To sucker tomatoes or not?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Randy Rooster, Apr 12, 2006.

  1. Randy Rooster

    Randy Rooster Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,730
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2004
    Location:
    North Carolina
    My tomato plants in the greenhouse ground are going hog wild- they have blossoms and suckers already. I have never suckered my plants before, but am wondering if I should start. Does it make a difference in size amount or quality of the fruit? Would it make the plants more compact without sacrificing fruit?
     
  2. ChickenTracy

    ChickenTracy Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    243
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2006
    Location:
    West Virginia
    I personally think they do better to remove the suckers. They zap strength from the rest of the plant & cause loss of quality in each plant. Pulling the suckers off gives more yield & better tomatoes. JMHO
     

  3. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

    Messages:
    4,568
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2002
    Location:
    Maine
    I agree with Tracy. I grow some in the regular garden and some in the hoop house. If I didn't sucker the hoop house plants they'd take over and create a jungle.
     
  4. rwinsouthla

    rwinsouthla Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,054
    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2005
    Location:
    South Louisiana
    I sucker them and hold three main stalks. I read something some years back that this gives the optimum yield in pounds of tomatoes. Pick three stalks for an abundance of average size tomatoes. Pick two stalks and the tomatoes are slightly bigger.

    My kids always enter a tomato contest at the coop. We sucker two plants down to one main stalk, pick all flowers off of the first round of flowers and all but one of the second set of fruits. Then, fertilize it with Miracle grow lightly every day and water deeply every day. Last year, my daughter won with 3 lb 4 oz off of a Big Boy tomato plant. That was fun!!!
     
  5. Kee Wan

    Kee Wan Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    317
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2005
    ok - as a tomato neophyte. WHat's a sucker? and what are you doing here?
     
  6. Twogun

    Twogun Zone 5

    Messages:
    147
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2006
    Location:
    25 miles North of Springfield,MO.
    When a branch forms off the main stem of the plant, often, in the v that it makes, another branch will form vertically out of that V. That is a sucker. The debate over the years is whether to pinch the sucker off, or not. If you become a pincher and would like a few extra tomato plants with out having to buy them, plant the suckers in a bucket of damp sand, keep out of direct sun and in three weeks those suckers will have developed roots. You can then plant them for late tomatoes providing your length of growing season will allow.
     
  7. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    14,801
    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Location:
    South Central Wisconsin
    Kee Wan, of those tomato varieties that you received from me, DO NOT remove any of the laterals. If you do so on two of them, they would become lengthy 10' or longer vines. The other two would become nearly bare stems with few fruit.

    Removing laterals does not apply to all varieties of tomatoes. In fact, it is suitable for only a small percentage. It does not apply at all to determinates and semi-determinates. For best overall production of large-fruited varieties, the first 2 laterals are allowed to develop as secondary main stalks. For small-fruited varieties such as most cherry tomatoes, as many as 4 laterals may be trained upward. Consequences of removing all laterals from most indeterminates are plants reaching for the sky or sprawling all over the place.

    There are also varieties which bear most of their fruit right off the main stem. They are noted for being "cordon" type. That is, designed to grow straight up in limited space such as greenhouses. Three such which I have grown were Alicante, Aztec, and Hellfrucht. The later was known to go 7' up a trellis, back down to the ground, and start back up again. And that was without removing any laterals!

    Some of the lateral removal is needed in southern states where numerous blights and fungal problems exist. Then all laterals and leaves are removed from the lower 18" or so of a plant. One of my fellow local gardeners was formerly from Georgia and showed me a new method last year. She allowed the first 2 laterals to develop just like another stem and then tied all 3 together while removing all leaves for nearly 2' up. The plants then created a wide canopy just like an elm tree but with fruit hanging from its "limbs"!

    Martin
     
  8. Dahc

    Dahc Don't Tase me, bro!?!

    Messages:
    1,358
    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2006
    Location:
    GA
    Every year, I sucker my plants and root the suckers in the hydroponic system. The system is small and homemade. I made it for cloning.

    Suckering is healthy like the others mentioned but they can also get you more plants of your variety. At very least, maybe your neighbors would like some. I know you're not growing yours hydroponically, but I buy 8 healthy TSWV resistant plants and from there, root up to 50 large suckers for a total of about 60 plants.

    To quickly root suckers, get some generic water soluable fertilizer from the garden store, take a jar and mask it off so no light gets in (light=algea). Mix your fert at half strength and then fill the jar. Put your suckers in the jar in an area with a little sunlight. It's not necessary, but I used to run an aerator into the jar as well. In a week you can plant your rooted suckers in soil.

    I put mine in cypress mulch and they go in the larger system.

    I know the OP didn't ask for all this info but maybe someone else will find it useful.
     
  9. Twogun

    Twogun Zone 5

    Messages:
    147
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2006
    Location:
    25 miles North of Springfield,MO.
    Thanks, Dahc

    Anything to save a couple of weeks.

    I've heard of rooting sweet potatos in water, never thought of trying that with tomatoes.
     
  10. MoonShine

    MoonShine Fire On The Mountain

    Messages:
    1,455
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Kentucky
    I sucker the plants. That's what I was taught to do so,I keep doing it :)
     
  11. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    2,655
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Location:
    northcentral Montana
    Our area has a problem with sunscald, so I do a modified removal of suckers on indeterminate varieties. I let them form one set of leaves and then pinch out the tip. This lets each plant have a little more foliage to protect the fruit, but still keeps the plants under control.
     
  12. Randy Rooster

    Randy Rooster Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,730
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2004
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Thanks for the advice Dahc. I also grow tswv resistant tomatoes and as you know the seeds are very expensive- 25 for about $5.50. I am going to give your method a try.
     
  13. Dahc

    Dahc Don't Tase me, bro!?!

    Messages:
    1,358
    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2006
    Location:
    GA
    My first year in hydroponics, I had 200 plants completely wiped out by spotted wilt virus. It was so discouraging. I didn't even know what TSWV was then. At that time, you couldn't even buy 25 seeds, you had to buy 25lbs of seeds...lol. But the garden center sold starts though. One day the cats figured my greenhouse was an great obstacle course and knocked one of my plants over into the NFT trough. In just two or three days, the entire plant had roots growing all over it. I needed that info. My God sure does work in mysterious ways...lol.

    My greenhouse isn't totally enclosed so no tomato that isn't spotted wilt resistant will make any decent fruit.
     
  14. computerchick

    computerchick Keeper of the Zoo

    Messages:
    277
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2005
  15. chicken

    chicken Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    511
    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2005
    Wow, that is an excellent article. I copied it for my gardening library. Thanks:)