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Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

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Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  NowWeAreFour on 4/11/2015, 7:19 pm

I don't know if I read this somewhere or came up with it myself, but I wanted to run it by more experienced gardeners and see what you think. 

We don't get a huge amount of sun in our yard. We plant a lot of plants, so we get enough yield to keep us satisfied and fairly well fed from April to October, but it can be a fight to keep things thriving. Our tomato plants tend to get crazy tall rather than nice and bushy, and eventually, about 2/3 of the way through the season, at least a few will tip over and start dragging their cages and other plants around. 

I was wondering if, when they get to a certain point, I cut them off at the top, their energy would end up diverted into lateral growth/fruiting? I do pinch off the suckers religiously already. What do you think? Is there anything else I can do to help my leggy plants thrive and grow more efficiently?

Thanks!
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NowWeAreFour

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Re: Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  quiltbea on 4/11/2015, 7:58 pm

Yes, you can lop off the tops of tall tomato plants.  When they reach the top of their cages, its a good idea to cut them off and allow the plant to give its energy to ripening and growing the tomatoes already on the vine and also for more lateral growth.
Whether lack of sunshine will hamper this effect, I can't say.
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Re: Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  Turan on 4/11/2015, 8:20 pm

What about not pinching out the suckers so they can make bushy lateral growth?  When you pinch the suckers on a main stem you are urging the plant to grow taller, which is fine for a vertical trellis with crowded foot print, but seems opposite of what you want.

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Re: Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  Elizabeth on 4/11/2015, 9:06 pm

Are you growing determinate or indeterminate tomatoes?

I grow indeterminate varieties.  My DH welded re-bar frames.  The legs fit in the corners of a box and I hang twine from the cross member to train my tomatoes on. 

I opt for indeterminate tomatoes because:

1 - when grown vertically, suckers pinched, they require much less garden space than determinate varieties.  I usually grow 3 plants on one frame.  4' across the box and 1' from the side of the box.  I could actually grow 4 plants in the same space.  Determinate varieties require much more space. Usually about 3' x 3' per plant.

2 - determinate varieties produce large amounts at one time then quit.  Indeterminate varieties produce less fruit at one time but produce over a much longer period of time.

Food for thought.
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Re: Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  NowWeAreFour on 4/12/2015, 9:12 am

Well, I'm so glad I asked! Your replies prompted me to do a little research, and it sounds like I should not be pruning the suckers off most of my plants. I never even thought about the determinate vs. indeterminate issue, but I hadn't realized it mattered, and it certainly does. 

http://faq.gardenweb.com/discussions/2766765/what-is-the-difference-between-determinate-and-indeterminate-tomatoes

I'll definitely be taking a new approach this summer. Thank you all!
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Re: Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  CitizenKate on 4/12/2015, 7:53 pm

Yep, what Elizabeth said.  I grow both determinate and indeterminate.  In my garden, the indeterminates get their suckers pinched, the determinates are just allowed to sprawl out.  Keeping dead/dying leaves/branches pruned off also encourages new growth.  I do top my plants when they get to the top of their cages, mainly because it can be a real mess if they get so high they fall over.  Usually whatever fruits I get up that high don't turn out all that great anyway, so might as well let the plant focus its energy on the established fruits.
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Re: Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  Elizabeth on 4/13/2015, 12:44 pm

BTW - pinched suckers can be rooted for later planting.  Fill a nursery pot, 1 gallon or larger, with MM.  Strip all but the top cluster of leaves from the sucker.  Bury the entire sucker stem in the soil leaving just the top cluster of leaves and an inch or 2 of stem above the mix. Keep evenly moist.  Lots of new starts FREE.
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Re: Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  CitizenKate on 4/13/2015, 1:14 pm

good idea Like!
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Re: Tomato plant idea--is this crazy?

Post  Windmere on 4/13/2015, 1:29 pm

@Elizabeth wrote:BTW - pinched suckers can be rooted for later planting.  Fill a nursery pot, 1 gallon or larger, with MM.  Strip all but the top cluster of leaves from the sucker.  Bury the entire sucker stem in the soil leaving just the top cluster of leaves and an inch or 2 of stem above the mix. Keep evenly moist.  Lots of new starts FREE.
Very good point Elizabeth.  I gave a friend my last "extra" tomato plant last year and he got tons of extra ones by rooting pinched suckers.  This is also a good tip if you happen to lose some of the plants you've raised from seed.  All is not lost... just multiply your stock this way.
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