Suckering Tomatoes

Ugh, that title sounds awful. But that’s the proper term for it. I haven’t grown vegetables much before last year. For years, all I grew were flowers and I somehow missed out on this piece of information.

As a tomato plant grows, it adds leaves, right? We all know that. However, at each point where a leaf grows from the stem, a new sprout will grow from the joint. If allowed to continue growing, it will become a full, growing vine just like the main stem. These sprouts are called suckers – I guess because they suck nutrients and water from the rest of the plant. What I didn’t realize is that I was supposed to prune off these suckers so that all the growth goes into the main plant so it can produce fruit.

Long story short – I didn’t do that.

Oh, I have my excuses… I was so pleased when they began growing and filling up the tomato cages that I just didn’t want to cut any of it off. But some time in August, I realized that I had a great mass of plant and not many tomatoes. All the strength of the plant was being dissipated by these multiple stems. I knew I had to do something, but between the heat of the dog days of August and the enormity of the task, I kept putting it off.

Mass of Tomato Vines

Finally, with the arrival of cooler weather in September, I got out there and began pruning – tentatively at first, but eventually whacking away at the sprawling vines. Honestly, I have no idea whether I was doing it right or not. I found that many of the vines had flowers and some had small green tomatoes on them. I hated to cut those, so I settled for cutting the vine just above the fruit and hoping that they would go ahead and ripen anyway. As the cuttings piled up, my wife brought out a big black plastic garbage bag and I started stuffing the cuttings in it. There were only three tomato plants, but I filled a bag and a half with the cuttings. When I was done, I stood back and looked at the whole bed. As you can see from the picture, it barely looks as if I had pruned anything.

It’s only been a week since I cut them back, but it seems to me as if the remaining fruit are growing faster. A little. It could be my imagination, or wishful thinking. Next year, I’m going to have to stay on top it and sucker them as they grow.

Update: It’s now a month later and I have a lot of green tomatoes that are sloooowly ripening. It’s now a race to have them ripened before the first killing frost, which usually occurs around the first week of November.

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One response to this post.

  1. Incredible points.
    Great arguments. Keep up the
    amazing work.

    Reply

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