesting the mature green tomatoes from vines. Check out my previous post: When to Plant Tomatoes Indoor & Outdoor?
Check out my favorite Tomato seeds on Amazon.
Different Maturity and Ripening Stages
There are 6 distinct maturity and ripening stages of a tomato. Each tomato has to follow through these stages to become a red juicy commercially viable fruit.
Tomato fruits in any of these stages can easily ripe even in vines. You can also harvest them before maturity. This is helpful, especially for transportation and storage.
Maturity and Ripening States of a Tomato
- Green Mature. This is the first stage of maturity of a tomato. The tomato fruit will look completely green. The skin color may vary from dark to light green. These fruits have fully grown mature seeds.
- Breakers. This is the second stage of Tomato’s maturity. In this stage, the fruits start turning Yellow or pink. Only 10% or less of the fruit surface has a color change.
- Turning. This is the third state of tomato maturity where 10-30% of fruit surface has to turn yellow or pink.
- Pink fruits are the fourth maturity stage of tomato fruit. It shows a 30 to 60% color change with a beautiful pinkish hue.
- Light Red fruits are almost ready. They have 60-90% of pinkish-red color on their skin. These fruits are ready to harvest and eat.
- Gorgeous Red tomatoes are the final mature fruits with more than 90% Redish hue. They are fully ripe and ready to consume. These fruits are best for fresh consumption.
Can We speed up Tomatoes Ripening in Vines?
Yes, we can work out to speed up the ripening process of tomatoes in vines. Usually, a tomato should mature and ripe in 40-45 days. Sometimes this can take longer due to some unexpected reasons. The ripening of tomatoes is mostly governed by natural forces like light, water, heat, or humidity. Most of which is out of our control. Although it is possible to alter some of these in our favor.
We can control watering and fertilization to speed the ripening process. We can also Chanelle plant energy just to mature and ripe tomato fruits. The tomato plants have to spend a lot of energy on the development of new buds, fruits, and branches. Therefore we can prevent energy wastage by getting rid of unwanted buds and branches. This is one of the best ways to speed up tomato ripening in vines, especially at the end of the season.
Factors That Affect Ripening of Tomatoes
There are a few factors that can affect the ripening process of a Tomato fruit. The first and most important factor is the tomato variety. Both Determinate and Indeterminate tomatoes have a specific plant life and maturity time.
You have to calculate the maturity of the plant and the fruiting season before the plantation. In the hardiness zone with a shorter season, we can’t grow late bloomer tomatoes. If you grow them and they start blooming then the plant may die before the maturity of fruits. This may lead to total wastage. Therefore always choose a compatible local tomato variety for growing. It is better not to choose exotic foreign varieties in areas with short summer.
Other factors that affect Tomato ripening are-
- Soil Condition
- Air Circulation
- Water and Humidity
These natural factors can easily alter the growth process of tomatoes. Neither too hot nor too cold temperature is good for Tomato plants. Adverse soil conditions can also put the plant under stress. Inadequate sunlight or too much of it can also affect the ripening of tomatoes. Proper air circulation with 3% or less CO2 Concentration is essential for tomato ripening. Lastly, adequate water and humidity help the plant to grow and produce fruits in time. A little change in this condition can also put the plants under stress causing late ripening of fruits.
Also read: How to Control Tomato Pests and Diseases?
Can Too much heat stop Tomato Ripening?
The ideal temperature for Tomato fruit is 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit or 15-20 degrees celsius. It loves to stay above 50 degrees. If the temperature exceeds 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit then the plant may stop ripening the fruits. Instead, it will spend all the energy only to save itself for burning. Temperature stress can halt further bud formation. In extreme cases, it can also cause bud or mature fruit drop.
As a result, the mature tomato fruits may stay green or tarnish-yellow for long in the vines. Although this problem will solve on its own when the temperature recedes to the normal range. It only requires the plant to stay safe and alive. Affected fruits will become yellow or light green. They may not ripe properly although other mature fruits will continue to grow mature and ripe on time at an ideal temperature.
The simple use of the green net should be sufficient to deal with this situation, especially during the peak summer season.
What is the Role of Water in the Ripening of Tomatoes?
Water plays an important role in the development and ripening of tomato fruits. From day one, it helps the tomato to grow bigger and juicer. water also regulates natural growth hormones in the plant. It governs the proper circulation of ethylene that gives a tomato its mature red color. Proper flow of nutrition to the fruit is an important contribution of water.
The ripening of fruit depends completely on a chain of chemical reactions. Several enzymes and plant hormones take part in these reactions. Water acts as a catalyst and carrier in most of these reactions. It helps in the completion of the ripening process of tomatoes. A fully ripe tomato contains almost 60% water by mass. This shows the importance of water for the ripening of tomatoes.
Check out: Is Sesame seed Gluten-free?
Can Soil Condition affect Tomato Ripening?
