My Winter (& Spring) Tomatoes


As I write this, it is raining outside.  I love the rain.  I always have, even as a young girl growing up in Southern California.  

I especially like the thought of all the rain falling on my vegetable garden.

If you look closely, you might notice something growing that usually doesn’t belong in a winter vegetable garden (in zone 9a and cooler areas)….

Fallen tomatoes

Can you see what I have growing in the photo above that normally belongs in a spring / summer vegetable garden?

Fallen tomatoes

Fallen tomatoes

Well, if you said tomato plants, you would be correct.

Now before you scold me for planting tomatoes in a garden that sees frost every winter – I assure you that I did NOT plant any of these tomatoes.

No one else did either….

So, how did I end up with tomatoes growing in my garden this time of year?

Well, they came up from seeds from fallen tomatoes from last summer’s vegetable garden.

I have actually had to pull up small tomato seedlings, but I decided to let 5 stay.  You may be asking, why am I letting them grow if they will be killed by frost?

I am hoping that this winter may be mild enough that they will survive if I protect them from frost.

Last week, we had several days in the low 30’s / upper 20’s.  I covered my tomatoes with old sheets and towels.

Additionally, I also put out two desk lights underneath the coverings (not letting the bulbs touch the sheets), which provides additional warmth.

The result?

Overall, the tomatoes did well.  Some of their upper leaves did receive frost damage, but the lower 3/4’s the plants did very well.   I am hoping that my experiment continues to do well.

Why?  Because I will have a huge headstart on growing lots of tomatoes.

I will continue to let you know how they do this winter.

**In frost-free gardens, you can grow tomatoes during winter.  But, my zone 9a garden sees temperatures dip into the upper 20’s, so without protection, tomatoes won’t survive the winter. 

One-Year Old Tomato Plants

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
7 replies
  1. Clarice
    Clarice says:

    I am excited for your garden! I too, have tomatoes doing well! They are survivors from summer and have lots of tomatoes on them, particularly the cherry tomoatoes and the Roma. This fall my zucchini came back too, first time ever. I have already enjoyed one and another is almost ready and there is a blossom too. I have been draping old bedspreads over the tomato and pepper cages, secured with clothespins. Then before I go to bed I go out on turn on a box fan that I found at Walmart for 14.99 to keep the frost away. It has worked beautifully so far! I did have to go rescue my bedspreads from the rain this morning however. The weather people said rain was coming later in the day 🙁 I hope my fan is okay……..

  2. NellJean
    NellJean says:

    I'm thinking some polyester fleece might be a good 'cloud cover' for your plants. Our new recliners came with some fleece jackets that I've stored away for when I have volunteer tomatoes, lol. Maybe you could rig some rebar with old tennis balls stuck on to support heavier covers if the temps really get low.

    I hope you get fruit.

  3. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Wow, and there is even a few corn, though they are not as healthy as the tomatoes. But it is the fence i love most, which seems so easy for you to garden. Here those fence will easily rot, or termite will already be there the moment you leave for home.

  4. Jane
    Jane says:

    Just a glimpse at coldness here in ol' Blighty and tomatoes are no more!! Would be lovely to be able to grow them all year round though xx

  5. Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ
    Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ says:

    Well, today is the 13th and it is still raining here in Phoenix. Amazing for us! I wonder what variety the tomatoes are? If the original ones were hybrids, the seeds could be one of the varieties that combined to make the hybrid … I think.

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