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Vijai Pandian column: Prune tomatoes for best quality and yield

2:42 PM, Jun. 26, 2013  |  Comments
Tomato suckers can quickly develop into large shoots and continue to produce even more suckers, turning your tomato plant in to a medium- to large-sized bush.
Tomato suckers can quickly develop into large shoots and continue to produce even more suckers, turning your tomato plant in to a medium- to large-sized bush.
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Many gardeners love growing tomatoes for their taste, high-yielding capacity and novelty purposes. Quite often the high-yielding indeterminate types of tomatoes are very vigorous in their growth, and they continue to produce short shoots, called suckers, on every axil (region between the leaf and main stem) of the main stem throughout the growing season.

These suckers can quickly develop into large shoots and continue to produce even more suckers, turning your tomato plant in to a medium- to large-sized bush. Unfortunately, these overgrown tomato plants lose their palatable quality and tend to produce smaller size fruit. And, it also creates a perfect micro humid condition for fungal diseases like septoria leaf spot and early blight that defoliates the plant.

One of the best management practices to ensure high quality tomato yield is to prune, train, and stake the indeterminate types. Some popular indeterminate types of tomatoes are early girl, big beef, better boy, cherry tomatoes, beef master, and big boy. If you're not sure on the type of tomato that you planted in your garden, check the info on the name tag, garden catalog, or seed packet or contact your local garden centers from whom you bought the transplant.

Pruning tomatoes is a fairly easy process, and you don't need a clipper. A simple nail pinch is enough to remove the suckers from the vine.

Suckers are short shoots that grow on every axil on the main stem. As a general thumb rule, for every 12-inch plant spacing in the row, allow only one shoot to grow per plant. For example, if the tomato plants are spaced 3 feet apart, allow only three shoots to train and develop. The first shoot is the main stem, the second shoot will be the first sucker that forms below the first flower cluster, and the third shoot will be the second sucker that grows below the first flower cluster.

The rest of the suckers should be pruned off from the vine on a continuous basis until early fall. On average, three shoots per plant is enough to train and produce high quality fruits.

Early morning is the best time to remove the suckers as they tend to be a little crispy for easy snapping. Suckers can be pinched off using your thumb nail and index finger or can be snapped by bending the sucker to the side.

Tomato suckers should be removed once every seven to 10 days when they get about 3 inches long.

For more information, check our YouTube video link on pruning tomatoes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuu0AhMYScs

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