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Tomato pruning dilemma

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Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/5/2010, 2:47 pm

The first tomatoes I put in were in walls o water and are now huge. I failed to properly prune the suckers at the base of the plants and some have 4 or 5 over a foot long, some already fruiting. I'm fast running out of space on the trellis. I've cut one large sucker off per plant, but am concerned about cutting too many large suckers from a plant for fear of shocking the plant. I know that is possible with trees--don't know about tomatoes. So, what advice can you give me?

I've thought of not pruning the fruiting ones, but perhaps top them above the cluster to keep them from growing any more. OR perhaps pruning just one sucker per plant, wait a week to 10 days and prune the other so as not to shock the plant. ARGGHHHH!!!! Why do I do this to myself.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  auntij on 5/15/2010, 9:15 pm

I was browsing through and saw your post and have been worried about how to prune tomatoes too. I have never had indet. tomatoes always bush. So I found a mini how to maybe it will help you too.

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/pruning-tomatoes.aspx

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Jola on 5/15/2010, 10:05 pm

I have been growing tomatoes for 10 years now, and I consider them one of the hardest to kill, and one of the most prolific plants. I cut them as I wish, and never had problem with productivity or anything else. I cut long suckers (over 2 feet) and short suckers, and I cut a lot of leaves. I planted them in regular way, and sideways, and buried almost up to the top. I have Yellow Pear (a type of tomato) coming back in the same place for 5 years now from the fruits which are dropping down every year (I don't pick up from these plants too much) - and I'm in zone 5b, so we have snowy and really cold, freezing winters. Sometimes when I throw removed in the fall tomato plants in the area under my trees instead on compost pile I will for sure get new plants in the late spring/beginning of summer and have to remove them as weeds. This year I've found tomato seeds 10 years old - from my first plantings, and out of curiosity put them into the soil. Guess what? They sprouted!
My point is that I don't understand that fear of growing tomatoes. Try, and you will see that they are one of the easiest plants to grow!

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  trustingHim on 5/15/2010, 10:22 pm

I have done the same thing with my tomatoes. I was under the impression that the suckers didn't produce fruit- that they wasted energy. When I saw the flowers forming on the suckers, I didn't know what to think. I've never gardened before, so it is killing me to think of cutting off what will potentially grow fruit. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has made this mistake.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  auntij on 5/15/2010, 10:35 pm

Jola you may be my new best friend! I started some yellow pears from seed this year, but I'm thinking I may have put them outside to soon. They are really scrawny. Do you have any advice on how I could give them a boost? It's like they just stopped growing. Do I give up on the 5 inch babies and learn from it or give them more time.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Jola on 5/15/2010, 10:41 pm

I cut suckers purely for the luck of space, not that I'm thinking of diverting energy from the crop on the main stem. If I have enough space I let a few suckers develop and produce fruits. As I said: no rules for me as it comes for tomatoes.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  trustingHim on 5/15/2010, 10:48 pm

I wish I had known that before they started growing so vigorously this week.
One of the plants that have flowering suckers this week is a yellow pear. All the different varieties I'm trying are pretty much growing at the same rate for me.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  camprn on 5/15/2010, 11:33 pm

Tomato pruning has some basic rules and to do it well requires some skill, but not a lot. That being said, everyone who has skill was a noob once upon a time, but has gained the knowledge and skill through experience & practice. It's ok, to have doubts, but don't let that stop you. Jola is correct, tomatoes are tenacious and forgiving. Do the research, sharpen the clippers and go for it!

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Jola on 5/15/2010, 11:39 pm

Auntij, it's nice to be your friend!
It is different when tomatoes sprout by themselves, and when I plant them outside. I never plant them too early, rather later then earlier (in relation to last frost date). If you think that you planted them too early maybe try to protect them from cold, at least for the night. I think that some sort of surround protecting from wind would be enough. If they are still alive, I would bet they will be fine with warmer weather. I would wait and see - you can always buy new ones. Yellow pear is really resilient so be optimistic!
Let us know after some time how they are doing. It is interesting for me.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  auntij on 5/15/2010, 11:58 pm

I have plenty of other varieties, I was just really looking forward to trying the yellow pear variety. I am equally excited to grow my own sun gold this year. I really love the sweetness and lower acidity.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Jola on 5/16/2010, 12:06 am

Are your yellow pear very different from other tomatoes? If they are just looking weaker I would say that it is normal for very young yellow pear. I noticed that they always look thinner then other varieties when they are a few inches tall.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  auntij on 5/16/2010, 12:11 am

The yellow pear and sun gold were the only ones I started from seed. The others I decided to buy later when Lowes had a buy one get one free sale. I'll try to take a picture tomorrow so maybe you can see how sad they look.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/16/2010, 6:01 am

@trustingHim wrote:I have done the same thing with my tomatoes. I was under the impression that the suckers didn't produce fruit- that they wasted energy. When I saw the flowers forming on the suckers, I didn't know what to think.

