How do you keep a balance between...

Daniel_NY(7a)August 19, 2014

How do you keep a balance between main stem(s), suckers, branches, flower clusters, fruits...? I mean, ROUGHLY:

1. How many main stems have you tomatoes ?
2. How many suckers on main stem(s) ?
3. How many branches on main stems / suckers ?
4. How many flower clusters on main stems / suckers ?
5. How many fruits on main stems / suckers ?
6. How tall are your tomatoes ?
[ Please specify the tomato variety. ]

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I just let them grow however they like...I have them in a Florida weave...I pull off the bottom leaves if they start to turn yellow. Other than that, I don't prune to certain number of branches, etc.

I grow the varieties that taste good and will produce for me - height of tomato plant is not a consideration, but then I have the room for them to grow. I do have a Sweet 100 that is over six feet right now, most are 3-5 feet.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 3:02PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

First, I have grown about 95% of my tomatoes by sprawling, the other five percent by caging and in containers.

And my answers below pertain to any of the about 4,000 varieties I've grown, not just one variety that you asked for.

1. How many main stems have you tomatoes ?

I have no idea, I don't count them.

2. How many suckers on main stem(s) ?
ditto from above

3. How many branches on main stems / suckers ?
ditto from above

4. How many flower clusters on main stems / suckers ?
ditto from above

5. How many fruits on main stems / suckers ?
I have no idea

6. How tall are your tomatoes ?
No idea since I sprawl them, and the ones in the cages I just let flop over

[ Please specify the tomato variety.

I'm not trying to be difficult but NO WAY would I ever have had time to record that kind of data,

What I would record would include, for each variety.

First blossoms
First fruit set
Color and shape and size of fruits
Leaf form
Plant habit, ind, det, etc
Rough estimate of yield
Susceptible to BER and any specific foliage diseases.

That;s the kind of data I wanted and I should also say that most of the time I was growing new varieties and needed to confirm that what I had was correct for the variety.

But since I SSE listed many varieties and also have made many seed offers I also had to regrow many of them for new seed production.

As Donna said above, and I agree, I just let the plants grow anyway they liked and sprawling is the most natural if some have the room to do so, Which I did.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 3:50PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I grow one plant roughly per 3 sqr-ft. So obviously , I cannot afford to grow wild as they want. I keep the branches to 4 max(that includes main). Beyond those branches, I snip any suckers ( branches that grow from lower leaf nodes ) .

I never do anything about buds, flowers and fruits.

I do prune lower leaves to about 18" of the ground and any leave branches that turn pale/yellow. NO LEAF should touch the soil(period).

What I said above, applies to the indet. I have few detd that grow pretty much on their own. I don't mind it because they are short and compact. I am switching more and more to dets, as they are easier to manage

I have not topped any , to control the height . When it gets windy, they will have to drape. Sometimes some branches break. That is no problem. I stop supporting them beyond 6 ft.

If I was growing in a big open field, I would devise other methods, like planting in wide rows, with overhead support line, combined with Florida weave. But in a 3ft x 6ft bed your options are limited.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 4:40PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Other than removing any branches that drag on or come into contact with the ground I don't agree with pruning anything for many reasons. So they all have as many main and secondary and lateral branches as they can grow. No such thing as "suckers" as they are lateral branches and on some varieties they are the primary source of fruit.

Height varies from variety to variety. My cages are all 6' tall and the plants drape back down the outside of the cages so most are likely 8-10 feet tall if they were upright.

Maximum fruit production is my goal, not a manicured Better Homes & Gardens showcase.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 7:30PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Daniel, I have a very small area and a big imagination, and a plant gets about 4.5 square feet. I just pinch off disease wherever it is unless it is mild and I need the leaf to cover fruit in the hot sun. If I can't accommodate the plant's growing out of its place, then I prune that part off. Now I'm going after the suckers to root like tootsie pops to root them for a short fall season so anything in the size range is gone. My rooting percentage in part because Florida conditions and mine specifically make my ankles damp off. But what limits the size of my plants is usually pest damage which I remove so it is less likely to become infected. I've not yet had a plant that produces clusters too heavy to be safe, so I haven't even looked. In the heat hardly anything sets anyway.

The spring season unless carefully planned and fall are both too short not to take my tomatoes in advance before something happens. I'm currently growing mature Church, Big Zac, Leadbeaters Lunker, and my personal one, "Charlie Buckets". I pretty much get about 25 feet of the random healthiest vines using twine and a wooden frame before I have to put my foot down due to space problems. For fall some of those are being decommissioned and I'm going to try to see if I can catch up some seeds of Cherokee Purple and Supersweet 100, and I'm going to try a new way to grow and support them I can cover from rain, I hope.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 8:37PM
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Similar to Carolyn except I do some kind of caging, florida weave etc. I need to know how early, reliable, productive, apprx estimate. Taste is relative but counts, still I use tomatoes for variety of ways so they go under category. I do not prune, it creates injury to the plant and robs the plant from ability to create more sugars. Why bother?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:07PM
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wow... WOW !!!

So many people DON'T prune... !!!

I'm also a HUGE fan of NOT pruning - well with the obvious exceptions: leaves touching the ground and branches with leaves that have yellow / brown spots.

Actually, from now on, I am NOT going to remove an ENTIRE branch (not main or secondary stems, a branch with leaves) because of 1-2 leaves that have a few yellow / brown spots. I'm going to remove ONLY those 1-2 leaves. Of course in few days other leaves on that branch will have those spots, but I prefer to keep as much green leaves as I can. In the past, I cut way too easy the whole branch, only because of 1-2 diseased leaves with a few spots. Some of my tomatoes have no leaves 3-4 ft. high.

