Growing Tomatoes: To sucker, or not to sucker?

Last week, a passing neighbor commented on my exuberant garden. He then offered some words of wisdom, apparently from his non-apartment-dwelling youth, when he grew tomatoes himself. “Do you know how to remove the suckers? That is what will make them produce more tomatoes.”

Having grown up on a farm, I was surprised and a little embarrassed to admit I was not even familiar with the concept. My mother was (and still is) an avid gardener, and I don’t remember her ever mentioning such a thing.

A little research on the internet quickly revealed there are two schools of thought on the topic: Remove the suckers vs. Don’t remove the suckers. (Or if you prefer, the Suckers vs. the Non-Suckers.)

The Sucker camp says you should sucker your tomatoes (remove the new, small stems that grow up in the joints of your plants) in order to make the fruit grow larger (I didn’t actually find anything about the plants then producing MORE fruit, as my neighbor had claimed).

The Non-Suckers say you should not sucker the plants, as the suckers may actually grow more tomatoes themselves, and increase your yield.

(Apparently this also depends on the type of plants — if your tomatoes are “determinant” or “non-determinant”. Determinant plants grow to a certain size and then stop, and produce all their fruit. Suckering these would not really make sense, as when they are done growing, you would want as many branches as possible to produce fruit. Non-determinants continue to grow, adding more leaves and stems even as they are fruiting.)

I have never tried the suckering method, and I don’t believe my mother ever did either. I just removed a few this week, on one plant, so we’ll see if I notice any difference.  I just removed the small ones, as the larger ones looked like they may be planning on blooming, themselves….

I would love to hear comments on other’s experiences with this — do you sucker, or not, and what have your experiences been with either method?

(For other ideas on sustainable gardening or related topics, feel to visit our website at http://www.newholisticliving.com/sustainablegardening.html ).

Have a great week!
Rose.

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About newholisticliving

Rose Hillbrand runs a blog and website dedicated to holistic living -- living a healthy, balanced lifestyle in all areas -- health, relationships, spirituality, and finances.
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