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Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

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Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  CitizenKate on 7/5/2017, 8:02 pm

Just thought I'd share with you all something kind of fascinating I've noticed with my indeterminate Rutgers tomato plants this season.

A couple of weeks ago, I started noticing that two of my four Rutgers plants were producing some nice sized (7-8 oz.) tomatoes, in numbers you would expect for a decent-producing heirloom tomato plant.  And the other two were producing many, many more smaller tomatoes (3-4 oz).

Here are a couple of photos showing the back two, and the tomatoes they're producing...  my hand is in one to show the comparative size of them.



And here's what I'm getting on the front two plants:



I was puzzling over this for a couple weeks, wondering what was causing such a big difference between them.

They have all been raised exactly the same from seed, and I'm very careful about keeping track of which ones are which cultivars (I'm kinda OCD that way  Rolling Eyes ), so I'm pretty sure I didnt' get them mixed up with something else.  They're growing up in the same garden bed, get the same water, the same soil, the same weather conditions - everything is equal.

It suddenly occurred to me that this could be the difference between a plant that gets its suckers pruned, and one that doesn't.  I wasn't sure - some of my indeterminates, I was able to stay on top of keeping the suckers off, but a few had ones that "got away", and were so big and had buds on them by the time I noticed them, I decided to leave them on the plant.

Next time I went out, I checked, and sure enough... the two with the many, many smaller tomatoes had 2-3 suckers that I let go.  The two with the fewer large tomatoes were two that were kept clean of suckers.

I know there's been some debate about whether suckering an indeterminate tomato plant really makes any difference. I always thought it was better for tomato production to prune the suckers - I've always gotten good production when I have, but I've never been able to make a side-by-side comparison like this.

It seems like all the plants are producing roughly the same volume of tomatoes.  But you get your choice of a relatively smaller number of larger tomatoes vs. a relatively larger number of smaller ones. Personally, I'd rather have the larger tomatoes, even if it means somewhat fewer of them.
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CitizenKate

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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  hammock gal on 7/6/2017, 7:28 am

I know that there are growers who fall on one side or the other of this issue. The best gardener I ever knew, my old Italian landlord, always took the suckers off and so I've always done that, too. It's nice to see your side by side comparison of both methods, (whether intentional or not.) I'm gonna keep snippin' those suckers. Very Happy

It looks like you have some very sturdy plants there. Can I ask what kind of trellising material you're using?
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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 7/6/2017, 11:49 am

Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this.

Last year was my first experience with removing the suckers from tomatoes.  It was hard at first because it seems counter-intuitive to remove growth. But it did make the plants more manageable and now that I'm used to it, and having a hard time NOT de-suckering my handful of determinate tomatoes.

For the indeterminates I've been trying to stick to the main plus one side about 3-5 nodes up, but I usually miss another one until it's so big I feel bad and it ends up being the main and two sides.

Some of the leaves on my tomato plants this year seem enormous. I can't figure out if something is different this year, or I've just lost perspective for what I had last year.
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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  CapeCoddess on 7/6/2017, 11:54 am

That is really interesting, Kate. I always thought that pinching suckers caused earlier fruiting, and that's why we were doing it. And leaving them on meant later but more abundant fruit.

I'm leaving some cherry tom plants unpinched this year and pinching their twins, thinking I'd have earlier on one and more but later on the other. Wonder if the fruit sizes will differ...?

Does it look to you like your fruits, large and small, will be ready at the same time?
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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  CitizenKate on 7/6/2017, 8:34 pm

@hammock gal wrote:I'm gonna keep snippin' those suckers. Very Happy
Me too.   Very Happy

@hammock gal wrote:
It looks like you have some very sturdy plants there. Can I ask what kind of trellising material you're using?
Sure - it's a Florida weave trellis system, with uprights made of metal conduit, anchored next to the box with rebar, and bolted to the sides of the box with conduit straps.  I'm using foam coated wire for the weave material.  So far it has held everything perfectly in place.

This was a few weeks ago, most of them have reached the top of the trellis now...


@CapeCoddess wrote:I always thought that pinching suckers caused earlier fruiting, and that's why we were doing it.  And leaving them on meant later but more abundant fruit.  
Well, I have noticed that they really start putting out a lot of fruit stems after the first couple of suckers come off.  And of course, lots more suckers - it's hard to keep up, May to mid-June.  The two plants that are producing the many, many small fruits had their first few suckers pinched off.  I'm not sure what that indicates.

@CapeCoddess wrote:
I'm leaving some cherry tom plants unpinched this year and pinching their twins, thinking I'd have earlier on one and more but later on the other.  Wonder if the fruit sizes will differ...?
I don't know, but it would be interesting to try a test with them some day and see.

@CapeCoddess wrote:
Does it look to you like your fruits, large and small, will be ready at the same time?
The small ones are definitely starting to ripen much sooner.
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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  CitizenKate on 7/6/2017, 8:38 pm

@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
Last year was my first experience with removing the suckers from tomatoes.  It was hard at first because it seems counter-intuitive to remove growth. But it did make the plants more manageable and now that I'm used to it, and having a hard time NOT de-suckering my handful of determinate tomatoes.
I'd be interested in knowing how de-suckering has affected fruit production on your determinates. I haven't been de-suckering my determinates at all, other than trimming off dead branches from the bottom and thinning out branches that grow towards the inside of the plant.
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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 7/6/2017, 9:52 pm

@CitizenKate wrote:
@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
Last year was my first experience with removing the suckers from tomatoes.  It was hard at first because it seems counter-intuitive to remove growth. But it did make the plants more manageable and now that I'm used to it, and having a hard time NOT de-suckering my handful of determinate tomatoes.
I'd be interested in knowing how de-suckering has affected fruit production on your determinates.  I haven't been de-suckering my determinates at all, other than trimming off dead branches from the bottom and thinning out branches that grow towards the inside of the plant.
I didn't write clearly: I haven't been removing the suckers on the determinates - but I keep having to stop myself as go along tending the tomato plants. One hand grabs the tomato, the other hand grabs the first hand and says "Stop! Not that one! That's one of the determinate tomatoes!"
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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  Scorpio Rising on 7/6/2017, 10:15 pm

I don't pinch suckers off determinate plants.  They are programmed to be tidy.

Indeterminate varieties get pruned to a main leader, suckers pinched.
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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  sanderson on 7/7/2017, 3:16 am

Kate, Thank you for sharing your results.

With the heat, I have been lax about suckering the indeterminate tomatoes. Hopefully I can do a few tomorrow. Embarassed

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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  hammock gal on 7/7/2017, 7:28 am

Thanks for the info on your trellis. I'm using a Florida weave, but with netting. I'm not crazy about the net, I like the look of your foam covered wire a lot. I'm going to have to do some research. 
thanks
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Re: Interesting mystery with my Rutgers tomatoes

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 7/7/2017, 8:03 am

Apologies if I'm thread-jacking, but here's one of my mysteriously(?) large tomato leaves. The variety is Green Zebra, but some of my other plants seem larger this year, too. I have a photo of the end leaflet - larger than my hand, and the whole leaf itself is longer than my forearm. Is this normal, and I'm finally getting tomatoes right after having lived in happy ignorance with smaller plants? Or is this a monster leaf/plant?
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