Return to the Growing Tomatoes Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato production

Posted by k3c4forlife 6 - Northern NJ (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 21, 12 at 9:33

Hey all,

I have been pulling suckers on my tomatoes for the past few weeks to get them taller. They are pretty tall, probably close to 4'6" tall and I would like them to start to focus on tomato production.

What is the best way for me to do this?

Should I keep pulling suckers or should I stop and let the suckers grow?

And does it vary by plant type? I have multiple varieties of tomatoes - Beefsteaks, Big Boys, Cherrys, Grapes, 100s.


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

Not an expert, but why do you want them taller? The suckers actually are branches that will produce tomatoes. If they are indeterminate. The only suckers I prune are either touching the ground or in such a clump down low they block air flow. Mine are generally 7-8 ft tall. The tops generally flop over to some degree. This is the first year I have tried the Florida weave.
I don't think that pruning will make them taller, but I am not clear on what you are after.


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

I had done a little research and everywhere I have seen discussions on pulling suckers, it states that for sq ft gardening that it is better to pull suckers because it will get you the height rather than the bushiness. I don't want the plant to focus on growing taller any more.

My goal if the biggest yield. My question is now that I have gotten the height, is it better to leave suckers from here on out or should I continue to pull them?

If I start to leave the suckers, will my yield be smaller because the plant is focusing on growing the suckers?


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

  • Posted by robeb Kansas City area (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 21, 12 at 11:26

If your goal is the "biggest yield", stop pulling suckers.

As harveyhorses mentioned the suckers will produce tomatoes.


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

I had read where the suckers prevented the tomatoes from growing larger. Also being new to gardening I never knew that the suckers when fruit producing branches. I decided to stop removing them. I will see what happens now.


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

forgot to ask this. Correct me if I am wrong, but one of the factors that determine the size of the tomatoes is the amount of water you give to it? I think I read this somewhere.


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

If you want height and less tomato production, then stake your tomatoes and train to just 1 or two leader stems.

If you want the height that a variety has the gene potential to grow to, as well as good tomato production, then don't remove the suckers as was said above.

I'm not very "height" oriented since I grew almost ALL of my varieties by sprawling and some in cages.

Carolyn


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

So I should stop removing suckers now if I want a bigger yield?

I am just concerned that the production of suckers now will slow production of tomatoes or will I just get my tomatoes later, after the suckers have grown?


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

Carolyn, I am growing chocolate cherries and Park's whoppers, and they are about 3 feet high I think. I am don't really care about height. I do however want an abundance of tomatoes. Would leaving the suckers on keep the plants smaller, as well as, producing more tomatoes?


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

I've been pulling most of my suckers too, but have decided now to leave a few and see what they do. If more suckers means less height but potentially more fruit, then that would make me happy. My plants are taking off in the heat and I don't want to have to climb a ladder to get to them come august.
However, mine are in containers and leaving all the suckers would be a drain of energy on the plant, so I will pinch selectively.
Peg


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

  • Posted by robeb Kansas City area (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 21, 12 at 12:35

Why would someone want more height and less production?


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

Robeb, my entire garden is 20' x 7'. Pulling suckers makes your plants grow taller, giving you a smaller footprint per plant. I was under the impression that it actually would increase production if you get 2/3 the production per plant but have space for 2 plants instead of just one.

I'm thinking that I am going to stop pulling suckers and let the plants start to get bushier now that I have my height. Maybe I can get the best of both worlds, more height/smaller footprint and still a large yield per plant. Like I said above, I'm just concerned that the plant might concentrate on growing the suckers rather than growing the tomatoes.


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

can someone explain something to me? I see where a lot of people speak on tomatoes not doing so well in containers. Why does this happen? I was assuming as long as there was enough soil for the plant to bury it's roots it should be fine. I thought this would be a problem only with small containers that could cause bound roots. I have mine in 5 gal. containers. Both my chocolate cherries and PW. The only thing I have a problem with is dang leaf miners and the PW tomatoes are not as big as I was hoping right now. I did some research on the small tomatoes of my PW, found that not enough water will keep them from growing big. So I am testing this by doubling the water per day. I do have a question. How much should I fertilize a container plant? Should I fertilize it once per 7 days? I read somewhere that you should only fertilize at the beginning of fruit production and at the end. Then i read another that stated fertilizing every week or so. Which one should I follow? any suggestions from the veteran gardeners?


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

Fertilizing never hurts. You do not want your tomatoes to be too dependent on water.

Anyone have any input on starting to leave the suckers on now?


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

There are many factors that contribute to whether you should pull "suckers" or not. Although i'm not very familiar with your climate, i do presume you have a solid length of growing season (being in zone 6) meaning that you don't necessarily have to pull them. In ideal weather conditions tomatoes will produce a lot more fruit if you don't remove any suckers. On the other hand, if you have bad storms that could damage plants and your season comes to abrupt end for similar reasons, you could end up with less yield since it takes more time for fruit to develop and ripen earlier during the season. Presuming you grow in garden, you could remove lower suckers to ensure good airflow, and leave the ones higher up. Or you could train to 2 or 3 stems, depending on whether you are using stakes, cages, or some other form of support.


