For many gardening enthusiasts, summer calls to mind the taste of fresh tomatoes on salads and sandwiches or sauces and salsas made from garden-grown veggies. As the summer wears on, you may become impatient for the taste of fresh tomatoes and wonder when your plants will begin to produce. When you can expect your tomatoes to bear fruit depends on the cultivar you choose and you should consider the time to harvest when selecting your plants for the season.
Day Length and Fruit Production
Many plants develop flowers and set fruit only when they receive a specific number of hours of light per day, called photoperiod. Tomatoes, however, are considered day-neutral plants, meaning that flowering and fruiting are not contingent on the number of hours of light the plants receive. Therefore, tomatoes will produce fruit at any time of the year under the right climatic conditions. A particular cultivar always requires a certain number of days to yield fruit, no matter the time of year.
Early Harvest Varieties
Some gardeners enjoy the bragging rights of being the first on the block to pluck a ripe tomato from the garden, but others live in northern regions where short growing seasons make it difficult to grow frost-tender veggies like tomatoes. These gardeners need plants that will bear fruit quickly, before early autumn frosts destroy their plants. Indeterminate or vining varieties of these early cultivars will continue to produce throughout the summer, generating high yields in areas with long growing seasons. Sub-Arctic Plenty yields its first fruits in just 45 days. Other cultivars that require 60 days or fewer until harvest include Early Cascade, Early Girl and Quick Pick and the dwarf cultivars Tiny Tim and Cherry Gold -- also ready to pick in just 45 days -- Red Robin, Yellow Canary and Pixie Hybrid II. Because early varieties have often been specially bred for northern climates, fruit scalding may occur in hot weather.
Mid to Late Harvest Varieties
Most other cultivars require 65 to 85 days between planting and harvest. These plants tend to grow larger and produce healthier, tastier fruits, generate larger yields and show less susceptibility to damaged fruit than the early varieties.
Although softball-sized slicing tomatoes are the quintessential garden tomato, gardeners can also choose from plants that produce fruits of different colours and sizes and suited for varying purposes. Generally, these tomatoes take longer to yield fruit than traditional red slicing tomatoes. For example, extra-large tomatoes require upwards of 77 days from seed to harvest. Mountain Gold is a fast-ripening yellow cultivar, requiring only 70 days to harvest and Pink Girl needs 76 days till harvest. If you are growing tomatoes for canning, Veeroma comes in fastest, at 72 days. Cherry or salad tomatoes require less time, with Sungold ready after only 56 days and Juliet and Sugary ripe for picking after 60 days.