Leave Doomed Tomatoes on the Vine

Late every summer I start plucking off flower clusters and little green tomatoes that I know can never make it before frost, and every year I wonder if it's worthwhile. USDA researchers in Beltsville, Maryland, have answered my question. It looks like late-season tomato pruning is one chore we can all forget about.

During the last five weeks of harvest, the researchers pinched off all flower clusters on two different varieties, hoping to see better size and quality in the end-of-season fruit. And they were surprised to find the quality of the fruit was no better than that on unpruned plants.

The researchers also measured the effects of black plastic mulch on the same planting. Black plastic nearly doubled the yield of both varieties and promoted early ripening in one variety as well.

Photography by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association.

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