Green tomatoes not ripening? Monty Don knows exactly what you should do

Monty Don has the answer (as always!) if your green tomatoes are refusing to turn red

Green unripe tomatoes on vine & ripe red tomatoes freshly picked in bowl.
(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd)

We've had a pretty wet and miserable summer so far, which can only mean one thing: our stubbornly green tomatoes just aren't ripening. 

Thankfully, though, this doesn't mean we have to scrap all of our tomato-based garden ideas. Because, as always, the one and only Monty Don has come through to offer up his tips and advice on how to get the ripe red fruits of your dreams (and no, it doesn't involve tapping your tomato plant).

Monty Don's tips for ripening green tomatoes

If eating your own home-grown tomatoes is one of the major garden trends you want to tick off this year, there's still time to make it happen.

Green tomatoes slowly ripening on a tomato plant

(Image credit: Getty)

'Tomatoes are coming up to their prime harvesting period, but to extend this and make sure that all the current green tomatoes fully ripen over the coming month or so, there are a few things the tomato grower should do now,' writes Monty Don in this month's instalment of his popular gardening blog.

Step-by-step guide

Ready to help your tomatoes ripen? Then look this way...

1. Remove some leaves

It might sound counterintuitive, but it's a smart idea to remove some leaves from your tomato plant.

'Strip off the bottom half of the leaves on each plant,' advises Monty Don. 

'This will let in light and air so that the growing fruits get more sun and also the extra ventilation will reduce the risk of disease. This process can be continued weekly until there are no leaves left at all.'

2. Change up your watering schedule

Monty Don advises that gardeners should 'reduce the watering unless it is very hot to avoid the fruit splitting', but why?

Well, as Christopher O'Donoghue – one of the co-directors at Gardens Revived – explains, it's all to do with 'water stress'.

Christopher O'Donoghue, one of the directors of Gardens Revived
Christopher O'Donoghue

A gardener with over a decade of experience under his belt, Christopher set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Andrew, in 2018  to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.

tomatoes in pots in greenhouse on white shelving in greenhouse

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp/Future PLC)

'You want to slightly reduce your watering schedule,' says Christopher. 'Water stress can signal to the plant that it's time to prioritise ripening those fruits.'

Essentially, it's the gardening equivalent of giving your tomato plant a kick up the bum. Go figure.

3. Pinch off new flowers

To focus your tomato plant's energy on ripening the existing fruits, Christopher advises that you take the time to pinch off any new flowers that appear on the plant. 

'It also a good idea to prune excess branches and side shoots,' he adds. 'Look for the ones that don't have any fruits or flowers, and snip them away using your secateurs.'

Doing so will help your plant to focus its energy towards ripening those still-green tomatoes.

4. Give it a weekly feed

Sick of being cruel to be kind? Monty Don advises that you treat your tomato plant to a weekly feed in a bid to help redden those green fruits.

Tomato plant in terracotta pot in a greenhouse at Chelsea Flower Show.

(Image credit: Future PLC/Heather Young)

'Keep up a weekly feed of liquid seaweed or, if you can make it, home-made comfrey feed,' says Monty Don. 

'Both are ideal for maximising flower and fruit production.'

5. Let the sun shine

Finally, but by no means least, Christopher suggests you move your tomato plants to a sunnier spot if possible.

'Temperature fluctuations are the most common cause of tomatoes that aren't ripening,' he says simply. 'And, if things start to get dire, you can harvest them while they are still green, as any that have started blushing will usually turn red on your counter... especially if you pop them next to a yellow banana!'

Of course, if all else fails, you can make the most of a glut of green tomatoes by turning them into pickles, chutneys, and even ketchups. It's not quite the same as the bruschetta and gazpacho you were hoping for, sure, but at least it means you can still sleep safe in the knowledge you grew some genuine edimentals this year, right?


Why are my green tomatoes not turning red?

While it usually takes takes about 20-30 days for the full-size green tomato to turn red, it's important to remember that tomatoes won't turn red if it's too hot or too cold, which makes them notoriously tricky fruits to grow during a particularly erratic UK summer.

Will picked green tomatoes eventually turn red?

Green tomatoes will continue to ripen after they've been pulled from the vine, which means you can pop them on a sunny counter in your kitchen – ideally with some other tomatoes that are in the process of ripening, or a yellow banana to speed up the ripening process.

What can I do with my green tomatoes?

If your tomatoes are being particularly stubborn, check the bottom: much like any ripe tomato, the bottom of a still-green one will be soft when gently pressed. If this is the case, there are plenty of recipes available online to help you use up your crop (including that famous dish of fried green tomatoes!)

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.