Now, mid-August, I started to prune the new suckers - Dave, allow me to call them "suckers." Most of my tomatoes have enough foliage, but the flowers on those suckers will not produce even 1 oz. tomatoes before the frost arrives - not cherries, but mid, late-season tomatoes. Do you people, leave the new suckers ? What about the new flowers ?

Actually in some cases I DO leave the new suckers: either when a stem - main or secondary - has too few branches / leaves or to avoid sunscald. But I ALWAYS remove the new flowers. For the moment I leave the new flowers on cherry tomatoes, but soon I will remove those too.

Anybody MORE worried about getting diseases with so crowded tomatoes ?

Are the tomatoes fruits smaller if no-pruning ?

Are the roots strong enough to feed “the jungle?”

This post was edited by Daniel_NY on Tue, Aug 19, 14 at 23:33

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:53PM
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I think this is because the soil in the new beds is so good, these plants are healthy with just a touch of EB on the Brandywines that I try to keep up with. I was trying to prune for air flow at the beginning, but just couldn't keep up with 200 plants (not all here, there are 62 plants in 2 rows planted about 2ft apart here). At first I was worried there was too much N in the soil since they were so lush, but I do have a lot of fruit set.

Not many ripening yet, though the first to go out were late-season like Brandywine and Mark Twain - the earlies are at the south end of the row and went out later in June, they've set fruit but too early for ripe ones. Plus it's a cool summer, even the ones out in the field planted earlier aren't ripening (except for Black Krim and Bloody Butcher as I said in another post). Even the ones I have in pots on the west porch aren't ripening yet.

Anyway, to answer your questions, I think if the soil is good (2ft of composted manure here, new beds) that the roots CAN support the jungle, and though I'd like more air flow and will be doing more pruning (if only to SEE any ripe ones in there), esp. as the weather gets cooler, again a good start in good soil goes a long way in disease resistance. These aren't particularly resistant varieties I've got.

Now, I do think that I will plant farther apart and try to prune more (fewer plants) next year. Rotation would help, but since these look healthy and my field tomatoes don't, I'm going to plant tomatoes in this bed again next year. In the field (fenced garden) to the south of here, I'm going to go with non-solanaceous crops and try to amend the (sandy loam) soil even more, that spot has grown tomatoes (in different rows each year but with only 4 rows I have had to rotate back every other year) for a few years now.

And, just speaking from this year and the "virgin" beds, I haven't noticed a problem with small fruit from not pruning - the plants/soil seem to be able to support the load. As the beds get older, unless you're amending them well each year, I would expect reduced yield and increased disease though. Again, rotation (and cover cropping, maybe even letting it go fallow one year) helps with that if you have the room.

I'll be lucky if I have time to prune foliage - I think fruit will ripen when it's ready, I'm not planning on going on a "search and destroy" mission for new flower trusses this year. I may "root prune" the field tomatoes soon though to try to get them to ripen the fruit before frost - no new flowers on those (except cherries), they're half dead of septoria anyway.

Edited to add picture. Yes, I'm ending up building the tunnel around the tomatoes now - I had to order connectors for the ridgepole and plastic after I'd transplanted. There will be some casualties, and I might have to top some plants because by the time we get the plastic on they'll be touching it.

This post was edited by ajsmama on Wed, Aug 20, 14 at 12:00

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:44AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

But I ALWAYS remove the new flowers.

My question would be why? Why is some sort of "balance" a goal? Why spend time, even in the fall, counting much less removing new "suckers" and late blooms? What do you feel it accomplishes? What does it hurt if there are blooms or small green tomatoes on the plant when it gets killed by frost or pulled? If you don't want the late, unripe fruit just pitch them with the plant.

Are later fruits smaller? Sometimes, sometimes not. Are some fruit bigger if all this trimming is done? Sometimes but studies show it is only marginally increased and other variables play a role. Does it speed up ripening of the existing fruit? No, that is genetic. Does it stress the plant? Yes. Does it trigger new growth even more? Yes.

You can call them suckers if you wish although the term has very wrong and misleading connotations that never seem to go away as long as the term keeps going around. As long as you know they are not actually "sucking energy from the plant while never producing fruit" like the old wives tales claim.

So why do you do all this counting and manicuring?


    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:45AM
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I don't think these could have gotten any larger if I did prune the plants...

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 12:02PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

"But I ALWAYS remove the new flowers."

Daniel, batter-fried green tomatoes are delicious. Really, it is a bit of an acquired taste, but I promise you won't be sorry. When tomatoes first came out for popular gardening, most people actually didn't like them and they were considered an acquired taste. In the olden days, people complained how badly the plant stunk. When given lemons, you can always make lemonade ;-)

Seeds can be harvested from green tomatoes about 2/3's mature, and used for 'volunteers' or germinated as you showed me en masse and selecting the very best ones.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 12:14PM
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ajsmama, I don't think those could have gotten any larger if you did prune the plants, but - if I may a suggestion - I would improve a little the air circulation... by removing a few leaves here and there.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:01PM
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Been trying to - it's enough to prune the ones with septoria, keep stringing these up, weed and pick the other 2 gardens, etc. I prune a few more leaves from the tunnel tomatoes every time I go in there, esp. when stringing them up (FL weave). Like I said, I'll probably do a big pruning once I start seeing some ripe ones. I do pick off the yellow or spotted ones when I see them but there are surprisingly few.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:37PM
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Having a 1 in. Brandywine tomato fruit at the end of the season, for me, is a kind of offence to the variety.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:39PM
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Pickle them!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:27PM
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