Ask The Readers: How Long Will A Tomato Plant Produce?


This is my first year gardening, so I have depended on and really appreciated all of my readers!  You all have been so helpful when it comes to gardening questions.

Here’s another one for you all:  How Long Will A Tomato Plant Produce?  And what affects it?

Some of my tomato plants are already starting to turn brown on the bottom, and I am wondering if they are reaching the end of their lives, or if I am doing something wrong.  I have six plants, and am getting 12-15 tomatoes a day right now.  They just started producing the past few days.  It was my understanding that they produce for several months, but already it seems some of them are starting to die.

I’d love to hear all of your tips.  I don’t want my tomato plants to prematurely die before their time!

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  1. I’m no tomato expert – this is only my second year growing tomatoes. I think a couple of things come into play. If it’s a determinate plant, it will only grow so big and produce fruit for a pre-determined length of time. Also, it depends on the temperature. If you’re over a certain temperature, the plants won’t “put on fruit” and will stop producing. I’m not seeing any new fruit on mine – it’s been over 90 almost every day for over a week. Hope this helps.

  2. I am certainly no expert(this is my first year growing anything) But my tomato plants did the same thing. I just broke off the dying parts and they grew back and produced fruit on those limbs.

  3. Parade Magazine this weekend suggested putting egg shells in your tomato plants to help give them calcium and keep them from browning. It is supposed to help them live longer. Who knows?

    • The egg shells do work very well. also do a very good job with house plants. Angelo

  4. I am in metro Atlanta. I get tomatoes until mid to late November. Pick off the yellow leaves. Also, to get more tomatoes give them a blast of Miracle Gro in late August, early September. It will make more flowers hence more tomatoes. I grow three different kinds: Cherry, Early Girl, Big Boy.

  5. Great question and great feedback so far! I thought it was just our tomato plant that was turning brown at parts! I will definitely try the egg shells- that is great to know.

    Our big tomato plant isn’t doing as well as the cherry tomato plant- not sure why, but we have at least 50 cherry tomatoes growing (if not more) and I pick a few each morning.
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..CVS: Trail Mix Crunch Cereal Deal Next Week =-.

  6. Tomato plant will produce until frost. Just pick the brown parts off so new shoot will growth. You want to make sure the root is not expose by adding soil around the bottom of the plant. Add some epsom salt as directed on the package will keep the plant healthy. Hope this help!
    Enjoy your site very much. Thanks for all the hard work.

  7. Do you know if you have determinate or indeterminate plants? I use determinate because you get all of the tomatoes at once which I want for canning. Most plants you buy already growing, however, tend to be indeterminate. The other advice with the egg shells and or the epsom salt, along with removing the brown is all good. good luck.
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Target has a cheap and easy dee-lish dessert! =-.

  8. Depends on where you live. Once it stays over 75 degrees at night it will stop making fruit. Cooler places don’t have this problem and their plants will produce until it gets really cold. Keep the base well mulched and make sure to water slow and deep so the roots don’t stay at the surface and burn. Remove dead growth and ideally keep about 2-3 feet between plants for air circulation. Good luck!

  9. I recently learned that a tomato plant has a six year life span. Treat them well. Dad

  10. Your tomatoes may have blight which is a common problem. It helps to mulch them w/ something like straw to keep water off the leaves (they tend to get fungus quickly) and to water w/ a soaker hose. Your tomatoes should bear until frost unless they are determinate. Sounds like everyone is giving you great advice! Now if mine would just hurry up and start ripening! (I live in VA)

  11. Yes, there are two options. Your tomato plant could have blight…

    The other option is, as the indeterminate plant grows it produces from the “ground up”. Tomato plants grown in controlled environments, such as a greenhouse, are usually kept producing for two years. The grower keeps the plant growing on a string up and will “roll” the plant down. (best way I can think to say this) The lowest stalk is brought down into the pot and will produce roots and become part of the root system while the plant continues to grow up and produce more tomatoes.

    Naturally in the wild, tomato plants will creep along the ground and the stalk will root as it is finished producing, that is how a plant can live for 6 years.

