Suckering Tomatoes

I have always been happy to just let tomatoes grow however they wanted to. As long as I got tomatoes off of them, I was happy. But recently, someone pointed out to me the importance of suckering tomatoes.

Tomatoes After Thinning

As a tomato plant grows, new branches sprout at the base of existing leaves. These are called suckers. If allowed to grow, they sap the energy of the plant by making it have to support more and more leaf mass. The water and nutrients brought up from the roots have to be shared with more growing stems. As a consequence, you get fewer tomatoes. Generally, you only want a plant to have one or two main stems.

Looking at my front bed, I realized that the plants had gone wild.  I had a fair number of green tomatoes, but so far, only one had ripened enough to pick. The vines were so thick in the tomato cages that I couldn’t tell what was a main stem and what was suckers. What was really bad was if the sucker already had tiny green tomatoes on it. After waiting so long, I just couldn’t bring myself to cut off a branch that was actually producing fruit.

So, I compromised. I selected one or two stems to be the ‘official’ stem and cut off the non-producing suckers. For those suckers that already had tomatoes, I cut off the growing tip to force the strength to go into the fruit and not the stems. Will it work? We’ll see.


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