Winter Tomato Plant

 Miriam, my 2017-2018 winter tomato plant, is starting to flower in one of my bay windows.

Miriam, my 2017-2018 winter tomato plant, is starting to flower in one of my bay windows.

Winter Tomato Plant

Most people have tropical plants and some herbs growing inside over winter. I do as well but I also add one tomato plant to my indoor winter garden.

This year's winter tomato plant was literally a last minute planting. I found the little seedling growing in a flower bed where I had planted hyssop starts from a friend's garden so this wasn't even a tomato start from my garden.

Over the years, I have added a tomato plant to my inside garden to winter over with my other tropical plants. Some years this one tomato plant makes it through spring to spend a second year outside providing me delicious fruits. In their native habitat of Peru, tomatoes grow as perennials, living for many years to produce fruit without the plant dying off and having to be re-grown every year.

I was so busy with other things this year I forgot to set aside a tomato plant to winter over inside. Usually it's a plant that was sacrificed to feed tomato hornworms early summer so that by moving inside time in October, the tomato plant is starting to recover. I didn't have many hornworms this year so I didn't have to segregate a tomato plant from the rest.

When I recognized the seedling growing in a flower bed, I pulled the seedling out of the ground, brought it inside, plopped it into a six-inch pot with fresh potting soil and stuck it in a southwest inside window.

At Christmas, I noticed the first flowers on the now 2-foot high plant so it must be happy where I plopped it. Time to do a little pollinating!

How to Pollinate Inside Tomato Plant

The absence of pollinating insects can be a problem when growing indoor tomatoes so hand pollinating is helpful. In nature, bees and other pollinators move the pollen from one flower to the next, matchmakers in the plant's scheme to survive by producing fruit with seeds. Since I don't have tiny pollinators available, I will be doing the honors.

One way to help a winter tomato plant pollinate is to tap the stems lightly when flowers are in bloom to spread pollen. That's easy enough to do but not a reliable way to hand pollinate.

I have also used a cotton swab tapped into each flower to move the pollen around. That's a better way and ensures the pollen ends up where it needs to be.

Besides giving the plant watered down fertilizer every couple of weeks, I turn the plant daily so each side gets adequate sun and flower and fruit production is even.

Miriam is now staked to keep the plant upright.

 The full Miriam, now about 3-foot tall and needing a taller stake to keep leaning into as she grows.

The full Miriam, now about 3-foot tall and needing a taller stake to keep leaning into as she grows.

Miriam the tomato plant is keeping other tropicals company this winter season. A banana plant, right, and several tropical hibiscus plants give one of my reading nooks a nice garden flavor.

And yes, I have my chairs facing the windows instead of the inside of the room. That way I can sit and enjoy the view without having to turn the chairs. When friends visit, I turn them back into the room or we've been known to sit as the chairs are and enjoy the view together.

 Miriam the tomato plant spends her days in this window with southeastern exposure. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Miriam the tomato plant spends her days in this window with southeastern exposure. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Will this tomato plant have tomatoes?

With a little care, winter growing tomatoes will produce in about the same time as their outdoor counterparts so yes, I should have some tomatoes by March.

Charlotte