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.


One response to this post.

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


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