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

  • Posted by bets z6A ID (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 21, 12 at 13:26

new_b_gardener,

Growing in the ground and growing in containers are two very different situations.

"I read somewhere that you should only fertilize at the beginning of fruit production and at the end."

That would apply to tomatoes grown in the ground, and many gardeners will also fertilize when they transplant.

Bear in mind that there is not an absolute "right" or "wrong" way to grow tomatoes, you have to do what is right for your growing conditions. What works in one season may be an utter failure in another season. There are just way too many variables to say that a specific method will work every time. However, most of us find that adjusting our basic methods to suit variations in growing conditions will give us a relatively good yeild year after year.

Plants that are grown in any kind of container will need feeding more often than plants that are grown in the ground because each time they are watered, the water run off carries away vital nutrients. Many container growers will use a dilute solution of a liquid fertilizer every week or two depending on the condition of the plant.

I hope that helps.

Betsy


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

Betsy,

Thanks for all the wonderful information you have provided. Being this is my first year trying this I am a little with some of the information I am reading. I am slowly getting the hang of it. The only problem I am really have at the point in time is the leaf miners. I cannot seem to get rid of these buggers. I pull the leaves off that are infested and boom they are back. Still not sure how to get rid of them yet. I have been told to squash the leaves which would squash the bugs, but not sure yet if this would work also.


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

We've go many different topics injected into this tread now that it is difficult to get it back on track and deal with the original question.

newbgardener - it is much better for all concerned if you start your own threads rather than posting more questions on an existing thread. Especially when the questions - such as containers - aren't related to the current threads topic. It isn't fair to the original poster to pull his discussion off course, ok?

So sticking with the original questions -

I would like them to start to focus on tomato production.
What is the best way for me to do this? Should I keep pulling suckers or should I stop and let the suckers grow?

Yes, stop pulling the suckers and let them grow. Your plants are now plenty tall enough to accomplish what the goals of Sq. Foot gardening are. In fact you could have stopped at 3 feet in height which is where most quit removing them. Your only limitation now is the method of support you are using as they will get top-heavy. You were somewhat mis-informed from the beginning on how and why to do this with Sq. Foot gardening but that is a whole other discussion that involves many other factors.

And does it vary by plant type? I have multiple varieties of tomatoes - Beefsteaks, Big Boys, Cherrys, Grapes, 100s.

Yes it does. Determinate varieties are never pruned, you never remove the suckers (which are not 'suckers' anyway but fruit producing lateral branches).

Indeterminate varieties (need to know the name of the cherry and grapes to know if they are determinate or indeterminate) such as all the others you list may be pruned but doing so will cost you fruit production. Experienced Sq. Foot gardeners are will to sacrifice some of that production by doing a limited amount of pruning . It is not done so they "can be taller". It is done so that they can 1) use stakes instead of cages, 2) plant more varieties and more plants in a limited amount of space, and 3) reduce shading of the lower growing vegetables. And yes I do some Sq. Foot gardening in addition to my normal gardens and have for many years.

I was under the impression that it actually would increase production if you get 2/3 the production per plant but have space for 2 plants instead of just one.

No. Misunderstanding. First because you don't get the equivalent of 2/3 production, more like half. But it does allow you to get 1/2 the production of 2 different varieties in the same amount of space. See the difference? If you plant 2 plants of the same variety then you gain nothing.

So it is your choice - prune and lose production or don't prune and plant less plants but get full production - but you can't have both.

k3c4forlife - does that answer your questions?

Dave


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

Dave, My apologies to you and k3c4forlife. It was not my intention to get off the topic and was not purposefully trying to take away from his question. I duly note this for future reference.


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

  • Posted by qaguy Sunset 21/LosAngeles (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 21, 12 at 17:50

Using 5 gal containers is the absolute minimum size for
tomatoes. Larger containers will give you better results.

I've added a link to a study done long ago, but still
relevant to tomatoes.

In it (in case you don't want to plow through the entire
thing), it states:

the root system of a tomato plant of average size filled the soil on all sides of the plant to 2 to 2.5 feet and to a depth of over 3 feet

Much bigger than a 5 gal container.

Another section of the same article states:

In general the yield decreases in proportion to the severity of pruning. For example, at Urbana, Ill., plants pruned to a single stem gave a yield of 6.5 pounds of marketable fruit; those pruned to 2 stems yielded 10.5 pounds; those with three stems 12.1 pounds; but plants not pruned gave a yield of 19.6 pounds.

I prune to 4 main leaders and get rid of the rest. I want
to go up, not out. Limited space is my reason. I get more
than enough tomatoes from my 9 plants to satisfy all my
needs. And then some. I'm able to have different varieties
by this method.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato root development article


 o
RE: Pulling suckers and then stopping and effect on Tomato produc

Digdirt, that is all I could have asked for in a response. I will not be pruning anything from here on out, hopefully I can get a few suckers to start growing now and making fruit.

It's ok that the post got a little off track, we are all here for the same reason. To learn and spread what we have learned.

Thanks


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Growing Tomatoes Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here