Saturday, July 30, 2016

Thinning Out Tomatoes

I grow tomatoes, specifically cherry and pear tomatoes in pots. Main reason, there is a HUGE Black Walnut tree situated about 20 feet away from the most sunniest spot of the garden. In another post, I'll explain why this is an issue, but growing them in pots hasn't been difficult. In fact, it's a huge bonus.

Somehow, with the fresh soil and compost (made from scratch) every year, compost tea, organic fertilizer and a dash of Epsom's salts in our watering cans - they fair really well and produce bumper crops. This summer's heat has made a huge impact too.

So much so - they need a haircut this time of the growing season.

Why?  Have a look:

Slightly overgrown, don't you think?

Reasons to thin out:

1. Tomatoes rippen and become really sweet with the suns rays. If there is an over-abundance of green growth, sheltering and casting shade on the fruit, well - this delays the ripening time.

Trying to find the cherry tomatoes is like trying to find Waldo. :) 

2. I don't know about you, but when you have to water pots every day - it becomes difficult to budget your gardening time and water reserves. Removing green mass on plants reduces the need for the water at the root level; not as many leaves = not as much water needed.

3. Cutting leaves off, forces new stem growth from the bud axil - joint.  New stem growth = more flowers. Leaves don't bear the fruit, stems do. This continues the cycle and keeps you supplied with more tomatoes!

5. Pruning increases ventilation and helps to promote open branching network. Powdery mildew and other diseases can become a problem if over-growth crowds and takes over.

6. Cherry tomatoes fall under what is known as the indeterminate category. They grow exponentially, almost vine like. They set fruit on side shoots and when you prune off leafy growth, this stimulates more side shoot development.

7. Pruning strengthens stems and also reduces a weight load that should only be for fruit. Stems will become thicker and will be able to bear the weight as it broadens in height and width.

8. Pollinators have an easier time pollinating flowers. Better access.

Where/what to prune:
  • Overlapping leaves
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaves that are too close to the ground
  • Leaves that are covering the ripening tomatoes
  • Stems that are bent or damaged
  • Remove the leaf below stems emerging from the axil joint - this initiates more growth on the new little stem (like above), growing at a 45˙angle from the axil joint.

  • Below is a better view of how the axil stem grows at a 45˙ angle.

    Just leave a little nib of leaf, so that you do not damage the main stem or axil joint.

    Cut the leaves off at the bottom of the plant. Less splashing of soil/water on the base leaves, the better. This helps to prevent diseased leaves.

    Even if you don't see a leaf, you can still see a bud at the axil joint. With the leaf removed, this bud will soon swell and become an axil stem.

    Five minutes later, I had a 15gal pot full of leaves.

    Much better. Sun and air filter through. Less green mass.

    Where's Waldo?  So many more tomatoes to be seen now.

    Healthy, non diseased leafy matter is welcomed in our compost!

    In another few days, we get to enjoy the bounty!


    1. I love this entry as I have been arguing with my sister about those tiny new joint growths. She says to remove them and calls them suckers so this year I did. I am growing beefsteak tomatoes and have a bumper crop of at least 40 huge ones so far. Delicious and still coming. So which way do I prune? Lily

      1. Beefsteak Tomatoes fall under determinate type of tomatoes. They have a shorter, more-compact growth habit and will cease producing flowers given they aren't vine like. My parents used to grow them in succession (multiple plantings with 3 week gaps) to lengthen bloom/harvest. It's purely choice as to whether you want to remove the "suckers". Sometimes removing them for hefty Beefsteak Tomatoes, redirects energy to make bigger tomatoes. Would be good to experiment between two plants and see which method is best!


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