Fall Tomatoes by Byron Chitwood, Master Gardener.
It might sound like it is too early to plant fall tomatoes, especially when the ones that were planted in the spring are at the height of their production. However, if fall tomatoes are expected to mature before the frost gets them, they should be planted now or very soon. Unfortunately, not many transplants are available this time of the year, but if you are lucky enough to find some, buy and plant them as soon as possible. They will require more care than the ones that were planted in the spring but the results will be well worth it.
Some folks manage to keep their spring tomato plants alive until fall with good results but I have never been able to do so with the exception of a few improved cherry tomato plants. If you have some fairly healthy spring tomato plants, you might try keeping them alive and if so, can expect them to produce tomatoes before that first killing frost. Another trick is to bend some of the limbs on these plants down to the ground and bury them in a shallow trench without detaching them from the mother plant. These limbs will develop their own root system. When they are firmly rooted, detach from the parent plant and you have developed a clone.
Another way to start tomatoes is to cut some of the healthy main shoots from the spring planted bushes and plant them in either a pot full of potting soil. Keep these pots in a cool place with the soil being moistened and the cuttings will eventually develop roots and can be transplanted to the garden. You can also plant the cuttings directly into the garden and with luck, they will develop roots and grow. If your soil is a tight gumbo or clay, it would be very helpful to dig holes about four to six inches in diameter and fill with potting soil before planting the cuttings directly into the garden. Do all this in advance of making the cuttings and then when you do take the cuttings, speed of getting them into the soil or potting mixture is of essence. One of our florist friends advised to do this within 20 minutes since the cuttings will start to scab over just as soon as they have been cut from the parent bush.
You can also plant tomatoes from seeds. No doubt you have some tomato seeds in your hoard or maybe they are still available at your favorite nursery. Buy several varieties for diversification since some varieties will do better than others. Follow the directions for planting the seeds. They can be started in pots indoors or sowed directly into the garden soil. Some stores sell their apples of other fruits in clear plastic containers. These make excellent little hot houses for germinating seeds when planted directly in the garden. After they sprout, uncover them. It will help to build a shad to protect these seedlings from the afternoon hot summer sun. If you have plenty of garden space, try some or all of these methods for starting fall tomatoes.
Just before the first killing frost, pick all your green tomatoes and store them indoors out of the cold. You will be eating tomatoes as they ripen through the Christmas Holidays. At the Christmas dinner table with those ripened tomatoes, you can say “the old pro has done it again”!