Melinda's Garden Moment: Tips for an Early Tomato Harvest

Getting your seeds to sprout early.

Be the first on your block to harvest a red ripe tomato.

Grow early ripening varieties like Early Girl, Fourth of July and Celebrity, that produce fruit earlier than most tomato varieties.

Further shorten the time to harvest by warming the soil and air. You’ll be able to plant as much as a month earlier than normal. And thanks to the early start and warmer conditions, your plants will start flowering and fruiting sooner.

Floating row covers and cloches work like mini greenhouses in the garden. Or make your own from a plastic milk jug. Just remove the bottom and set it over small transplants. Or wrap tomato cages with clear plastic for large plants.

Stake tomatoes to further speed up the harvest. It’s a bit more work, but you’ll have fewer disease problems and the earliest harvest on the block.

A bit more information: When staking tomatoes, place the stake in the ground at planting. As the plants begin to grow, prune off all side branches, often called suckers, that form between the stem and leaf. Loosely tie the remaining one or two stems to the stake. Continue throughout the season.

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About Melinda Myers

Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has over 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything DVD series, including the latest “Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set. For more than 10 years she’s hosted the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and writes for Chicagoland Gardening and State-by-State Gardening. She has received recognition and numerous awards, including the American Horticultural Society’s B.Y. Morrison Communication Award. Myers’ website is

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