Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tomato Pruning

If you have had your tomatoes in the ground for more than a week or two, you probably need to do a little maintenance.  First, you need to go ahead and put your stakes or cages in the ground or pot before the plants get too big.  Second, I recommend pruning the suckers.  What's a sucker?  It's not a nasty vermin hanging on for dear life, it's just a secondary shoot that comes out between existing branches and the main stem.
While some people never prune, I have a couple of good reasons for doing so, at least while the plant is still establishing its height.  First, it allows the stem to grow more sturdily without competing branches at one site.  These extra shoots also compete for the plants nutrients.  Allowing individual branches to form, especially lower on the plant and before fruiting begins, gives the plant a chance to grow strong and balanced.  The key is to prune these shoots while they are still fairly small, less than a quarter of an inch in diameter.  They can easily be pinched off by hand, but as they get larger you run the risk of damaging the stalk.  Just make sure to leave the top of the plant alone.  If in doubt, just wait until the plant has grown a little taller to determine if it is actually a sucker or a main branch.  Allowing some suckers later in the growing season will not affect the plants as much, in my opinion, as long as they don't interfere with plant growth.  Here's another great link, if you would like to read more about pruning.  I don't know about you, but after smelling those plants, I can taste that first vine-ripened tomato right now!  Just a few more weeks....

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