Yes, changes in soil conditions can affect the ripening of fruits. Every plant needs specific soil conditions. Tomatoes are not an exception. They also require slightly acidic soft moist well-drained healthy soil to grow.
Even a slight change in the optimum condition can put the plant under stress. Stress is not good for tomato plants. Plants in stress respond by halting bud and fruits growth. This may continue to prolong the ripening phase of mature tomatoes.
Mainly sudden change in soil ph is responsible for such conditions. It may happen if the soil becomes alkaline due to too much watering or excessive use of chemical fertilizers. Excess use of wood ash for fungal treatment can also result in alkaline soil.
Sometimes similar conditions can do the reverse effect. As in the late harvesting season, a little stress to the plant can ripe its fruit quickly. You can do this by a simple twist to the plant base. Loosening the roots from soil can immediately force these plants into stress. Thus it may ripen the fruits within a couple of days instead of a week’s delay.
How To Ripen Tomatoes in the vine?
Suppose it’s the end of the growing season for tomatoes and still many mature green fruits are hanging in the vines. So what can you do to ripen them before harvesting? If you don’t harvest them in time then-upcoming frost will kill the plant along with its fruits. This can waste your entire effort. Even harvesting Green mature tomatoes before ripening is not good. Green mature tomatoes fruits are not so useful as ripened fruits. Therefore you should try to ripe them in the vines before harvesting. Although mature tomatoes are good to ripe even after harvesting, their flavor may differ.
Ways to Ripen Tomato in the vine
The whole concept of tomato ripening in the vine depends on the strength of the plant. It is possible to speed up the ripening process of mature tomatoes although this requires channeling maximum energy to those mature fruits instead of any other metabolic work.
Keep in mind, the natural rate of tomato ripening is regulated by its plant. The plant needs to take care of every fruit, flower, and additional foliage. It requires too much energy which is a concern during the early winter season. The plant is about to die by this time and it doesn’t have sufficient energy to support everything. That’s why the remaining fruits may stop ripenings. We have to exclude every unnecessary work other than those for the mature tomato fruits. Only the concentration of nutrition and energy can help with tomato ripening.
- Remove extra flowers and buds
- Cut off unnecessary foliage and branches
- Remove small immature fruits. They will never mature at the season end.
- Reduce watering to stress the plants.
- Avoid splashing water on the foliage as it may cause fungal problems in the late season.
- Prune and Deadhead damage and infected branches.
- Prevent further pests infestation and diseases in tomato plants as it may cause fruit rotting.
- Harvest extra tomato fruit during breakage or later maturity stages.
- Properly Stake the tomato branches to encourage faster ripening of fruits.
- Top the tomato plants to channel the nutrient and energy towards the mature fruits.
These are 10 simple and easy ways to speed up tomato ripening, especially in the vine. You can notice that all of these steps suggest saving nutrition and energy for mature fruits. The availability of nutrition and sufficient energy to process it are the main concern during the late harvesting season. The continuous drop in temperature also poses a serious threat to the tomato fruit hanging in vines.
Therefore take every measure to help ripen tomato fruits in the vine before the first frost. Harvest every fruit before frost hits the plant to death. These fruits may rot below 45 degrees Fahrenheit if left on the vine.
What to do If Tomatoes are not Ripening?
There are two aspects of this situation. First, if there is still some time left for the season to end then try to ripen as many fruits as you can. Else You should Harvest the mature fruits and toss the baby tomatoes in the compost pile.
It is possible to ripen tomatoes in the vine. They can mature and ripe in the vine within 45 days. Although we can reduce this time to 30-35 days by putting the plant under mild stress. You can simply remove all immature baby tomatoes and some extra foliage. It will concentrate remaining nutrition to the mature fruits hence boosting their ripening.
The use of plant growth hormone and ethylene is also helpful in the early ripening of mature green tomatoes.
Also read: Is Ozone Water Safe for Plant?
How to speed up Tomato Ripening Process?
You can speed up the tomato ripening process in the vine by channeling all the energy to the mature fruits. This can be done by pruning, deadheading, sorting, early harvesting, and putting the plant under stress. You can also give the tomato plant stress by jerking off its root and uprooting it to some extent. This may seem dangerous but there is nothing to lose at the season end. The plant will die on its own in a few days, so it is better to do something than nothing. And if you don’t act then it will die with all those fruits wasting your entire effort.
You can also harvest the tomatoes during the breaker stage and then let them ripen in the storage. Mature tomatoes can ripen properly in 7-10 days at 15-20 degrees celsius or 55-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Commercial farmers sometimes use ethylene spray to speed up this process although you won’t need it.
Interesting Fact: Tomatoes ripening at 15-degree Celcius(55F) is more glossy and fresh looking than those ripening at 20 degrees Celcius(65-68F). This mostly happens due to the difference in the weight loss at both these temperatures. Home refrigerators are too cold for Tomatoes. So leave them in well-ventilated cool storage areas for ripening.