Suckers! Keeping them from your Tomatoes

The tomatoes are finally growing like crazy. The plants are taking off and most are heavily staked to keep the branches from bending under the weight of tons of green fruits. We've had a few ripen, a couple roma and quite a few grape and cherry. The big boys just haven't had enough heat - I think this week will change that.

The plants are growing like crazy too. We've not only staked them (some with a few stakes) but prunded a bit as well. There are a few ways to prune them, especially at the bottoms if they are trying to send out lots of runners low and you don't want them - we sometimes do - depending on the space they have and how healthy they look. Generally we prune different plants in different spots different ways. We won't get into that here.

What we will talk about are the "suckers". The suckers, or side shoots, are the little guys that sprout in the "crotch" areas off the main stem with the other branches and leaves. If left to grow, they will become another main stem with branches, flowers, fruit and more suckers of their own. See the photos below

To remove the suckers (best to do when they are just coming out and haven't formed into a branch of their own already) just pinch it at the base where it is growing out and pull to the side. They usually snap off easily.

You don't have to prune out the suckers. Some people don't. If you leave all the suckers to grow, your plants can become heavy and out of control. Especially indeterminate plants, the ones growing really large and producing fruit all season.

On the other hand, removing all the suckers will result in a more compact plant, but it will also lessen your tomato yield. We like to remove most of them in all but our small compact (determinate) tomato plants. These plants generally are smaller anyway, more compact, and they set their fruit at once and are generally done at that point. Allowing those suckers to grow can help increase their yeild.

All plants are different and we really just keep an eye on them all. If a plant is growing all over the place and its energy seems to keep being in growth of the plant with lots of side stems, we pull the suckers and prune the plant if needed.

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