The suckers are the stems that grow into branches to produce fruit. In traditional gardening, one usually uses cages and lets the suckers grow. In SFG trellis style, one pinches the suckers off to prevent rampant growth since they are planted only 12" apart. If you were not to pinch off the suckers, each plant would get 3 - 4' wide. Which if you planted them that far apart would be fine, but if you planted them at Mel's recommended spacing, then it is vital to pinch off the suckers.

I am the OP here, and my concern had nothing to do with how to prune the plant (take off suckers) but if taking off 3 or 4 large fruiting suckers from the same plant at the same time would injure the main plant or set it back. I ended up compromising by taking off two suckers on each plant, each about 2' long and producing suckers of it's own. About 10 days later (Friday) I took off another one. That has gotten them back under control. I hated to "waste" those little tomatoes, but knew if I didn't none of the plants would thrive as they would be too crowded on the trellis. The three plants I did this to have stopped setting new fruit. I don't know whether it's just coincidence or if I set the plant back. But with 12 tomatoes plants growing, I'll still have plenty of fruit.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  trustingHim on 5/16/2010, 9:06 am

Once I read your post, it got me wondering whether I should prune the flowering suckers I had as well. I'm glad that there are people out there who have already pruned them and the plants lived to tell! Thanks for posting this thread. I needed the info. Sorry if I led it in another direction.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  alouwomack on 5/16/2010, 9:48 am

auntij,

I was about to post this article (from fine gardening) as a recommendation until I saw you already had. I believe its the easiest explanation I've ever read; the pictures are nice for a quick anatomy lesson too! I printed the article to keep in my gardening binder.

-Amber

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  auntij on 5/16/2010, 11:44 am

Jola I went out and took a couple pics of my sad little tomatoes. This is the biggest on my yellow pear plants, I am not sure if it dropped to cold for it or if it is something else. We did cover on several nights when it dropped down but I know we had a couple nights that snuck up on us.

the plant itself you can see is about the same height as its marker



a close up of the leaves on that plant


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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  camprn on 5/16/2010, 12:39 pm

Hi Aunti, it looks better than I thought it would. The tomatoes I started from seed are very much like that also. If it was me I would water every other day or maybe even 3rd day at this time of year, as it's not too hot yet in our neck of the woods. Give the wee one a bit more time I bet it will rally. Very Happy

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/16/2010, 3:39 pm

We have had a cooler Spring than usual and only the tomatoes I had in the walls o water grew well until these past two weeks when the weather warmed up (almost too much!) and they have doubled in height. The two yellow pear are "sparser" than the others, but as someone else here said, that's the nature of that variety. But watch out when it starts to grow -- one plant will feed the entire neighbourhood, and then some.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/16/2010, 3:41 pm

@trustingHim wrote:Once I read your post, it got me wondering whether I should prune the flowering suckers I had as well. I'm glad that there are people out there who have already pruned them and the plants lived to tell! Thanks for posting this thread. I needed the info. Sorry if I led it in another direction.

The plants I pruned severely -- some of the suckers had tomatoes on them plus several suckers that had blooms -- are showing no sign of distress except they haven't set any more tomatoes above the ones already set. But our weather has been crazy -- some days at 98, followed by nights down in the 50's, so it may well be the weather.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Jola on 5/16/2010, 8:49 pm

auntij, what did you start them in? If you started them in vermiculite they will be obviously weak looking; even in Jiffy pellets they will look thin. I start all my tomatoes in Jiffy pellets, and usually put them later (when they develop 2-3 sets of true leaves) into bigger pots with regular planting mix with fertilizer. In such condition they wait for warm weather.

I agree with camprn that they are looking not bad. Spots on the leaves might be just from watering or rain, it's hard to say from the picture. If you have warmer weather now maybe you would try using diluted liquid fertilizer to give them a little help.
Auntij, I think you put them to the ground too early. I would wait until they are about at least 8" tall, and weather is consistently warm. I encourage you to try also next year tomatoes from seeds - it's fun.
Jola

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  auntij on 5/16/2010, 9:11 pm

I started them in the jiffy seed starter mix. I definitely won't shy away from starting from seed next year. I just need to upgrade my lighting and be more patient. I tend to do my best to cover all my bases just in case I screwed up with my seedlings I made sure to have some store bought. I am learning so much, I have no doubt eventually I won't need anything but seeds.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Jola on 5/17/2010, 2:41 pm

As far as I remember Jiffy seed starter mix doesn't have any nutrients, the same as for pellets - which is as it suppose to be for seed starting.
So I would use a bit of fertilizer for your young tomatoes.

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Re: Tomato pruning dilemma

Post  Wild Bill on 5/17/2010, 3:09 pm

That damage on the leaves looks exactly like wind damage to me. Hardening off properly will prevent that damage from occurring.

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