When to sucker intermediates

Bob_Mc(7b)March 31, 2013

After viewing dozens upon dozens of YouTube videos on the subject of suckering tomatos, the question I find still unanswered is when to begin. I presently have several Black Cherry tomatos still potted and awaiting warmer weather to plant. They have already gotten their first buds and below these are two or three branches with suckers. Should I remove these now, before planting, or wait until they grow larger? Should I remove the buds now and give them more time to grow before budding?

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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I don't know how you grow your tomatoes as to cages, staking, sprawling, whatever, but I have never taken off suckers from ANY tomato plant.

They are productive, forming blossoms and fruit, and do not :suck: the energy out of plants as so many have thought.

The additional foliage also allows for greater photosynthesis which means more energy compounds for plant growth, blossom formation, fruit set and fruit maturation.

And the additional foliage also is a good backup in case foliage diseases appear.

If I were living in a hot humid area and put my plants out very close together I might think of taking off some suckers to allow for greater air flow to help prevent foliage diseases, but that's about the only reason I'd do it.

Carolyn

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 8:57AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

YouTube is far from the best source of info so please understand that pruning, aka "suckering", is NOT required for any reason. It is strictly optional and not a common practice for all the reasons already mentioned by Carolyn. It stresses the plant and costs you production.

The only pruning I ever do is removing any lower branches that come in contact with the soil after the plant is transplanted to the garden.

If you choose to do it for some reason then the smaller the so-called "sucker" is when removed, the less stress is caused to the plant.

The search here will pull up many discussions on 'pruning' and the pros and cons of doing it.

Dave

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 9:48AM
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Bob_Mc(7b)

Thanks Carolyn & Dave. My research brought up a blog named Tall Clover Farm, which was an interesting read and agreed with both of your philosophies. I'll continue to research the subject.

One thing my research has shown is that my present practice of using tomato cages needs overhauled. I'm probably over-pruning my plants to make up for the inadequacy of the cages, where I should be looking at a better means of support.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 12:25PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Depending on the configuration of your beds, Texas Weave is a nice support system for toms. I use it each year on several plants. I'm also experimenting again this year with the "Let 'em Sprawl" concept for some of the plants. Using pieces of driftwood to keep the tomatoes' branches off the soil/mulch. Last time I did this [last year] I used a metal trellis laid horizontally across the bed. There were some issues with that so trying something else for the 'sprawling' trials.

Where are you Bob_Mc? Or at least what zone?

Good luck and keep us posted how it's going.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 12:48PM
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bigpinks

It might not be 50/50 but loads of people do sucker tomato plants to 1 or 2 stems......to get larger tomatoes(tho fewer) and to conserve space and be able to have an extra plant or three. My neighbor has farmed for 60 yrs, is all about money, puts out 400-500 plants to sell the fruit. He suckers every single one. He says people wont buy the small ones like the baseball size tomatoes and bigger.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 8:58AM
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captbobs763

I sucker all my plants---and put the suckers in water and have dozens of more plants without waiting for seeds to sprout

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 11:23AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Just realized I've been reading the "intermediates" in the title as "indeterminates."

Is that what they are? Or are they semi's (semi's are kind of intermediate)? Or are intermediates something else entirely?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 11:39AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Missing, I read it as indeterminates as well, b/c when it comes to tomatoes I don't know what intermediates are either.

Carolyn

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 11:52AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Same here - read indeterminates.

Those that want to remove "suckers" (I'm all for doing a few to get more plants too) that's fine. Just as long as they understand that it isn't required, it does cost you production, and they quit passing on the old wives hogwash that "you HAVE to do it because they steal energy from the plant".

bigpinks - farming for 60 years and being set in his ways doesn't make his practice or his beliefs gospel. :)

Dave

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 12:06PM
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bigpinks

nobody knows it all....that includes you. I didnt say it was his way or the highway. There are reasons to prune tomato plants tho. It depends on what you want to harvest.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 1:09PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Of course no one knows it all. No one claims to.

You offered him as proof, as evidence as to why pruning and "removing every single sucker" is supposedly a good thing. It doesn't make it true. Pruning is always the individual's choice. My objection is to those who insist on claiming that it is required to do when it clearly is not.

Dave.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 3:41PM
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number2(USDA 9b/Sunset 14)

I have tried removing suckers one season and not for another. My conclusion is: remove it if the sucker is (1) small and is in the (2) lower/inner part of the plant.