    Those who grow tomatoes in pots could actually bring them indoors in the winter and do this technique themselves, if they have a pot big enough to continue “planting” the lowest of the stalk and a nice sunny area. The only big problem is the little bugs. They tend to become an issue.

    On a side note, you can bring in a broccoli plant in a large planter from your garden and keep feeding it, it will produce side shoots for some time. My sister and I did this one winter. Broccoli plants only need a window for sunlight.

  12. I have had two determinite tomato plants side by side, one Roma and one Celebrity. I planted them from potted “baby” plants purchased at Lowes in March of 2008. They are not the most beautiful looking plants, but they are growing and producing a lot of delicious fruit.

    I basically left them alone for the winter figuring I’d rip them out before planting season, but they looked so healthy and I saw blossoms on them, I figured I’d leave them to see what would happen. I was picking ripe tomatoes in March, and they are still going!!

    I do live in San Diego, so frost isn’t a concern, but bugs and mildew are always a problem, but so far so good. Maybe I will have these plants for a bit longer than even two seasons, I will have to wait and see :-)

    • Thanks for your info on the Roma. I was wondering if I’d be able to keep Romas past one season. My Romas aren’t the prettiest but are producing great tasting fruit. I began planting small plants in late February and have been picking fruit since late April . I’m in Austin, Texas.

  13. Why my tomatoes will not produce?? Thanks after reading the comments I think it has just been to HOT.
    I live in Austin TX and we have had 32 days over 100. 102,104, 106 during the day and night in the low 80’s
    Thanks-Larry S.

  14. I bought martino heritage tomatoes and started them from seed. My plants in the garden aren’t doing as well as the ones I planted in containers. I am in IL and we have had some real weird weather this year but the ones in the garden are getting yellow leaves and producing very little fruit.. this is my first year with heritage seeds.. I am going to try the epson salt.. the ones I put eggs shells around are doing the best..

  15. This was my first year for growing a lot of tomato plants.. Did some from seeds. My cherry tomatoes are just starting to produce now! they are the size of golf balls. My other varieties are the beefsteak and heirlooms.. they were already huge but still green in June.. they just turned red a few weeks ago. I live in Indianapolis so I don’t know if it was all the rain we had this summer. I prune the plants.. and they look like hedges.. they are so big! I’m assuming they will produce till the first frost.

  16. I had 30 bush tomato plants and 10 heirloom ones the bush tomatoes in the garden didn’t really produce but for about 5 but I had some planted in totes and went wild but the wet cool summer here has sorta thrown things off.. the farmers are having a problem too..but the heirloom tomatoes are finishing up they got fruit fairly early but it was cool so the didn’t ripen very fast.. my pasta sauce now has a mixture of paste and regular tomatoes..good thing we like chunky sauce.. by the way eggs shell (ground in food processor and coffee grounds work really well)

  17. I grew tomatoes in the spring and summer of 2009 for the first time, in 14 inch pots with about 6 hours of direct sun daily, and all 3 plants produced. The best producers were Early Girl and San Marzano. The Better Boy produced far less. I added one more Early Girl at the end of summer. It is now mid-January and the same three plants are still growing tomatoes. I got them as small plants from Target’s garden center, planted them in very good organic vegetable soil, and have fed them with Kellogg’s Tomato and Vegetable organic food, plus periodic ground eggshells. The very first few tomatoes had blossom end rot so I used Blossom Set which helped a lot. Since I live at the beach and have watered late in the day at times, have had some powdery mildew — diluted bicarbonate of soda sprayed or dabbed on it controls it fairly well. These plants have gotten brownish, and been trimmed as needed. I also found that if the plants get very bushy they may not get enough light and air so you can get blossom end rot; after I thinned them a bit it ceased to be a problem. I have picked off caterpillar young using a Q Tip and soapy water. I also turn the pots every so often so they get sun on all sides. I read that tomatoes can get a brownish type of disease called Tobacco Mosaic — and if you smoke or handle tobacco you must wash your hands thoroughly before touching the plants to keep them from potentially contracting the mosaic.

  18. As for heat… I live in Kuwait. So far they are cropping very nicely!

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