Gonna Get That Sucker!

We’ve finally had some summer-like weather here in central MA. The many, many tomato plants in the Food It Yourself garden have responded with a quick growth spurt. There are flowers on just about all the plants, and the grape tomatoes already have some small, green fruits.  I am already dreaming of home-made ketchup! However, the quick growth spurt left my plants a little bit, as old gardenfolk say, “rangy”.  It was time for a pruning.

If you are unfamiliar with tomato anatomy, here is a good guide from Gardener’s Supply Company. In the past, I have weighed the pros and cons of pruning. We do not get extremely strong sun at our latitude. With the damp weather we’ve been having it seems like a good idea to keep air circulating around the fruits. I am most certainly in favor of removing suckers.

THAT is what I am talking about-the little branch forming between the main stem and the big leaf stalk. That is the sucker that will do nothing but suck energy from the main stem.

I also took out some of the lower leaves from the plants. They will not get enough sunlight to feed the plants. Sitting so close to the dirt they may contract fungi that could spread to the rest of the plant. Away with you!

The other thing I like about pruning my tomatoes is that it gives me a chance to get up close and personal with my plants. With a careful look at a few stems I found aphids stealing a snack. Aphids are hard to avoid completely if you garden, but you really do want to keep them under control.  I do not endorse too many specific products on this blog but I really like this stuff for insect control.

Aphids? What aphids?

I also took a few minutes to tie up my tomatoes.  I did not have enough cages for all the plants when I was planting.  Some of the “uncaged” plants were close enough to tie to a cage. I did have to improvise a few supports.  I happen to have a plethora of bamboo stakes in my garage, so I used those, but you could easily use regular sticks, which are free. Also note- there are plenty of products for tying your tomatoes up. I like cheap, old fashioned jute twine.

Weave the jute between the three stakes or sticks and make a double knot.

Tie that stem up to keep it out of the dirt. You’ll have to keep tying as the plant grows.

I know I say this every year, but it is absolutely true: home grown tomatoes are amazing. The pictures above might make them look like a lot of work, but I promise they are not extremely needy. They are also worth the effort. What are your tomato growing tips? Every gardener has a few! Pretty please share in the comments section.