If it's still small, removing it doesn't waste any growth the plant has already put in the sucker. In some cases, the sucker acts as a 'backup' branch in case accident happens to ur main branch - I've had this before and thanks god i didn't remove the sucker.

If it's in the inner part of the plant, it doesn't receive much sunlight. Removing it early will channel the energy to grow the top/upper where it will receive better sunlight.

Otherwise, I will keep the suckers cuz I observe that the suckers generally produce more flowers than the "main" branch.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 4:33PM
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qaguy

I pull off all suckers except for the 4 main leaders of my plants.
I do this because I have a small growing space and need to keep things
more or less under control.

If I had a lot more room, I probably wouldn't prune either, but I don't
and that's the way it goes. Suckering heavily works in my particular
situation.

I still get plenty of tomatoes from my 9 plants every year.
Enough for our needs and more so. We have to give some away every
year, but that's also part of the fun (for me at least) of growing tomatoes.

It's like everything else, find what works for you and don't worry about how anyone else does it. Lots of times, there's many paths to the same result.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 12:47AM
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ryseryse_2004

My first couple of years of growing tomatoes (in the 60's) I suckered because that is what everyone said to do. It sure does cut down on production and I often only got a few tomatoes from each plant. (Maybe they were bigger - don't really remember) I stopped on my own just to see what would happen. Will never forget that tomato growing season because I had more tomatoes than I could can!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 10:47AM
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athey

I have been taking off the first few suckers near the ground because I had heard it would minimize the spread of wilt from ground splashback. Not true? Also when the black leave wilt starts, should you cut those leaves off as soon as you see it?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 10:46PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

athey, mulching under and around your tomato plants will cut down on disease organisms splashing up onto your plants (as well as keeping soil moisture more consistent). Removing leaves which come into contact with the soil will also reduce disease; depending on the exact configuration, you may wish to remove low suckers for the same reason.

Maybe some of the experts have an idea of what "wilt" and "black leave wilt" might be.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 2:58AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I have been taking off the first few suckers near the ground because I had heard it would minimize the spread of wilt from ground splashback. Not true? Also when the black leave wilt starts, should you cut those leaves off as soon as you see it?

%%%%%

When plants have foliage infections, the four most common being the two fungal ones of Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot and the bacterial ones of Bacterial Speck and Bacterial Spot, fungal spores and bacteria can fall to the ground.

Then the next year with heavy rains or aggressive irrigation those bad guys can be splashed back onto the plants causing what's called Splashback Reinfection.

None of those foliage infections cause what some would call a wilt disease.

Diseases that can cause wilting of leaves are usually ones that are called soilborne diseases such as Fusarium, Verticillium, etc.

And mulching to prevent splashback infection cannot and does not prevent new foliage infections which are spread by air and embedded in raindrops.

As to your black leaves, I was thinking about possible Late Blight, P. infestans, but when I went to your page it doesn't tell me where you live and garden and Late Blight is prevalent in some areas and not others and doesn't always appear every year.

Carolyn

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 8:10AM
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rt_peasant(5 CO)

What if early tomatoes are your goal? Do you remove suckers up to the first flower cluster, so that more energy is available for the developing fruit? Or does it not make a difference?

Mark

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:08PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

Pruning all up to the first blossom is a good way to prevent (reduce) splash from the soil. But as mentioned it up to the individual IF they choose to prune or not.

What you can do is prune one plant and not another then decide for yourself if it is worth the work. Be sure to write in your garden book which plant is which as you may not be able to tell as the season goes on.

I have replanted stems broken or pruned and while it will give you another plant that plant will never catch up to an established plant.

The wonderful thing about gardening is that it is one HUGE experiment and YOU can do things any way you choose in your garden. So have at it - be sure to let us know how you make out.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:44PM
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athey

I am in Memphis, TN, very hot, and it is just the usual later in the season when the leaves get the yellowing and black ends to them usually starting toward the bottom of plant (probably misused "wilt"). I assume I should remove these bad leaves?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:57PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

If it's just the yellowing leaves with black ENDS that appear at the bottom of the plants and also later in the season, I'd suggest that those were just old leaves since they are the oldest ones so die first.

Black ends alone do not suggest a foliage disease, nor do they suggest wilting, as you also noted.

Carolyn

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 10:18PM
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