Thursday, May 15, 2014
Ask the Farm Girl: What Are Tomato "Suckers" And Should They Be Pinched?
A "sucker" is a growth, aka another leafy appendage, that a tomato plant grows in order to fulfill its goal, which is to produce tomatoes that carry seeds in order to perpetuate life. Like the original branches of your tomato plant, suckers will grow and flower and produce fruit. So why is that a bad thing? Some say it is and some say it's not.
First you need to know why type of tomatoes you are growing. Determinate tomatoes (like Roma) grow to a fixed size and fruit all at once. So honestly there is no point in pinching a determinate tomato plant. Indeterminate tomatoes (which include the majority of tomatoes including heirloom varieties) continue to grow all season and produce fruit all season. Indeterminate are "vining" type plants and thus must be either support with cages or trellises. The indeterminate tomatoes are the ones folks "pinch." But why???
Some folks say that suckers compete with the main plant for nutrients, water, space and light. The feeling is that if they let the suckers mature, it will result in the production of smaller fruit and a lower yields. Not to mention all the added physical support the plant will need to have to hold up all the weight from those extra branches. The more suckers you let grow, the more top heavy your plant becomes, causing it to fall over and possible snap.
Other folks say suckers are no big deal and that cutting them off (especially if they are the size of a pencil or thicker) can send the plant into shock and even kill it. The contention is, if they got that big, why bother pinching or cutting them off. The feeling is that if you didn't notice them till they got to that size, leave them be and enjoy the fruit they will produce.
So know that you know why some folks do or don't pinch, I'll show you where to find those suckers, if you wish to pinch. (You can only really pinch them off when they are small. If they get bigger you are pruning.) The "offending appendage" is located growing in that little "V" shaped area of your tomato plant where the branches meet the main vertical stalk of the plant. Being as our tomato plants are still young and as of yet we have no suckers, I have included a photo showing where they will grow later in the season.
Now here is a neat thing you may or may not know about those sucker that you pinch/cut off........ if you stick them in the ground, they will grow roots!! That's right, a new plant with more tomatoes!!! So if you do decide to pinch and the sucker is on the larger size, pop that bad boy in the ground!!
*** If you have a question for the Farm Girl (that's me!!) on homesteading, life, love, what color underwear you should wear, heck anything, serious or silly, feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "advice." I am an open book, and while you may or may not always like the answer you get, I hope you will at least walk away with a giggle or two. ***