Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pruning Tomato Plant Suckers

Recently someone asked me to describe what a "sucker" on a tomato plant is. A sucker is a side shoot that comes off of the stem of the tomato plant. Basically, where a main branch comes out from the stem of your plant, in the v-shaped area between the branch & the stem, there will often grow a smaller branch called a side stem or shoot. These branches, commonly referred to as suckers, are what causes indeterminate tomato plants to become so bushy.

So besides keeping your plants at a more manageable size & preventing bending or broken branches, what are the benefits of pruning suckers? Although pruning suckers is not necessary, it will help to divert all the plants energy & nutrients towards producing larger tomatoes. You do not have to remove all of the suckers, and many of them will produce fruit for you. Many recommend leaving some suckers behind. Before pruning, check if you are growing a determinant or indeterminate variety. Determinant tomato plants should not be pruned due to their more compact size. It's also best to prune less rather than more if you are unsure. Smaller suckers can simply be snapped right off with your fingers. If they are larger, a pair of pruning scissors may be helpful. The downside to pruning is that is does leave the plants more susceptible to disease due to the broken area on stem. It's best if this damaged spot heals over quickly.

Growing your own food is a learning process so experiment with your pruning method to see what you feel works best!

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