Friday, May 13, 2011

Tomato pruning


Quick note on tomato types and pruning. When you talk about tomatoes you have two leaf types, potato leafed or PL and regular leafed or RL, and two growth habits determinate and indeterminate. The potato leafed varieties are slow growers at first and then take off like a rocket. they have also been rumored to be more disease resistant. I have one Pl which is a Brandywine. Most notably Pl have a smooth potato like leaf shape. You also have RL which are fast growers slightly more susceptible to fungus and rot, and have saw-toothed gaged leaves. This is your common tomato in everything from hybrids to organics. 
As far as growth patterns go you have determinate which is a small strong compact plant that produces 1-2 times a year on average. You will get high yields but not have them all growing season.  These plants are good for small spaces and containers and would be great if you wanted to can tomatoes or sauce to use later as you would have a lot of fruit at once.  Indeterminate growers are tall and leggy with stems that need to be trellised or staked The benefit of these is they make tomatoes the whole growing season slowing slightly between yields. A lot of times you will have ripe fruit, flowers, and buds all on the same plant.  Indeterminate growers being so tall and leggy need to have the tomato suckers pruned out of them or they will weigh the plant down and possibly cause it to break, or the shade from all the leaves will cause the plant to not photosynthesize correctly. If you have a short stubby indeterminate you mat be able to leave the suckers on the bottom half of the plant to increase yields. The bottom half should be strong enough to support the extra weight but be sure to prune the top to prevent drooping and to much shade. I think all plants should be caged, trellised, or staked to keep the fruit off the ground and help protect it from wind and to much rain. To prune suckers it is best to catch them early. if you catch them early you can easily pinch them off just be careful not to scrape the main stalk with your nails! If you miss some and they do get big use garden sheers or scissors to prune them. The suckers are located in the "crotch" of two main branches (picture below) and are easy to spot. Sometimes if your plant gets out of control tall you have to pinch the very top new growth out to force the plant to concentrate on lower foliage and fruits.  


RL leafed cherry tomato from my garden.

PL leafed Brandywine tomato from my garden

Cherry tomato with sucker tucked in the crotch of the main stem and a main branch also from my garden.  



 * all pictures are free to use.

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