How to Grow Tomatoes All Winter

Depending upon your climate, you probably can only grow tomatoes in the summer until your first frost. There are ways around this, however.

Tomatoes require around 8 hours of sunlight a day and do not do well in cold temperatures approaching freezing. If you can keep the tomatoes warm enough and give them enough light, they should continue producing well into winter. You can even use these methods to grow your tomatoes early and plant them or bring them outside to your garden as soon as your last frost is over for the year for a jump start on tomato gardening.

Greenhouse or Cold Frame

This is the method you are probably thinking of. You can either cold frame over the existing tomato plant in your garden using lumber and a window or clear plastic or build a full greenhouse. Even a cheap greenhouse is better than none. Dig down a few feet to gain ground temperature to cut down on or even avoid having to hear the greenhouse.

Houseplanting

If you do not have the space or resources for a greenhouse or cold frame, you can always transplant or plant tomatoes in pots or 5 gallon buckets and bring them inside. Either place them near a window if you get 8 hours of sunlight there or purchase an led growing light to supplement the sunlight. You can drill a few holes in the bottom of the bucket and place a tray underneath to help with drainage when watering. Put the light on a timer so all you have to do is water and occasional manual pollination via touching a qtip on each blossom.

Either of these methods should help you continue to get fresh tomatoes well into the winter. You can also use these methods to get a head start on your summer garden. 

How I Made a Greenhouse for Free

My finished makeshift greenhouse

Though we planned on focusing on renovating the inside of our house this last year, I did complete several projects outside. One of these was the garden. After resurrecting these raised beds for use as our first garden here, we harvested a small but tasty collection of vegetables and some fruit. The tomatoes performed very well giving us more than we could eat all the way through September.

I knew they would start slowing down once fall hit with frosts and less sunshine, so I began planning to throw together a temporary greenhouse.

I hiked around the woods next to our house and cut down small trees that were too close to large ones to ever be healthy. I used an axe to cut most of them and a bow saw for the rest.

After cutting and hauling the small trees down by hand, I delimbed them with a hatchet and cut them to length with the bow saw. The bow saw gives a cleaner cut for the side that was resting against the house.

Decking logs for the supports with our dog photobombing

I propped them against the siding and screwed them to the wood trim. Using screws instead of nails seemed easier to get them off without damaging the wood trim. If using nails, do not nail them all the way in for easier removal. We have tons of screws extra from all our home renovations.

I did not bother attaching them to the bottom side as my raised beds boards are rotten enough screws would not hold. The weight was enough to keep them from shifting. 

After the logs were up, all that was left was the greenhouse plastic. My family had already purchased a roll of greenhouse plastic, so I did not even have to buy this.

I spread out the plastic on the ground and pulled each side up over the logs. It was not a perfect fit but good enough to keep warmth in with some adjustments.

My greenhouse before collapse

Unfortunately, this design was lacking as the rain did not run off the end but pooled at the bottom causing part to collapse.

My collapsed greenhouse from rain

I resolved this by putting the collapsed logs back up and placing small boards at the top, bottom, and middle. I wired them to the logs, pulled the plastic tight, and stapled the plastic to the small boards. This kept the plastic tight so the water would not pool up and collapse again. I had to pull it tight again a time or two again in the coming weeks to get it tight enough to not puddle.

This greenhouse would not win any awards or be featured on magazine covers, but it was free and kept our tomatoes warm enough to produce well into late fall despite our neighbor’s tomatoes dying in early October. I could have cut the plastic to make it look nicer if this had not been a temporary construction. Victoria enjoyed her fresh tomatoes until early December, so my mission was solved. 😋