Tips for Harvesting Tomatoes Early
There's nothing like the first tomato of the season. Tomatoes are a warm-season crop and don't like the cold, so a few tricks are necessary to fool Mother Nature into an early harvest.
A cloche made from floating row-cover material and a wire frame will protect young plants and get them off to an early start.
Tomatoes planted early will need some supplemental heat for young tomato plants. One way to achieve that is to use Wall o' Water, a product consisting of a series of plastic cells that are filled with water. The water absorbs heat during the day and releases it slowly throughout the night. Put the Wall o' Water in place one week before planting to help heat the soil. Wall o' Waters also protect plants from chilly winds. When Wall o' Waters are used to protect seedlings, fold the top closed to create a tepee-shaped cone. As the plants grow larger, add more water to the cells to hold the walls open and away from the developing plant.
A cloche is an old-fashioned way to provide protection to young plants. Cloches were traditionally glass jars inverted over plants to protect them from cold weather. Gallon milk jugs with the bottoms cut off or mini-greenhouses made of spun fiber can be used. Fabric cloches have the benefit of keeping insects away from young plants. Use clothespins or clips to hold the fabric to a frame. This method will protect young plants to temperatures as low as 26 degrees.