If you’re an avid tomato grower like me, you most likely have had to deal with tomato suckers at some point or another. They’re tricky little things, and I really struggled to figure out whether or not I should leave them be or cut them off.
Lucky for you, I’m going to give you some tips and tricks that will help to prevent you from going through this same confusing experience.
But, before we begin with the good stuff, let’s discuss what exactly these things are.
What is a Tomato Sucker?
To put it simply, a tomato sucker is essentially a small shoot that begins growing in the spot where a branch meets the stem of the tomato plant.
If tomato suckers are left untouched, they will then grow into much larger branches, which in turn become sprawling, bushy tomato plants. This is one of the main reasons why it is so common to remove tomato suckers, as many owners do not like this growth.
Eventually, they will even start growing their own fruit. However, there are pros and cons to removing them and keeping them, and it is important to think about the decision carefully in order to do what is best for your garden.
Fortunately, at the end of the day, you do not have to worry about tomato suckers causing so much damage that they will kill your tomato plant. But, now that you know what exactly a tomato sucker is, you can begin making the personal decision of whether or not to continue letting them grow in your garden.
What are the benefits of pruning tomato suckers?
When you talk to people about whether or not to prune your tomato suckers, the most common argument in support of this action is that doing so will allow you to have larger, higher quality fruit.
Although tomato suckers may start to grow their own fruit, they will be fighting the rest of the plant for nutrients by doing so. This means that as the number of fruit being produced by the plant increases, the size and quality of the fruit decreases. A lot of gardeners would rather have a small number of high quality fruit rather than a large number of low quality fruit, but to each his own.
Is it a good idea to prune your tomato suckers?
It is not mandatory that you prune your tomato suckers. A lot of gardeners don’t, and their plants wind up being just fine.
The main thing that you must take into consideration when you’re making this decision is the type of tomato plant that you are dealing with. I’m now going to go over some situations where it’s probably best that you trim your plant.
When you should prune tomato suckers
There are two types of tomato plants: indeterminate and determinate. Indeterminate plants tend to get super big and bloom all season, meaning that they definitely require periodic pruning. If the suckers are left to their own devices, they’ll go rogue and start to grow out of control. But, if the suckers are removed altogether, your overall tomato yield can wind up decreasing. My years of gardening experience have taught me that it’s all about finding the perfect balance.
A good rule of thumb is to leave 2-3 suckers on the plant at all times. If more start to grow, simply trim them.
Every gardener has their own way to prune plants, and it’s up to you to figure out what works best. Start by trimming only a little, and work up from there until you find the best technique for your garden.
If you do choose to prune your tomato suckers, here are some super awesome benefits you’ll get to experience:
- Earlier production. When you cut off tomato suckers, the plant then focuses less energy on growing and more energy on producing fruit. This means that your tomato crop will grow sooner, which I personally am a huge fan of.
- Larger, healthier fruit. With fewer branches on your tomato plant, there is less competition between the fruits for nutrients. This means that the tomatoes that do grow will be large, healthy, delicious, and essentially every gardener’s dream.
- Disease prevention. The more tomatoes there are on a plant, the more weighed down the plant then is. This oftentimes means that the tomatoes are closer to the ground, and thus have a bigger chance of soaking in water and growing mold, bacteria, and fungus. Not exactly appetizing, is it?
When you shouldn’t prune tomato suckers
Despite all of these cool benefits, though, you don’t always have to prune your tomato suckers, especially if you have determinate tomato plants.
Determinate tomatoes are generally compact, meaning that they don’t require pruning. As soon as they reach a certain size, they’re done growing. They also grow all of their fruit at once, and they do not grow after pruning, thus making pruning a waste of time.
These types of tomatoes are not nearly as common, but it’s still important to have this information on hand.
How and when to prune tomato suckers
If you do have indeterminate tomato plants, here’s how you should go about pruning them.
Start by pruning the tomato suckers when they are young and weak, rather than full grown and strong. Use your fingers instead of clippers, and grab the sucker towards the base. Bend it back and forth until it cleanly breaks off.
This tactic is great as your hands cause less damage than clippers, meaning that the plant will heal quicker. The sooner the plant heals, the less of a chance there is that it will become infected or sick.If you do wait to prune the suckers until they are old, you may have to use clippers. Be as gentle as possible and always make sure to disinfect them after.
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Some final things to keep in mind
Now that you know the basics of pruning tomato suckers, here are what I consider to be the most important tricks to keep in mind:·
- Don’t ever over-prune, especially if you live in a hot climate. The hot sun can wind up severely damaging your plant if you do this.
- If you do choose to prune your determinate tomatoes, go easy on them. They generally don’t need pruning, and you don’t want to negatively affect your tomato yield.·
- However, always prune your indeterminate tomatoes. They require pruning in order to produce healthy tomatoes, and they will become huge and wild if you leave them to their own devices.
- Always use your best judgment. At the end of the day, they are your tomato plants, and you should know them like the back of your hand.
And there you have it – everything you need to know about how to prune tomato suckers!