Suckering Tomato Plants - Knowledgebase Question

Saginaw, TX
Question by Dgdnorris
May 5, 1998
Please explain the procedure of suckering tomato plants.
I have tried to grow tomatoes for several years now but have not had any success. I get beautiful vines and no tomatoes. Someone told me to sucker the plants but I do not know what that means.


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Answer from NGA
May 5, 1998

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Suckering is the process of removing the side shoots that grow from the node where a leaf attaches to the tomato vine. The purpose is to get earlier, larger fruit, although fewer fruit will be produced, and the plants will require staking. It can be done, but most gardeners do very little suckering and instead grow their plants in the tomato cages for support. Suckering is not the answer to your tomato woes.

Tomatoes fail to bear for a number of reasons: 1)Temperatures too hot or too cold will cause blooms to drop and not set. In Texas we have to get our tomato crops in spring and fall because summer is just too hot. 2) Plants protected from the wind. Tomato blooms pollinate when shaken by wind (or a gardener "rattling their cage"). Tomatoes in very protected locations like a greenhouse won't set fruit well without some shaking. 3) Too much nitrogen early in the season can result in vines at the expense of fruit. Wait until the plants begin to set before pushing them with added nutrition. 4) Poorly adapted varieties. Select a good dependable tomato, proven in your area. 'Celebrity' is one of many good choices.

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